The practice of yoga for elderly, or senior yoga, is a modified form of yoga that caters specifically to the needs of older individuals. Physical and mental well-being are promoted through gentle, low-impact movements and breathing exercises.
In yoga poses for the elderly, props such as chairs or blocks may be used to make the poses more accessible and safe. Exercises that involve breathing, meditation, and relaxation may also be included.
Two major factors to consider as we age is muscle atrophy and inflammation, both lead to chronic illness and poor health over time. Yoga helps to counter the effects of aging and is especially beneficial for the elderly as it improves muscle mass as bone density decreases, it improves coordination to prevent injury from fall risk, and enhances fitness in a low-impact manner to safely promote heart health.
Yoga can offer a variety of Benefits for elderly people, Including:
- Improved flexibility and range of motion
- Increased strength and balance
- Reduced pain and stiffness:
- Improved mental and emotional well-being
- Better sleep
What is Muscle Atrophy?
Basically, muscles shrink and shrivel away over time when they are not being used. This means with little activity muscles waste away and the elderly don’t have access to the strength of these muscles as they have been disengaged for so many years. There is a bright side, we can gain muscle mass back by simply engaging them again.
It takes time and consistency to regain muscle mass, this is very crucial as the muscles protect our joints and provide physical strength in our body, without them the bones and joints bear the load and can break easily since bones become frail over time as bone density drops with age. There is another benefit of building mass as we age, we can curtail the reduction of bone density by introducing weight-bearing exercises. Yoga is great for this as it is uses body weight as resistance, holding downward dog, plank pose, lunge pose all help increase muscle mass and in a low impact manner protect bone density and joint health.
Greater muscular strength means greater shock absorption this further protects the joints from injury as the muscles as a shield for any impact rather than it tearing ligaments which can be irreparable and permanently destabilize a joint in old age. Another benefit of stronger muscles is that when strength is developed on a physical level it affects the client on a mental level, we have had so many elderly clients who used to be scared to go out by themselves in case they fall and hurt themselves, after just 6 months of private class of building strength in major muscle groups such as the back, core, legs and arms they have a new found confidence in their ability, they are excited to take the dog out for a walk and know they have the strength to be active.
This is achieved by the trust cultivated with their yoga teacher on an individual level, they know they are being supported and expertly guided and slowly as they add more intensity to their practice, holding poses for longer or achieving postures they didn’t think they could do they benefit by believing in their ability as they witness their encouraging progress.
Chronic inflammation is the cause of many diseases, and 90% of inflammation is due to stress. There are many scientific studies that map out the relationship between inflammation and gut health, heart health and brain health. Yoga helps with inflammation by addressing the root cause of stress reduction, by working with calming techniques of breathing and meditation clients feel relaxed which helps them sleep better and benefit from the higher cellular repair and renewal, enhancing the impact of autophagy to eliminate toxins from the body. As we age the quality and quantity of our sleep decreases, being able to be more conscious of relaxation techniques plays a massive role for the elderly safeguarding their health, a compounding deficit of sleep increases the stress mechanisms of the body and can lead to further inflammation.
Loneliness is another affliction pronounced in the aging population, with nuclear families many elderly members of society live on their own and struggle finding a purpose in their last phase of life. Private yoga programs helps them to revive their feeling of connection, to their teacher and also with themselves, investing in self care brings meaning back to their activity and with many committing to 3 classes per week provides a routine for them to look forward to. With each class, working on a different aspect of their practice from twisting poses to stretching to balancing, strengthening and calming we ensure we start with something there is a natural inclination towards, this gives them motivation and encouragement to continue and explore their other capabilities, the feeling of achievement at this age, where they can see their efforts result in an improvement brings great joy within and a blossoming of their personality.
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