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How great would it be to have more energy and flexibility? Would you like to think more clearly, be more focused and relaxed? Want to feel stronger, and be healthier? Consider yoga!
You Can Get All That and More from Yoga
This ancient discipline takes many forms, and most of them can be modified to suit practitioners at any age or skill level, including those with disabilities, such as arthritis and limited mobility. Senior citizens and their caregivers may find it a practical solution to getting regular exercise. Yoga requires minimal investment in equipment, needing no more than comfy clothes and a yoga mat to get started. And while it’s a great idea to enroll in a beginner’s class, you can get a taste of its benefits with free video instruction online.
As time goes on, you may decide to upgrade and add a few props to your routine, such as slings, straps, and blankets, but these are entirely optional. One thing you may enjoy is setting up a special place in your home where you can practice stretching and meditating. You’ll want a quiet, comfortable, private space with minimal decoration, natural light, and soothing colors and textures. It isn’t necessary to have a permanent designated space — many people meditate and do yoga in their bedroom or living room — but having your own space makes things easier.
Use It or Lose It
We tend to reach peak muscle mass around age 30, but if we don’t exercise, we start losing it to the tune of about a pound lost per year. It may not seem like a lot, but the consequences for senior citizens can be disastrous. The condition is called sarcopenia, and it is responsible for loss of mobility and greater risk of fractures. But here’s the good news: this muscle loss is somewhat reversible. Resistance training exercises, such as stretching yoga poses, help slow the process by helping to build new muscle. It’s also great at slowing the progression of bone loss due to osteoporosis because yoga is such a low-impact workout.
A Growing Trend
Anyone can do yoga. There are many schools and styles to choose from. There is chair yoga, water yoga, and gentle hatha yoga, to name a few. You can start yoga after a lifetime of sedentary living and still reap many of its health benefits. Disabilities that might make more aggressive exercise regimens problematic are common occurrences in the yoga studios across the country, and the community is growing. The 2016 Yoga in America study found that 38 percent of yoga practitioners are over 50 years of age, and 74 percent of all practitioners surveyed were relative newcomers to yoga, with five or fewer years of experience.
A Spiritual Retreat
There’s another side to yoga. Its teachings provide spiritual and moral instruction focused on finding inner peace through love and compassion. Meditation is emphasized because it helps practitioners become mindful and present in the moment, as well as encourages positive thought processes. It teaches certain relaxation techniques, which can help to control the body’s response to stress and anxiety. Learning how to regulate these physiological responses reinforces self-discipline and good mental and emotional hygiene. Although yoga is not in itself a religion, it can be part of religious practice, as its tenets are compatible with most major world religions. It has been said that prayer is talking to God, but meditation is listening for an answer. Indeed, many people do yoga solely for the spiritual aspect, and report that they feel their creativity and inspiration are enhanced by the experience.
Taking care of another person is stressful and can be medically debilitating. Sadly, caregivers can have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than similarly-aged people not engaged in looking after a loved one. But senior citizens and their caregivers can enjoy yoga together. As you scale the routine to your individual level of fitness and experience, you can work together side by side, but independently, saving time during a busy day. Yoga is a great way to encourage a closer bond of affection that will make you both happier and healthier.
By Jason Lewis