When you think of yoga, you probably think of impossibly toned young things twisted into mind-boggling shapes and poses - not exactly, you might think, a suitable exercise for the over 60s. However, studies have shown that the older generation can benefit considerably from taking up yoga, and one recent study highlights the impact yoga can have on brain function and mental health, as well as physical health.
Improving Cognitive Function
A study in Illinois involved more than 100 people over the age of 55, one group of which undertook gentle hatha yoga exercises three times a week for eight weeks. Compared to the group which didn’t, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in cognitive functions such as concentration and multitasking.
Hatha yoga involves meditation and focused, controlled breathing as you move slowly through a series of postures and poses. It is thought that the focus and mindfulness for this practice helps with focus during everyday tasks too.
Physical Yoga Benefits
For older adults, yoga brings a variety of physical benefits. The gentle toning and stretching action of the poses increases bodily strength and flexibility, which is vital as muscles get older. Yoga is also extremely good at improving balance, which can be very important in older adults and may help to prevent falls and slips.
Mental Yoga Benefits
Yoga has been shown to help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. Mental health problems such as these are on the increase in the elderly population, and anything which induces a feeling of wellbeing has to be worth a try. Older adults attending yoga classes - it’s increasing easy to find a class locally tailored towards older people - also benefit from the regular social interaction, making new friends and becoming less isolated.
How Yoga for Older People Works
Fit and healthy older adults can follow a beginner yoga course with little trouble, whether in a class or from a DVD at home. Those with less mobility or complex health problems needn’t be left out - chair yoga is increasingly popular with seniors, where all of the exercises can be done while seated, and water yoga is also a popular choice, where the buoyancy of the water helps mobility and decreases the risk of muscle strain.
Your doctor may advise you to avoid some of the physically stressing poses, such as twists and inversions, but it’s not at all hard to design yoga sequences for older adults which incorporate all of the benefits of yoga without the need to turn oneself into a living pretzel!
Why not give it a go?