Seniors find yoga relieves physical, mental stresses


YOGA FOR SENIORS WITH LIMITED MOBILITY

  • Chair yoga is ideal for people who cannot stand for long periods of time or get down on a mat. All activities are performed while sitting in a chair.
  • Water yoga is beneficial for those with joint pain due to arthritis.
  • Integral, Kripalu and Sivananda are all gentle practices. They are ideal for the beginner. These classes may be listed simply as Gentle Yoga.
  • Lyengar is a type of yoga that uses props to help support the body in poses.

  • Anusara is for those who want to go further while still using the practices of lyengar yoga.

Source: Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center

BENEFITS OF YOGA

Yoga has been shown to:

  • Improve sleep quality
  • Reduce stress
  • Help control blood sugar in people with diabetes
  • Enhance respiratory function
  • Help alleviate arthritis pain
  • Increase bone density
  • Improve balance
  • Moderate chronic pain

Source: Senior Fitness Association

For seniors seeking a healthy activity for 2015, yoga could literally be just what the doctor ordered.

Medical research abounds extolling its benefits. It’s good for those with arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, sleep issues and limited mobility, among others. It even helps a slumping posture, something often associated with an aging body.

While yoga is not exactly the fountain of youth, it might make you think so after a class or two.

Dennis Kast, 73, has been teaching yoga to seniors for 14 years, and credits the discipline for keeping him active and injury-free in other forms of exercise. Kast regularly participates in sprint triathlons and other endurance races, including a 10-mile Tough Mudder he ran with his daughter last year.

For elderly adults who are not particularly active, yoga can develop the stamina, balance and muscle recovery needed for tasks of daily living. But there are other benefits that Kast believes are just as important.

“Yoga is not just bending and stretching and going to the gym,” he said. “There is a mind-body connection, and this is why it can be most beneficial, especially for seniors.”

For example, the breathing exercises, common in most yoga classes, are tremendously calming and help participants to slow down, become aware of their bodies and let go of tension, Kast said.

The exercises can help older adults better deal with stressful life situations, such as losing a spouse or living with a chronic illness.

Yoga instructor Consuelo Richardson explains that focusing on each breath allows your mind to relax and helps you to get in tune with your body. “It rejuvenates the body and the mind,” said Richardson, 69, who, like Kast, instructs seniors at the Roswell Adult Recreation Center.

Yoga includes a wide range of different types with varying degrees of physical difficulty, and instructors add their own unique teaching styles to the mix.

When looking at yoga as a form of exercise, finding a class for your level of participation is paramount, said Natasha Borg, a certified yoga instructor who teaches all ages, including seniors.

Those with limited mobility might start with chair yoga, where all the poses are conducted sitting down. Gentle Yoga is generally the class beginners will take before deciding they want to go further and want something more challenging.

Richardson encourages seniors to first observe a class, or go and participate on a trial basis, and see if it’s a good fit.

“You’ll know right away, because if they’re doing poses that you know you can’t do, then maybe it’s not a good class for you,” she said.

Recently, she’s offered classes on Restorative Yoga, where participants are given props and aids to help them maintain poses. These classes are meant to restore the body — perhaps give relief from chronic ailments or a recent injury or surgery.

“It’s also restorative in the sense that it is restoring from the frantic lifestyles,” she said.

In classes for seniors, most instructors are careful about which yoga poses to incorporate. You probably won’t be asked to stand on your head, for example. And props, such as blankets and blocks, are always available for those who can’t hold the positions without help.

“Yoga shouldn’t hurt, or you’re doing it wrong,” Richardson said.