yoga for seniors

Starting (and Sticking) to a Yoga Practice: A Guide for Seniors

Most seniors report hearing their doctors telling them how beneficial yoga is for not just physical health, but mental health, as well. You might even have a friend or two committed to a daily practice who swears up and down that they feel healthier, less stressed, more agile and stronger. Some of the benefits of yoga specifically for seniors include:

  • Improved flexibility of joints and connective tissues, which can reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Some studies show a regular yoga practice can even stave off the disease, postponing or even preventing arthritis from settling into some joints.
  • Healthier gut flora, the beneficial bacteria that lives in your digestive tract, which can ease digestion issues and, believe it or not, even improve mood. Research shows that regular movement can boost the gut microbiome, helping you with a more comfortable, healthier lifestyle all around.
  • Fewer stresses and worries — or, at least, an easier time managing stress and worry so they don’t weigh so heavily on your mind. Yoga helps us cultivate a practice of living in the moment, encouraging us to let go of past hurts and stop fixing on a future we cannot control.

So with all these powerful benefits, why, then, is it so hard for seniors — anyone really — to start and stick to a yoga practice?

The question is complicated, but fortunately, the answer isn’t. Yoga is a practice, and just like anything else you practice, you have to give it time to see the benefits. You don’t touch a piano one day and then expect to be able to play Bach the next. The same goes for yoga. You can’t go to one class and expect to be cured of your ailments. And in our society, which rewards immediate gratification, that is often unacceptable.

But seniors are especially primed to look beyond that. You have lived, really lived, and in your innate wisdom you know that some of the best, most beautiful experiences in life take time. You can make committing to a daily yoga practice — yes, daily — even easier with these three simple tips.

Make Space Just for Yoga

Clear out an unused room and turn it into you own private yoga studio. If you have furniture or belongings that are collecting dust in an extra bedroom, put them in a storage unit so you can unclutter the space. If you want to ensure you use the space regularly, move your coffee or tea pot into the room so you are forced to visit it every morning. Most yoga wear is so comfortable you could even sleep in it so you are already dressed and ready for yoga when you have your morning cup.

Sprinkle It Throughout the Day

You were worried you’d have too much free time during retirement, but with volunteer projects, clubs, family and friends you are busier than ever – much too busy for an hour dedicated to yoga. While that may be true, who says you need an hour and a half to practice? Even just 15-20 minutes a day can provide a health boost. You can even sneak 10 minutes in several times a day — when you wake up, before you go out or after walking with a friend in the park. There are many online tutorials for simple yoga flows under 30 minutes.

Practice with a Friend

Nothing helps us commit to something quite like knowing someone is paying attention. Having an accountability partner can really solidify your yoga practice. Practicing with a senior friend is a great way to socialize and stay in shape. Plus, since you both are on the mat together, you can provide the support, empathy and encouragement that is often needed as we age. If you have a caregiver, practicing yoga together can help you both manage the aches and pains — physical and mental — that sometimes impact these very important roles and relationships.

If you can breathe, you can practice yoga! From a relaxing, restorative practice to one that works your core and builds strength, the benefits, especially for seniors, are bountiful. Experience them yourself when you try one of these simple tricks for getting your yoga practice to stick.