Yoga for Seniors

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics fast approach and I’m reminded of Caregiverlist’s ongoing mission to help seniors age well. Senior exercise and nutrition is key to healthy aging. While some members of the older set can perform at a higher level of intensity, many seniors and senior caregivers look for less strenuous, but still effective, ways to keep physically fit.

Senior fitness is an important aspect of healthy aging and yoga is an excellent way for older adults to maintain a healthy body and mind. It can help with special senior needs such as pain management, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. The benefits of yoga go well beyond simple exercise and is a practice that, with proper supervision, can be safe for individuals at all levels of fitness.

“Hatha, Restorative or Gentle yoga might be a great fit for seniors.” according to Beth Range Kiely, co-owner of Chicago’s Om on the Range. “We also have seniors in their 60's who come to our studio who love some strong Vinyasa Flow yoga!”

Why yoga is ideal for seniors:

Low impact
Stretching, strengthening and breathing are all at the core of yoga. Yoga can provide all the benefits found in more exerting exercise, like cardio or weight work, without the high-impact dangers on an aging body.

Increased flexibility
Yoga can certainly help with the all-important range-of-motion. It can help loosen tight muscles and and allow your joints to move more effectively.

Strength
Seniors can develop strength with yoga; it is an excellent way to develop the core muscles. By using the weight of one’s own body and holding certain yoga postures for a few breaths, muscle groups are more safely engaged than in weight training that uses momentum.

Focus
Body and mind work together, and meditation is an essential part of yoga. Taking some time out to concentrate on oneself can help develop concentration and relieve stress.

Balance
Thousands of elderly Americans fall at home every year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Even if those falls don’t result in broken bones or head trauma, activities of daily living could be greatly curtailed. Yoga can help seniors with balance and subsequently, help prevent falls.

Senior caregivers know that starting a new exercise regimen can be intimidating for their senior client, especially in a large class setting, surrounded by others with varying degrees of experience. Contact a local yoga studio to see if they offer a private session to get started, or see if there are special senior beginner classes available.

Seniors should also not let cost stand in their way. There are a number of free classes offered through local park districts, community centers and (for a small fee) through hospitals. Seniors could also take up a home practice with a video or tape.  Here is a Yoga Journal article on staying FOREVER YOUNG with yoga and it has a few poses outlined (you would need to get on the floor and on your back for some.) If that seems too physically intensive, YouTube has many chair-yoga workouts available, such as the one below.

Caregivers should also make time to care for themselves, as well as their senior clients. Caregiverlist’s Paige Krzysko reviewed a yoga app in a recent Tech Friday blog for caregivers to enjoy for improved caregiver health.

Before embarking on any plan of action, it is imperative that you work with a doctor in order to help your senior, whether they be a family member or client, integrate yoga into their fitness routine to enhance their quality of life.

“The beauty of yoga is that you can adapt and modify your practice to get your energy (also known as prana) flowing each day.” says Ms. Range-Kiely. “Your movement and breath can strengthen, calm and heal your body and mind today and through the decades.”

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