Krishnamacharya, often referred to as the father of modern yoga, stated “If you can breathe you can do yoga!” However, in our western culture the media often portrays yoga as being exclusively for the already flexible and athletic young woman. Yet everyone and every body can benefit from this healing practice, regardless of age or ability. In fact, a recent study published by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance in 2016 reported that there are more older practitioners than ever before.
As a Certified Yoga Therapist/yoga researcher sharing yoga in extended care facilities and assisted living homes, I have noticed that seniors are often told what not to do. Happily, yoga focuses on what one can do, addressing each individual’s unique capabilities and unique needs, both physical and emotional.
A specialized-yoga class for the mature student integrates gentle postures, adapted and modified with a focus on flexibility. It also weaves in strength and stability, breath awareness, meditation, restorative poses and deep relaxation.
Mindful movements linked with breath control can balance the nervous system, helping release tension. Yoga postures practiced consistently over time can strengthen our muscles and increase flexibility, making daily activities easier. Yoga can also improve balance which leads to less risk of falls, allowing us to move through our days with a greater sense of comfort and ease. Finally, yoga’s popularity today is due in part because it creates connection/community which is vital, particularly as we age.
Now nearing 60 years of age, I know from personal experience and knowledge what a safe, gentle and transformative practice yoga can be. I keep returning to my mat/yoga practice with a grateful heart and spirit for the ongoing healing yoga provides for my ever-changing body and mind. As one of my mentors, Yoga Therapist Lindsay Whalen would often say, “Yoga is indeed the gift that keeps on giving!”
More and more local senior centres and community centres offer accessible, inclusive, gentle yoga classes for older adults and seniors, including chair yoga for individuals not comfortable with getting down on the floor. Private and semi-private yoga sessions are also an option for individuals interested in working one-on-one with a Yoga Therapist.
Bobbie Seale-Cobiskey is a LAYT Certified Yoga Therapist and welcomes questions and feedback from readers. She can be reached through her website at yogabilityinternational.com, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 778.318.0367.