Main stream exercises that individuals may have participated in their youth may not necessarily fulfil this recommendation, particularly if an individual has a chronic health issue or a complex health care plan.
Yoga has benefits that out ways other exercises for seniors. A 2014 study conducted demonstrated that yoga improves the psychological wellbeing of older adults. Yoga is a nonmedical way of supporting mental health and general well-being for all ages. This study was interesting in that it compared other physical activities to the mind-body techniques used in yoga classes and found that 40 minutes of chair yoga significantly improved psychological health of participants more then participants in the chair exercise group.
Yoga promotes improved health physically, emotionally and mentally. This same article suggests that if yoga is used to complement medical treatment an individual may be receiving can bring greater self-awareness into the way the individual is implementing self-care and medical care options. This means that yoga has far reaching implications then just relaxing or moving elderly adults. Yoga can improve health, prevent disease and complement treatment.
Some yoga poses and pranayama activities may still not be suitable for seniors, specific classes will tailor programs suitable for the conditions participants may present with. Appropriate modifications and adaptations can be made to ensure classes are safe for students of all ages. Therefore choosing an appropriate instructor and class is important for any participant.
My Top 5 Reasons Seniors Should Practice Yoga
1. Opportunity to feel included as part of a community - Yoga provides a social event that seniors may not be exposed too. Regularly attending a yoga class means connecting with other people and forming bonds and friendships through yoga. This can only enhance a positive mental health.
2. Improves Physical Health - Yoga provides a sense of self-control and self awareness. As we age we may feel we are no longer in control of our body and therefore medical conditions seem like they control us. Yoga promotes a sense of being back in our own bodies and therefore we are more likely to "take control back". Diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, pain, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimers can become seemingly more manageable when we feel we are in control.
3. Improved Balance and Stability - Falls are more likely as we age due to visual decline, muscle weakness and a variety of other reasons often attributed to aging. Other factors such as external environment hazards or distractions can contribute to falling. Being aware of posture and mobility can decrease the likelihood of a fall occurring. Yoga poses that focus on balance, strength and stability can assist with creating postural awareness and building muscular strength.
4. Yoga can reduce stress and anxiety - yoga can relax the body and mind. Through breathing and mindful awareness activities yoga affects the nervous system and reduces the flight or fight response - a response known to trigger stress hormones.
5. Developing greater mindfulness - awareness is the key to improved self-care. When we become conscious of what is happening to us we are better able to communicate to our family and medical carers. Creating an open, clear line of communication can mean greater opportunity for successful health improvement. Mindfulness creates awareness; awareness helps us communicate what we are feeling.
Once you start yoga you will see the improvements after just a few weeks. I invite you to try a class. Make sure you choose an instructor that understands your medical conditions and is able to adapt the class for your needs.
World Health Organisation, 2017 Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, viewed online http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_olderadults/en/
Bonura, KB and Tenenbaum G 2014 Effects of Yoga on Psychological Wellbeing in Older Adults, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Human Kinetic Vol 1 p1334 - 1341