Am I Too Old For Yoga?

You can do yoga at any age -- really! It's just a matter of picking what type of yoga you do and working within your abilities. It might even help you age better, keeping you flexible and building strength through low-impact moves.

“We lose about a half-pound of muscle per year for each year we’re not regularly engaged in resistance training,” says Jessica Matthews, assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College in San Diego. Strength training helps keep your bones strong.

Falls are among the most common problems affecting older adults. At least 50% of those over the age of 80 fall annually. We've found that modified chair-yoga program is safe and feasible. Our data suggests that yoga may be beneficial in improving mobility and reducing fear of falling.

Yoga is a great option because it does not require specialized equipment and can be done anywhere. Matthews says her yoga classes are filled with people of all ages and skill levels, and she has seen more older adults embrace the practice in recent years.

“One of the most important things is taking great care to understand what your body needs,” Matthews says. If you have arthritis, limited mobility, or other health issues, she says, there is a modification for almost every yoga pose to accommodate your physical needs.

Whether it’s at a yoga studio or community center or in your home, yoga is a great way to gently build your endurance while also fostering a mind-body connection.

Chair Yoga classes are offered at IRON OAKS Fitness Center on Mondays and Fridays to members, or for anyone wanting to pay a guest fee.

Key Facts

  • Recent studies in people with chronic low-back pain suggest that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may help reduce pain and improve function (the ability to walk and move). Studies also suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) might have other health benefits such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and may also help relieve anxiety and depression.
  • People with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or sciatica, and women who are pregnant should modify or avoid some yoga poses.
  • Ask a trusted source (such as a health care provider or local hospital) to recommend a yoga practitioner. Contact professional organizations for the names of practitioners who have completed an acceptable training program.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Here's an example of a Chair Yoga position to try: "Seated Twist"

Sit in your chair facing forward with your feet flat on the floor. Extend the crown of your head up toward the ceiling to lengthen your spine. Gently twist the torso to the left side, rotating through your midsection but keeping your buttocks firmly planted on the seat of the chair. If it is comfortable, use your hands on the edges of the seat to move your body a little deeper into the twist. Hold here for five to 10 breaths and release back to center. Repeat on the other side.

RESOURCES

WebMD; "6 Yoga Poses That Age Well, Am I Too Old For Yoga", by Katherine Tweed

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health; Web site: nccih.nih.gov 

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; Int J Yoga   v.5(2); Jul-Dec 2012   PMC3410195  

Livestrong.com; "Yoga Chair Poses for Seniors" by JODY BRAVERMA