-By guest blogger Harry Cline
With more than 14 million practitioners over the age of 50, seniors make up one of the fastest-growing yoga demographics. While it may seem intimidating to jump into something new you’ve never done before, yoga and meditation offer several easy entry points. Whether you are a senior or a caregiver for a senior, here is a quick guide to getting started with yoga and meditation.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga and meditation provide multiple benefits and extend and improve quality of life for seniors. Balance and stability help prevent falls, and even if falls do occur, better balance helps seniors recover quicker. Yoga also provides more flexibility and strengthens joints, both issues that seniors can use help with. Respiratory function improves and blood pressure is reduced when you do yoga. Because classes are calm and relaxing, yoga can also reduce anxiety and, since so much of yoga is focused on breathing techniques, it helps you become more mindful and aware of what’s going on around you. This leads naturally into meditation, which can help bring mental clarity, calmness, and independence.
Types of Yoga
Seniors can participate in several types of yoga adapted to work especially well for people with limited mobility and fitness. Chair yoga works well for those who cannot stand for long periods. Participants modify poses with a chair for balance or simply perform the poses while seated. Water yoga is gentle and low-impact, which is beneficial if you have joint pain. If you are more active and flexible, Anusara (“flowing with grace”) focuses on experiencing joy in your life. More challenging forms of yoga include Bikram yoga and Ashtanga yoga. If you want to try a few poses on your own to get a feel for yoga, try these beginning positions.
How to Prepare
You may be intimidated before your first class, but you’ll find most classes very welcoming and helpful. Because you will be moving, bending, and stretching, wear clothes that are more fitted, such as any kind of exercise pants or leggings, along with a fitted top. You usually do yoga barefoot as well. You will also want a yoga mat (many classes provide this), a towel, and a water bottle. Arrive to your class early so you have time to set up. Turn off your phone, leave your shoes at the door or in your bag, and avoid stepping on other people’s mats so you don’t get them dirty or cause a distraction.
Help for Recovery
Yoga and meditation have additional benefits especially for those going through addiction recovery. For many people in recovery, having a good relationship with their physical self is as important as their relationship with their spiritual self. Yoga and meditation combine the two in a beautiful way by strengthening you physically (building new muscle and improving flexibility) and mentally (meditation brings self-awareness and mindfulness). Yoga also can offer you a distraction and give you a sense of ambition (there is always more you can accomplish). Some of the longer yoga poses can even release endorphins into your body that give you a sense of happiness you may have previously only found in substances. Many recovery programs will include yoga and meditation as part of their practice.
If you are a senior considering the practice of yoga and meditation, it’s easy to give it a try. Find a local class and go a couple of times. You’ll quickly get an idea of whether you like it, and if you do, you just might find yourself in better shape, calmer, and ready for the rest of your life.