Yoga for the Elderly


Authored by Cathy L. Chambers in Alternative Health 
Published on 12-07-2009

The practice of Yoga was begun in India 5,000 years ago. It has undergone many changes over time and is now a widely practiced form of exercise. This is especially true for the elderly. The population of senior citizens is growing rapidly. Senior citizens are living longer and wish to maintain an active life style as they age. Unfortunately, many of the illnesses that come with aging result in moving less. Less movement makes us more vulnerable to a variety of ailments, creating a seemingly unbreakable cycle. Although some people believe that the elderly should “slow down” and become less active, nothing is further from the truth. Less activity weakens the muscles and reduction of weight- bearing activity increases the risk of osteoarthritis. Many people who have tried Yoga consider it a very beneficial exercise for older individuals.

Yoga incorporates the mind, body and spirit of the individual. Yoga is more than physical exercise, the practice of yoga is a calming, tranquil experience for those who practice it. The practice of yoga encourages respect and knowledge of the abilities and limitations of your body. It is easily adapted to the needs of senior citizens. Participants are encouraged to move slowly from one position to the next and to stop if they feel pain or overly tired. The emphasis on breathing properly can help individuals with respiratory problems. As we age, we lose flexibility in our rib cage, restricting lung expansion. The deep cleansing breaths associated with yoga helps by encouraging full expansion of the lungs while breathing. This also allows the cells to receive more oxygen, acting to retard the aging process. Some yoga poses aid in controlling blood pressure. The National institute on Health
recommends regular physical activity to improve balance and fitness, thereby reducing the risk of falls. The practice of yoga is an excellent way to improve balance.

For seniors who are already experiencing problems with balance, some yoga instructors offer classes using chairs and other props to assist with balance. Chair yoga is becoming increasingly popular in nursing homes and senior centers. Adapting traditional poses such as a forward bend by using chairs allows seniors additional support while they working their way through poses.

The benefits of yoga extend beyond the stretching and flexing of muscles and joints. Yoga positions work on the internal organs as well, providing them with a form of massage. This total workout of internal organs and many joints and muscles that may be missed by traditional forms of exercise works to help rid the body of toxins.

Yoga has a mental element as well. The practice of yoga is intended to bring the mind and body into a state of unity. Meditation and yoga together work toward easing stress. There is no special equipment that is necessary for the practice of yoga. Anyone, regardless of age or level of fitness may practice yoga safely. The elderly may find yoga a beneficial form of exercise, and may wish to find a class in their area that caters to elderly clients. As with any new form of exercise, those with chronic illnesses should consult their doctor before beginning a yoga class.


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