Yoga has been well documented to assist with many health challenges. From heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis, the benefits of a
regular yoga practice have been linked to improved health and well being. According to Susan Winter Ward, author of the
book Yoga for the Young at Heart (Nataraj Publishing, 2002), insists there is nobody for whom yoga is completely off limits. “If you’re
breathing, you can do yoga,” Ward says. “All it takes is some creativity to adapt poses to any level of ability.”
Simple postures (called asanas) can increase flexibility, blood flow, reduces muscular tension, improves
digestion, nerves and respiratory system efficiency, eliminate asthma, diabetes, migraine, lower back pain, high blood pressure and arthritis. Movement
decreases stiffness, rigidity and strengthens our muscles, ligaments and joints. Yoga reduces the need for prescription drugs. People over the age
of 70 take an average of 8 prescription medications daily. Yoga is shown to reduce the needs for prescription drugs.
Yoga allows people to proceed at their own pace to gradually gain more strength and flexibility. Classes
best for seniors are not “one size fits all”. Many classes are focused proper positioning and alignment and
instructors provide specialized adjustment and support. Before considering going to a yoga class, consider the following: Is the instructor a certified
yoga teacher? Have they worked with older adults? Do they understand yoga safety?
In many yoga studios, props are available to provide support and help strengthen, stretch, balance or improve body alignment. Props may include blocks, blankets, belts and chairs. Props support the body and allow students to hold poses longer to experience the therapeutic benefits. They make difficult poses more accessible and safe.
Yoga Therapy is the adaptation of yoga practices for people with health limitations. According to Gary Kraftsow, noted yoga therapy
practitioner “Yoga therapy refers to the adaptation and application of Yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce symptoms, restore balance, increase vitality, and improve attitude”.Lynn Medow, founder of Yoga by Design a Southeast Michigan based yoga therapy program, produced the DVD Graceful Aging, an instructional DVD for older adults who are interested in yoga. “Practiced on a regular basis, yoga strengthens the foundation of a calm mind and healthy body”. According to Medow, “common medical issues can be improved over time and graceful aging realized. Harmony is experienced enabling one to live life to the fullest with joy and ease”.
Attorney, Leon Schurgin, 68 years old, has been practicing yoga for 15 years. His interest is in maintaining both his
strength and flexibility and delaying or preventing changes in posture that he witnesses daily in the older generation around him. “I practice balancing
on one foot, lifting my head and my heart, so I may walk on two feet holding my head high as I travel the path of my daily grind. Yoga reduces my level of
stress certainly deferring some of the effects of aging.”
No matter what your age is, your agility and flexibility, your health or physical limitations, the many benefits of yoga
will provide an open door into better health and well being. Try it today!