Senior Yoga – adapting a yoga class to our aging bodies

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I get to pick on my mom in this one… LOL.  (Hi MOM!!)

I asked my mom what topics she would like covered in one of my articles and she brought up senior yoga. Over a year ago, my mom attended a yoga class at a gym and, following the teacher’s instructions, lifted her leg and opened up at the hip. Soon after leaving the class, her knee started to swell.  After a few days she went to a doctor and found that she had injured it in her class.  This can be a potential nightmare for many seniors. My mom was able to recover over time, but the recovery has not been complete. She still experiences some swelling that may never go down. Sometimes the risk of injury can prevent seniors from trying new things – especially physical ones that rely heavily on the instruction of another. The following are a few tips for seniors (or those who love a senior) to consider when selecting a yoga class.

1. Choose your class wisely – including the studio

When choosing a yoga class, do your homework. The type of classes offered in any given area can differ by teacher and by studio. Gentle yoga with one instructor may mean something entirely different to another teacher. There may be a senior class that is geared towards what you are hoping to accomplish or one that focuses on gentle stretching. Silver Sneakers Yoga classes are offered around the country and may be a good place to start a practice. Often you can stop by a studio between classes to ask the advice of the office staff about the intensity and skill level of a potential class. They may also be able to recommend a teacher and/or class that would fit with your skill and age level or hook you up with a yoga instructor that can address specific needs. The goal of a studio is to provide safe and valuable classes for all of its students, so it is beneficial that students address their concerns at the beginning of a practice.

2. Start small

If you are just dropping into a studio for a class and don’t have time to do any research, try to look for a Gentle or Yin class. When trying a new studio, you don’t want to just drop into the hardest class they offer – especially if you are concerned about the level of activity. Every teacher and every class is different. If you have a bigger window of time, rely on the knowledge of the staff and call ahead to discuss the options.

3. Take it one day at a time

As we age, the connective tissues and bones of our bodies age as well.  We can stave off most of the affects by a healthy lifestyle, but many changes are a normal part of ageing.  The most important aspect of practicing  yoga is to pay attention to the body at any particular moment. If you woke up with a sore hip, don’t try an intense hip opener that the teacher suggests.  Listen to your body and what it needs at the moment.

4. Consider a private lesson to learn modifications

All body shapes and skills can all benefit from private lessons. It is never a bad idea to consider a one-on-one consultation to go over poses or modifications relevant to your age and lifestyle. In a one – on – one session, a teacher can give you the attention and concern that you may need as your body is ageing. This is especially relevant if you are diving back into your yoga practice after many years away. Your body will have changed and you will need to pay attention to the current state of your body.

It is important to honor our bodies at whatever stage we happen to find ourselves. As long as you stay mindful of how movement feels – you will always find a safe and effective practice.

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