Yoga for Seniors

In addition to teaching classes to seniors in private settings, senior living residences, healthcare organizations, and local 50+ community centers, I am open to speaking at events targeting the aging population, writing articles on the topic and designing sequences for publication.
For any questions you may have, or to discuss a potential collaboration with your group or organization,
please contact me.

Benefits of Yoga in the Aging Body

The main effect of aging on the elderly is the transition into a sedentary life. More often than not, the older one gets the less mobile they become, and this occurs in the form of a vicious circle – we lose our flexibility and mobility which causes us to stop moving as much, which in turn causes further loss in our flexibility and mobility, which in turn causes even less movement, and so on.

We don’t stop moving because we grow old; we grow old because we stop moving. | adaptation from G B Shaw |

Lack of movement is the culprit of so many medical conditions among people over the age of 65. Extended periods of sitting lead to loss of balance, which causes frequent falls among seniors. Sadly, a simple fall can lead to bone fractures, immobility, various medical complications, and even death. Sitting for long periods of time causes the weakening, tightening and shortening of muscles. This weakening of muscles leads to bone loss which causes Osteoporosis. Maintaining the same position for extended periods without moving or stretching brings about a loss in flexibility and the deterioration of joints. Lack of movement affects the mental health as well, not only through bad blood circulation and negative CO2/O2 exchange, but also by trapping those less mobile into a boring routine.

Aging Body MeditationAmong other, more specific ailments and illnesses, seniors are commonly affected by the following health conditions:

  1. chronic pain
  2. high blood pressure
  3. poor blood circulation
  4. vision problems
  5. reduced joint flexibility
  6. arthritis/bursitis
  7. osteoporosis
  8. low back pain
  9. weight gain/obesity
  10. breathing difficulties
  11. troubles sleep
  12. stress, anxiety, depression

Gentle movement combined with appropriately modified inverted poses helps to circulate the blood in all extremities and send more oxygen to the brain, which can release headache-causing strain and bad moods. Practicing weight-bearing exercises, where you put gentle stress on your muscles and bones, helps rebuild your bones. Breathing techniques increase lung capacity, and when combined with a meditation practice bring about a variety of benefits from stress and anxiety reduction, to better sleep, to a decrease in chronic pains.

Over time, a regular gentle yoga practice will enhance strength, flexibility, balance, and mood, improving the overall quality of life.


 

Yoga for Seniors Program Design

A good workout for seniors would consist of low impact cardio, resistance training, and stretching. However, seniors are at risk of injuring themselves by pushing past their limits in an even mildly strenuous work out. A creative yoga program focused on correct body alignment can cover all these areas while keeping the participants with physical limitations safe.

Regardless of the style and focus of the class, yoga will always prove to be more than a physical practice. It truly is a holistic experience which rejuvenates the body, mind and spirit. Its benefits go beyond the physical tightness and tension release, and are felt at a deeper level, where the participant reaches a state of quietness, peace and calm that stays with them for long after the practice has concluded.

A brief daily yoga practice can have a tremendous impact of the quality of life of seniors – just by improving their posture they will find more comfort, better balance, greater respiratory function, and an enhanced mood.

I designed various types of classes that can be further tailored to meet specific needs, physical limitations and health conditions.

1.  Breathing Meditation

While all my classes begin with a breathing meditation and are based on mindful breathing, the class dedicated to breathing meditation reminds the participants about the importance of a full breath. As we grow older we stop breathing fully, which leads to loss of flexibility in the rib cage and spinal deformities, tremendously decreasing our lung capacity. Mindful breathing will create more space in our thoracic cavity, will release all stale air out of our lungs and replenish them with fresh oxygen.

2.  Fascia Release 

Fascia is the connective tissue of the body, wrapped around our muscles and internal organs. Lack of movement causes this tissue to harden and tighten contributing to overall physical stiffness and affecting the function of our internal organs. This class will comprise a long sequence of stretching and releasing poses intended to promote flexibility in the fascia, and ultimately overall well-being.

3.  Quasi Power Yoga

A class designed for participants who still maintain a decent range of movement. Although it has a flowy character, with smooth transitions from one pose to the next, the focus is on proper and mindful alignment. Strentgh building poses are held for a longer time which gives the class a “power yoga” feel. The body is balanced in each pose, in order to avoid applying any stress on one particular muscle, joint or bone.

4. Lymphatic Flush 

A series of breathing techniques and specific yoga poses focused on the anatomy of the lymphatic system can ensure both the oxygenation of the body and the drainage of toxins. A lymphatic yoga practice can prevent health issues, while regenerating the tissues and boosting the immune system. Lymphatic yoga calms and relaxes the body and mind, because the lymph is directly related to the parasympathetic nervous system.

5. Arthro Yoga

A program designed for bodies affected by Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis. In addition to a fundamental diaphragmic breathing exercise to improve chest expansion and prevent or reduce slumping, the sequences focus on strengthening the right muscles with the purpose of stabilizing weak and painful joints. The poses are modified for each student based on the areas of body affected by the condition.

6. Meno Poses

A combination of cooling breathing exercises and restorative yoga postures which target the symptoms of menopause. The cooling breathing techniques reduce the discomfort of hot flashes, and so do the supported inversions and reclined poses. Poses known to calm the central nervous system and oxygenate the brain are part of this class, reducing irritability, anxiety, depression and fatigue.


 

On the Mat with Ana H. 

My professional goal lies in teaching and promoting the healing power of yoga, and while I cater to other populations, I am the most passionate about the aging people, and I intend to direct my teaching efforts towards them, from the time they start noticing the early signs of physical aging, all the way to the elderly who find themselves living in a body that has lost its stamina, strength and flexibility. I want to guide these aging bodies through a practice that allows them to maintain or regain control of their physical capabilities, and give them the confidence and power to continue living life to the fullest.Chair yoga

Part of my routine, at the beginning of each session I teach I make sure I become familiar with the medical conditions of my students. This allows me to safely recommend modifications and variations of poses in order to accommodate everyone’s physical and health limitations. I am keen on using a variety of props especially during a class designed for seniors. Folding chairs, bolsters, blankets, yoga blocks and straps are standard in my yoga classes.

I promote a mindful yoga practice. As we dive into the practice, my students become aware of every part of their body through detailed pose alignment cues, and they will learn to listen to their bodies in such a manner that while I encourage them to challenge themselves, they will know to do so without straining.

In my classes I rely on intentional breathing, meditation, readings and chanting to facilitate an alignment of the body, mind and spirit, which represents the foundation of healing.

Never too old, never too sick, never too late to do yoga and start from scratch again. | Bikram Choudhury |