I am a studio owner that offers a Chair Assisted Gentle Yoga Class for seniors or practitioners with mobility concerns. It has been wonderful to watch the class build a sense of community, improve their health, improve flexibility and balance, and build strength. Many practitioners come to us wanting to slow the affects of aging like impaired balance or a lack of strength. Its incredible to watch not only do they achieve that, but end up improving strength and mobility in other areas as well. Many seniors reach a point that falling can be very dangerous for their health and their fear of falling can impact their desire to be more active. Mobility is key is staying strong and balanced for life and yoga can help! For seniors, risk of life-threatening illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer along with joint stress and osteoarthritis, increases with age. Additionally, seniors can experience higher rates of depression and anxiety. Healthy eating and exercise can help prevent disease and injury and meditation can help you stay happy and more focused! Yoga, especially gentle and chair yoga can offer a wide array of health benefits for seniors both physically, mentally and emotionally.
Safety should be the number one priority in any physical exercise including yoga. Yoga, like any exercise can come with risks, so being led by a certified experienced instructor who has familiarity and experience working specifically with older adults and seniors is critical. It is also important to be cleared by your doctor to try yoga.
If you’re a senior, yoga can be a game changer for your health. A gentle yoga class or a chair yoga class with an experienced instructor can not only reduce the intimidation of trying yoga, but the poses and postures can be personalized to fit the needs of any student. Specifically, chair yoga allows people to move into poses they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do, or to support them in their journey to work up their strength, so that one day a chair won’t be needed. Here are a few benefits of practicing yoga as a senior!
A chair yoga or gentle yoga practice allows seniors to move without over-exerting or straining and the chair can help them build balance slowly.
A gentle yoga practice is an excellent low-impact exercise option. Yoga is not only safe for older practitioners, but can be very effective in maintaining mental and physical health. Unlike other exercises such as running or weight lifting, yoga, particularly chair yoga, can reduce strain on muscles and joints and make exercise more accessible.
Yoga Improves Flexibility and Joint Health
Flexibility and joint mobility is not about reaching your toes, but about creating a suppleness in the body that will prevent injury and strain over time. When you are flexible, you are less likely to get injured doing basics tasks like bending over to pick something up, or gardening or reaching for something on the counter. Yoga can strengthen muscles you don’t use as often, particularly core muscles. A yoga practice is full of exercises that help you build muscles, making daily activities easier. During a yoga class, you’re strengthening your core muscles, your legs, hips, abdominals, chest, shoulders, spine and neck, which helps keep you active, longer.
Yoga Improves Balance and Stability
A lack of balance is the number one reason seniors give at our studio for wanting to try yoga. Certain yoga poses, such as tree pose are beneficial and can improve balance, which leads to less falls, and increased focus and better stability. Strengthening your muscles and improving your balance prevents the likelihood of falls, which can be a common concern for the elderly.
Yoga can improve respiration
Yoga and exercise can improve respiration. Breathing exercises in particular can help improve lung capacity. Breathing exercises should be done under the supervision of an experienced instructor and checking in with your doctor is also a must!
Yoga can help regulate blood pressure
Studies have found that yoga reduces oxidative stress in the elderly. Oxidative stress is one of the underlying causes of high blood pressure and, especially for seniors, is a strong risk factor for heart attacks.*
Yoga can help reduce depression and anxiety
Yoga classes, especially those geared toward seniors are calm and restorative, relaxing your body and mind. It is said that focusing on the past can contribute to depression or worrying about the future can contribute to anxiety. Yoga and mediation work to train our minds to be in the present moment – the only place where life can truly happen.
Yoga also involves focusing on the breath and slow movements, which can help trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, brining us into the “rest and digest” phase of stress relief. Yoga can help you be more mindful. Because so much of yoga is focused on listening to your body, with seniors, Yoga and meditation can create a sense of connectedness, and a feeling of empowerment. It can also improve sleep, reduce signs of depression, and improve the way we breath.
Going to a yoga class is fun and can build a sense of community!
Sometimes we forget that as we age, we loose our friends and loved ones and therefore a sense of belonging and community. A yoga class is a great way to make new friends, stay connected, laugh and have fun with others similar in age.