When I first heard about yoga for the elderly, I envisioned a classroom of very young-looking elderly people who have managed to find the fountain of youth that allows them to gracefully find their way into a seated position on a yoga mat on the floor. I figured there would be very few classes for the elderly, because most of the elderly people in my acquaintance are not able to get down on the floor.
I was invited to share in the experience of going to an elderly yoga class and the first thing the instructor said was that if you can breathe, you can do yoga.
That surprised me. I thought you had to be very flexible and have a certain amount of strength to do yoga. Our first class was limited to doing chair yoga. All the participants were invited to sit on a chair and little by little we were all able to coax a little greater flexibility out of our upper body, hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. We did a little bit of waist bending to help stretch muscles in our back.
We finished the class with a short meditation period where we sat quite peacefully, eyes closed, and learned to focus on our breath, just noticing our breath as we first inhaled, then exhaled.
Afterward, I spent some time with the instructor who specializes in teaching yoga to the elderly. It would appear that elderly patients in their 70s, 80s, even 90s have experienced a great deal of benefit in terms of improved health and flexibility. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary medicine supports this claim. They did a randomized trial of yoga for individuals over the age of 60 and compared the results with other senior exercise programs.
The conclusion was that yoga was indeed a superior exercise for elderly people. In addition to improving their health, participants also enjoyed better balance and proprioception. They improved their muscle strength, lowered blood pressure, and improved their ability to sleep.
An additional benefit to taking a yoga class, as with most any other class is the psychosocial benefit of exercising with other people, eliminating the sense of isolation that is responsible for increasing rates of loneliness and depression.
Yoga is infinitely adjustable to each individual, making it an excellent form of exercise for all abilities and conditioning. By improving seniors’ muscle strength and balance, they are able to maintain greater independence than they would otherwise, allowing them to get in and out of bed alone, and perform other daily activities unassisted.
Participants of the study reported a greater quality of life as a result of their yoga classes. Even learning to breathe differently is a yoga practice available even to the most frail of elderly patients. To continue to add more life to your years, contact us at Green Valley Wellness & Chiropractic