Movement is essential to keeping the body strong and functioning well, far into old age. This can be a bit tricky when our bodies decide to go against us as we age, causing stiffness, soreness, and loss of mobility.
Luckily, there are long-practiced exercises associated with benefitting the elderly, such as water aerobics and lawn bowls.
But What About Yoga for Seniors?
Yoga is something anyone can enjoy, no matter their age, size or ability. Yes, some people are incredibly flexible and make it look completely impossible! But that’s only a goal and not a necessity. There’s no reason why elderly people shouldn’t enjoy yoga, and many reasons why they should.
There are so many benefits the elderly can enjoy from practicing yoga. Here we have picked the top six that you should know about and we’ll explore them together.
1. Yoga Helps Control Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is something we all must keep an eye on and avoid as much as we can as we get older. There are various causes of high blood pressure such as a bad diet, bad cholesterol levels, inactive lifestyle, smoking and obesity. However, age itself can contribute to the blood pressure creeping up, so preventative measures are necessary for people of all health statuses.
Yoga has been proven to help lower blood pressure, even with the simplest of asanas (positions). These moves are all very doable for most people of any age, including the elderly. These positions help the body to relax, bring stress levels down, and gently stretch the muscles.
2. Yoga Helps Lower Cholesterol
While the connection between yoga and cholesterol isn’t very well understood yet, there have been numerous studies which prove that yoga can help to lower bad cholesterol. High levels of bad cholesterol become more common in elderly people and increases the risk of heart disease.
Yoga helps the body to reduce stress hormones, promotes better organ function and helps to fight weight issues. These benefits combined are a likely recipe for lowered cholesterol and a healthier heart.
3. Yoga Supports the Bones and Joints
Elderly people can enjoy the relaxing benefits of yoga as well as the bone-strengthening, muscle-lengthening benefits.
As we get older, our bone density drops by a significant amount. If we don’t eat a healthy diet or keep up regular exercise we can run into serious issues such as osteoporosis. The trick is to keep moving so that the muscles remain strong and the bones always have gentle pressure to encourage them to become more compact and dense. The catch is that we must choose exercises which don’t stress or damage the joints at the same time.
Yoga is a gentle, low-impact exercise. It still packs a major punch in terms of health benefits, but it does so without jarring or slamming the joints like more vigorous exercises and causing inflammation in your body. Yoga does require you to support your own weight, which gives the bones a gentle dose of healthy stress. This stress is what encourages the bones to become denser and stronger. Holding certain positions where the muscles are tensed creates pressure surrounding the bones.
4. Yoga Boosts Confidence
When elderly people start to lose the mobility they once had, it can be a real knock to their confidence. People who have had falls or have found they can’t stay standing for as long as they used to can begin to feel reluctant and afraid to get out and about. This can have a negative effect on their mental and emotional wellbeing too.
Yoga is the kind of exercise that makes you feel as though you’ve really accomplished something. Reaching further than before, maintaining the pose for each allocated breath and feeling your body move in unexpected ways makes us feel capable and strong.
Yoga gently eases the body into balancing, stretching and moving in a strong, flowing fashion. By doing so, elderly people can gain the confidence to be mobile and gain back some of their independence.
5. Yoga Improves Balance
Balance is something that age likes to rob us of the older we get. With the loss of balance comes the risk of falling, and hence the lack of confidence as explored above. Under the guidance of a teacher, yoga can help elderly people to “retrain” their body to balance and move steadily.
Some people may like to use stabilizers (i.e. a chair or wall) to support them until they’re ready to balance on their own. This is a great way to progress and gently coax the body and mind into better balance and mobility.
6. Yoga Supports Pain Management
Stiff, painful joints and achy bones can put a real damper on the daily life of an elderly person. People with arthritis, osteoporosis and other sources of bodily pain can really benefit from practicing yoga regularly. The gentle stretching of the muscles, strengthening of the bones and increased blood flow can help to relieve pain. The great thing is that yoga is very versatile and can be modified to suit different abilities, so everyone can reap the pain-relieving benefits.
The mental and emotional benefits of yoga can also have a positive effect on pain. Deep, controlled breathing, quietness, a clear mind and a sense of tranquility can really help to reduce stress and anxiety. When stress and anxiety dissipate, tension in the body can be released, sometimes with pain along with it. What’s more, yoga can help to encourage better-quality sleep, promoting a greater sense of restfulness and calm. Proper sleep, correct breathing and a sense of relaxation can really help toward managing pain in elderly people.
Yoga is a low-impact exercise which can be practiced by anyone at any age. The positions can be modified to suit the mobility of elderly people so they can reap the benefits without risking injury or pain.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, stiff joints, pain and low confidence in mobility can all be improved by practicing yoga.
Of course, you should always consult your doctor or healthcare professional before embarking on a new exercise regime. It’s also a great idea to start yoga with a professional instructor who is well-versed in yoga for elderly people or book yourself a yoga retreat to get started. This way, you can be safe and supported as you learn, grow and strengthen through yoga.
Would you like to try yoga at your own pace? There are countless of yoga retreats for seniors that are the ideal place to get started.