Yoga for Seniors: Learn Different Types of Yoga, Perfect for Seniors


Seniors who practice yoga daily will enjoy a higher quality of life (according to some studies), increased flexibility and are less prone to injuries. Despite complicated depictions of the exercises, adaptations can be made so that any senior, no matter their physical condition, can enjoy some of the health benefits afforded by yoga. The core of yoga will always be just that, but modifications can be made to suit the practitioners needs, and the older population is no different. 

Adapting yoga into elderly living has shown to improve their quality life by factors such as improving sleep quality. In fact "research has indicated positive effects of yoga in several health related outcomes", and may be particularly suitable for older adults according to literature from a study protocol on the effects of yoga on well-being and healthy ageing.  

According to an article on The Washington Post, states that a "Yoga in America Study" concluded that 17% of yogi's are in their 50's and 21% are 60 and older. This may be due to the growing body of research evidence that suggests yoga has positive effects on the aging process.

AARP published an article discussing a multitude of reasons to practice yoga specifically in your 50's, 60's and 70's, and how it may benefit the practitioner. These reasons included anything from helping with stress and hypertension to strengthening bones, and even protecting your joints. 

There has even been investigative studies into yoga and meditation effects on cellular ageing, which you can read more about here!


In the post that follows, we'd like to discuss various forms of yoga that may be guided or modified more toward the older populations. 



Here is a Good "Start" Video With Some Modified Yoga Chair Poses





I. Types of Yoga Suitable for Older Adults & The Elderly


a. Chair Yoga

Often times chair yoga is great for practitioners who have balance issues, or are just looking to take things slowly because of their comfort zone with exercise in general

Chair yoga for seniors is a great place to start if you suffer from limited mobility. Chair yoga is just a form of yoga that implements the use of a chair to help stabilize. The poses performed in this yoga style are adapted to work with a chair. Think of the chair as just another yoga prop, just like with the aide of a yoga block, yoga straps or yoga wheel

Asana's can be modified for your comfort level and strengths and as you build to your foundation, you can then build on the difficulty of poses, even if you choose to remain using the chair. 

Yoga is yoga, and just because you are preforming it in a chair does not mean you cannot reap the benefits as if you were doing traditional yoga on a yoga mat. These benefits include mental well-being, lowering stress and anxiety, helping to improve strength and balance, as well as confidence.  


Related Article: Gentle Chair Yoga Postures for Seniors


b. Hatha Yoga

This is a type of yoga with an emphasis on physical posture, in Sanskrit, Hatha means force, however this style is well known for it's gentle approach. This "style" of yoga (most often) is performed at a slower pace, which makes it perfect for seniors and beginners who want to reap the health benefits of yoga, but don't have a lot of flexibility and/or experience.

Typically, hatha yoga encompasses both standing and sitting postures, and concentrates heavily on breathing (pranayama), stretch and of course the all important mind-body connection that yoga offers. Hatha yoga is not just great for the older adult population, it's also a popular choice for beginner yogi's, because it focuses on more static poses which are, well, great for novice yogi's who are just getting accustomed to the practice. 

Don't let the "static" and "gentle" words fool your, however, Hatha yoga still can be a physical and mental challenge to those who wish to partake. Oftentimes individuals enjoy and can get in-tune with this style because of how the classes are set-up. Hatha yoga classes typically start with some sort of warm-up, then advances to more elaborate asanas, ending oftentimes with a meditation session to calm and connect to the body and mind. 


c. Restorative Yoga

One of the most popular and sought after styles of yoga for seniors, is restorative yoga. Another relaxed style of yoga and as the name implies, this style of yoga focuses on reducing tension in your muscles and employs minimal stretching, focusing more on long holds, enhancing bodily alignment, with each asana. 

Restorative yoga is also known for it's use of yoga props (blankets, bolsters, & blocks) for support as yogi's sink deeper into each pose, which can last even up to 5-10 minutes per position, with only 4-6 pose's being completed per session. 

The goal of restorative yoga is to "restore", to do it in in a way that is comfortable, and supportive, achieving not just physical, but emotional and metal calm. You may find in some classes the use of essential oils, guided meditation, and other therapeutic elements to help guide you to complete relaxation and release. 

This makes restorative yoga a perfect fit for seniors (or anyone) who may lack the flexibility or want to explore mental and physical calm, but may lack the resources to do it themselves. 


d. Lyengar Yoga

This form of yoga makes use of precision and perfect form to achieve results. To adjust and ensure exact positions, yoga props such as rubber straps, foam blocks, and incline boards are prevalent. When your think of this style of yoga, think alignment, sequencing, and timing. Lyengar yoga is another style accessible for all ages and functional levels. 

The extra help provided by these tools is perfect for providing seniors with a little additional assistance. The practice focuses not so much on immediate perfection on results, but is a progression done in a safe and effective manner. 

Lyengar yoga brings also highlights the core of yoga, helping to not just perform physical maneuvering, but looking at the self; energy, mind, and spirit. As with all of the before mentioned styles, Lynegar yoga can be used to enrich and positively effect your life, daily. 

Some of the touted benefits of Lyengar yoga include; improving physical and psychological health, releasing emotional tension, and increasing energy levels. 


e. Yin Yoga

For seniors that suffer from minimal flexibility, the Yin style of yoga can provide relief. The emphasis of this style of yoga lies in holding poses for more extended periods of time, accompanied by deep breathing techniques. This allows the muscle groups targeted by each pose to get a little extra stretch not provided in other forms. This from of yoga really places emphases on activating deep connective tissue. 

The duration of time for pose holds is most often between 3-5 minutes. Typically this passive style of yoga offers the practitioner an opportunity to release unwarranted emotions, with a clear focus and more calm mind as it incorporates a more meditative style of practice. Yin yoga is highly based on the principle of Qi (or energy) pathways. With the efforts and stretching to deeper connective tissues of even the joints and ligaments, these pathways are opened up, releasing a better flow of energy. 

The slow pace and deep stretches make this type of yoga one of the best for seniors who want to be a little more limber. The touted benefits include; decreasing stress on the body, releasing tension, increasing flexibility, and improving circulation. 


Related Article: Calm your Nerves in the Comfort of your Home: Breathing Exercises for Seniors


f. Kundalini Yoga

This is the last style of yoga we'll discuss for seniors, but certainly there are others that can be beneficial as well. It is not uncommon for seniors to become more spiritual as they grow older. Kundalini yoga provides an avenue to explore this side of themselves.

This style of yoga uses rhythmic breathing, and meditation to aid any senior who is on the perpetual quest for enlightenment.



Final Thoughts

These six disciplines of yoga mean that all seniors can enjoy the health benefits that yoga has to offer. Although some seniors may feel silly if it is their first time exploring what yoga has to offer, the rewards are worth any worries associated with trying something new.

The choice to start practicing yoga as a senior can result in better sleep & improved respiratory function and might even be a way to make new friends, so go on grab your yoga mat and try something fun and new!

As always thanks so much for coming by, we hope to have your again soon. Be sure to share our posts on your social media platforms!



Resources:

https://academic.oup.com/ageing/article/47/4/537/4951829

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6549603/

- https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-11-2013/health-benefits-of-yoga.html

- https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/more-older-people-are-doing-yoga-but-they-are-also-racking-up-injuries/2017/12/08/270ce406-ca2e-11e7-b0cf-7689a9f2d84e_story.html

- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29037619/

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278216/


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