5 Mental & Physical Health Benefits Of Yoga For Seniors
A regular yoga practice has many benefits for both mental and physical health. Whether you’re five or eighty-five, there is a type of yoga to suit your needs!
Yoga can be especially advantageous for older people, and has an array of benefits for both physical and mental health. So why is yoga good for seniors? Well, not only is a regular yoga practice a fantastic way to unwind and help ease stress, it can also provide a gentle workout or stretch, which can be adapted to suit your needs. Read on to learn more about the benefits of yoga for seniors, and how to find the right kind of yoga practice for you.
1. Stress relief
Yoga is a fantastic tool to help ease stress and calm a busy mind. Focusing on the breath is a massive part of any yoga practice, and this automatically calms the nervous system. Incorporating aspects of meditation and mindfulness into your yoga practice can enable you to feel truly at peace, even during difficult times.
Poses such as Shavasana, or corpse pose, are especially useful for this. Simply lie on your back, with your arms stretched out slightly on either side and your palms facing up to the ceiling. The purpose of this pose is to rest the body, and it provides the perfect opportunity to focus on the breath. Shavasana is an excellent option for seniors as it does not put pressure on the body, but is still an undoubtedly important part of any yoga practice.
2. Sense of community
Yoga classes can be a great way to meet like-minded people. There are so many types of yoga that it is accessible for all, no matter your physical ability or age. Many yoga studios offer specialized classes – for pregnant people, young children, or seniors – and these can be hugely helpful in finding a new community.
Not only are classes tailored to suit differing abilities on a physical level, but you’ll be surrounded by others of the similar age group, and with a similar mindset. Community centers or town halls can sometimes offer these classes too, so it is definitely worth doing some research to see what is available in your local area.
3. Improved sleep
Many seniors struggle to sleep well. If you have been finding it difficult to fall asleep, or stay asleep, yoga could be a great way to calm your mind and switch off your body before getting some quality shut-eye.
According to Healthline, research conducted in 2019 suggests yoga is useful in preventing insomnia and improving quality of sleep. Even the practice of focusing on the breath can be a great tool for aiding healthy sleeping patterns. You can read more about helpful bedtime breathing techniques here.
4. Pain relief
Yoga can offer a fantastic way to gently stretch the body, which can help release pressure, particularly in the lower back. Chronic back pain is common among seniors, and yoga is considered highly effective as a treatment for this. Poses such as cat-cow pose, or extended child’s pose, are a good choice for those with back pain.
For cat-cow pose, get on all fours, with your spine in a neutral position. On the inhale, raise your head and drop your belly to the floor. On the exhale, curve the back towards the ceiling, reaching the head down to the floor. If this is difficult for your knees, you have the option to use padding.
If this doesn’t suit you, then you may find extended child’s pose a good option for a stretch. Sit back on your heels, spread your knees as wide as the yoga mat, and fold forward, reaching your arms towards the front of the mat. This offers a stretch along the length of the spine.
There are many other useful yoga poses for back pain, so ask your yoga instructor if you would like more recommendations, and remember to check with your doctor before doing any movement you are unsure about.
5. Improved bone health
Yoga can ease pain associated with the swollen joints common with arthritis, and is an enjoyable and non-aggressive form of physical activity. In fact, several studies show that yoga benefits sufferers of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
What’s more, the benefits of a regular yoga practice for those who have these conditions are still evident months later. Gentle bending and slow, easy movements and stretches can help to ease joint pain and improve mobility. Yoga is also very useful in improving balance and co-ordination.
So, what type of yoga is best for seniors? And how often should seniors do yoga?
As yoga is such an adaptable and versatile form of exercise, it can be an excellent workout option for seniors. From a physical point of view, a regular yoga practice can help ease pain, and offer an amazing opportunity for a full-body stretch. However, yoga is much more than a physical exercise, and a regular yoga practice also has many benefits for mental and emotional health as well.
At the core of yoga is the uniting of the breath with the body. This allows yogis to experience reduced levels of stress, improved sleep patterns, and the option of meeting new people through classes. It is clear that there are many positive effects of yoga on mental and physical health, especially for seniors.