Friday, January 10, 2014

Guest Post: Enhancing Senior Health with Yoga

By Shannon Lochwood

Yoga is often practiced by young people looking to maintain their health and improve their overall fitness level, and many older adults aren’t familiar with even the basics of yoga. However, that doesn’t mean that seniors can’t benefit from taking yoga classes or doing yoga on their own.

In fact, yoga has a wide variety of benefits for senior citizens – maybe even more than for younger participants. While certain types of yoga may not be ideal for seniors, there are forms that will be beneficial for seniors of all different levels of health.

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Improved Flexibility
Decreased flexibility is often a common problem for older adults. While any type of regular exercise like walking, jogging or even playing a sport like tennis or golf can improve flexibility, yoga is one of the best activities to immediately improve flexibility over the entire body.

Increased flexibility will decrease the chance of experiencing a minor or major injury that could result in chronic pain, or worse, a broken or damaged bone.

Yoga may also be able to improve joint flexibility and decrease pain associated with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions like it.

Better Stability
Many injuries that affect seniors aren’t related to serious accidents – they’re related to minor incidents in the home, such as minor falls or simply tripping over something. Practicing yoga on a regular basis can help seniors improve overall stability to avoid those falls that can result in very problematic injuries on the wrong surface.

Sleep Quality
It’s commonly said that seniors need less sleep than their younger counterparts, but many seniors don’t really feel that way. A lot of seniors also feel that they have a particularly hard time falling asleep at night, especially if they’re taking any type of medication that may keep them awake or are experiencing chronic pain related to another condition.

Yoga may help all individuals that feel they have a hard time falling asleep, simply because the movements of gentle types of yoga are often relaxing. Yoga classes also focus on the relaxing aspects of the practice and may even incorporate meditation, which makes many seniors feel more grounded and comfortable after sessions.

If you do take up yoga partly to improve your sleep, consider scheduling classes in the afternoon or evening instead of in the morning or during the day so you’ll be ready for bed within a few hours of your class.
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Mental Health
Yoga is known as a relaxing activity, especially if you take classes that incorporate meditation, and for many seniors that suffer from anxiety or depression, doing yoga regularly may help to alleviate or manage the problem.

While some seniors may be hesitant to try yoga with its “new-age” label, others jump at the chance. Seniors that often balk at trying yoga are sometimes the ones that benefit the most, as well.

If the benefits of yoga sound appealing but you’re just not sure about the activity, try to keep an open mind. You may find an activity that you really enjoy once you understand the basics, and. yoga classes can also be another way for seniors to socialize or discover new things in their city. Many major cities such as Los Angeles or Miami have yoga classes just for seniors.

Shannon Lochwood is a freelance writer and has contributed to several health blogs. She loves everything about health, mental and physical and loves to encourage people of all ages to try fun new ways to exercise into their daily routine.

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