What are the benefits of yoga for seniors?
The formal practice of yoga began in1000 B.C. when specific postures (poses) were first written in ancient texts. But it took until the late 1940’s for the practice to become popularized in theUnited States. Today, different types of yoga are enjoyed around the world, by people of all ages.
The NationalLibrary of Medicine within the NationalInstitutes of Health (NIH) reports that the regular practice of yoga for seniors can help with “cellular aging, mobility, balance, mental health, and prevention of cognitive decline.” In fact, the positive physical and emotional out comes can do wonders for health concerns that come with aging.
How yoga helps with aging
The benefits of yoga for seniors can be felt from head to toe, in mind and body. These benefits have been well documented by the NIH and others, and include:
- Improved brain health — Yoga can improve neurological health in certain parts of the brain associated with memory and cognitive function. The meditative quality of the practice can help focus the mind.
- Better emotional wellbeing —The deep breathing that is central to yoga practice has been proven to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. It helps the mind become quiet and centered in the moment.
- Higher quality sleep – Research shared by JohnsHopkins Medicine shows that yoga can improve sleep quality among seniors. This is important as insomnia and poor sleep put people at greater risk of accidents.
- Stronger bones and joints — Our bones and joints weaken as we age. Many older adults experience a loss of bone density (osteoporosis), along with joint pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Yoga can help strengthen the body for better balance, helping to prevent falls.
- Better flexibility and mobility – The poses used in yoga can help seniors develop a wider range of motion by increasing flexibility. The practice can also help remedy back pain by focusing on the core muscles used in standing, walking, and daily activity.
Easy beginner yoga for seniors
It can be simple to begin a yoga practice as part of a group or alone within one’s own home. Traditional yoga poses require the ability to get up and down from the floor, while chair yoga allows for poses to be done from a seated position.
The two easiest traditional yoga positions involve standing tall and strong (Mountain pose) and lying flat along the floor (Savasana):
- The Mountain pose, the first pose in many yoga routines, helps with balance by anchoring the feet to ground with chest in and shoulders down. It releases the shoulders from being crunched up toward the neck.
- Savasana, the last pose in many yoga routines, straightens the body out by stretching from head to toe with arms to the side. The pose lengthens the spine along the floor, relaxing the muscles and letting go of any tightness.
Chair yoga provides the same health benefits of stretching and strengthening — along with improved breathing, better circulation, and a clearer less-stressed mind. Poses are modified and practiced while seated, putting yoga within reach of most people. The most important thing is to use a stable chair on a flat surface.
Getting started with yoga
TopekaPresbyterian Manor is committed to senior fitness and wellness — in mind, body, and spirit. Yoga can be practiced at any age and it’s never too late to begin.
As with all new exercise programs, it is wise to consult with a physician first. Other than that, all that’s needed to get started is a mat or a good chair. Look at the Helpful Links below for beginning yoga poses and more.