Traditionally, yoga is a path to spiritual liberation. But in western society, it’s become a form of exercise for the mind and body. Seniors may find many health benefits and enjoyment from practicing this ancient method. Here’s a quick guide to get you started with yoga.
There are countless types of physical yoga. But they generally all fall into two categories: Vinyasa yoga, also known as yang yoga, and yin yoga.
Vinyasa Yoga is the more widely practiced type and is probably what you see at gym yoga classes. It involves flowing from one posture to the next in time with your breathing. The in-breath usually involves moving up, and you usually move lower as you breathe out.
This form of yoga combines meditation and movement and can help sync your mind and body. There are many derivations of Vinyasa yoga, but any style that involves moving fluidly from pose to pose falls under the umbrella.
Yin yoga involves holding stretches for longer periods of time than Vinyasa. You usually hold a position for a certain number of breaths instead of moving through them with each breath.
This form of yoga can be better for people with mobility issues. It also comes with a lower fall risk because it’s usually done on the floor or from a seated position. Sitting yoga is a form of Yin yoga.
Some Christians may have qualms about starting a spiritual practice from a different culture and religion. But yoga in most cases is kosher. The key point is that yoga doesn’t involve praying to or worshiping other gods. It’s just traditional medicine for the mind and body.
That being said, yoga can become a problem for Christians if it becomes an idol in the same way that athletes might put sports above God or a businessman might worship profit. As long as you just see yoga as exercise and mindfulness, there’s nothing wrong with practicing any of the styles.
The biggest benefit of yoga is increased mobility. When done properly, especially with guidance from a physical therapist, yoga may help seniors increase mobility and reduce pain performing daily tasks.
Yoga can also be beneficial for respiratory health because it involves deep breathing. It also is known to improve circulation.
Getting exercise as a senior can sometimes feel like a catch 22; you need exercise to stay healthy and avoid injury, but the impact of exercise can cause injuries. Yoga is a good solution to this problem because it’s low impact.
Mobility impaired seniors may be wary of trying yoga, but there are lots of ways to practice yoga safely even with mobility issues. All yoga forms have modifications to make them easier or avoid dangerous movements.
Sitting yoga is one of the most popular forms for older adults because there’s much less risk of falling and no strain of trying to stand up from floor positions. Sitting yoga is sometimes done on the floor, but if you're more comfortable sitting in a chair, there are still many movements you can do.
The key is to practice with a qualified instructor who knows how to work around injuries and mobility issues and can make sure you’re practicing the forms correctly. You should also talk to your doctor before trying any new exercise regimens.
Breathing exercises are meant to support lung health while also promoting mindfulness and reducing stress. These exercises come from ancient yogic practices but have been modified by modern doctors and scientists to achieve the best results.
Wim Hof is a yogi and athlete known for his world records involving cold exposure, like climbing icy mountains in nothing but shorts. He created a method and breathing exercise to perform these feats that ended up having many more benefits than cold endurance.
Studies have shown this method to improve blood flow and support the immune system. It also helps many people overcome stress and anxiety.
You can find detailed instructions and guided breathing sessions on the Wim Hof Method website. Yoga instructors will also probably be able to teach it to you.
Singers learn diaphragmatic breathing to get the most out of their lungs. It’s basically breathing with your belly.
To breathe with your diaphragm, sit with your shoulders relaxed and breathe into your stomach. Breathing this way may help with blood oxygen levels and can be helpful for falling asleep.
This energizing breathing exercise will make you feel a little silly, but it may help relax the muscles in your chest and make breathing easier. Here’s how to do it:
To learn yoga, you need a qualified instructor, because even small mistakes can lead to injuries. You also want to find an instructor experienced with teaching seniors. Instructors can help work around medical or mobility issues to help seniors enjoy yoga.
Find a yoga instructor in Thornton or keep an eye on the Park Regency Thorton assisted living calendar for yoga classes.
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