We previously read how yoga is for everyone. However, every exercise has some limitations when it comes to the older age groups. Though there is no age limit to start working out, it is always better to be prepared than risk injury, especially when the side effects of aging affect your physical health. We spoke to Rohit Dulal, a yoga guru and director at Vinod Dulal Yoga Institute, who answered all our queries on yoga for older people.
How does yoga help with aging?
Aging can lead to lower bone density, slower heart rate, reduced vision and digestive issues, to name a few issues. This is where yoga comes in. Regular practice can help you remain physiologically young. Performing asanas can help you counteract the effects of aging by building muscular strength, increasing bone density and maintaining joint flexibility. Some asanas require you to perform back bending movements which can help rebuild the spinal column. Inversion asanas enable effective blood circulation and help with low blood pressure. Yoga can help with physical well being as it helps you gain more strength to support your body at an old age.
Yoga can counter the effects of aging as it works at the cellular level. It helps with ailments like osteoarthritis which affects hips, knees and feet. Yoga is a form of non drug therapy that strengthens the muscles around painful joints to support functional movement. Targeted stretching helps reduce stiffness and increases the range-of-motion of the affected area. Plus, yoga has plenty of accessible Balancing poses that help strengthen weak knees and ankles to enhance static and dynamic balancing.
Yoga understands the body from an all-encompassing perspective. Yoga asanas are not simply targeted exercises for the body like a gym workout. Asanas affect the nervous system, stimulate many internal systems, build muscle and strengthen bones. And these are only the physical and mental aspects of yoga, whereas yoga affects people at a spiritual and energetic level too. Hence, day to day complications such as impaired digestion, common physical pains and mental disorders etc can all be managed with yoga.
Yoga practitioners with sufficient practice can slowly build up the strength and focus so theycan perform advanced poses. It is all about respecting your own body limitations and approaching the practice with an intent to learn about yourself, rather than pursue an ego-driven approach to reach a certain level of physical performance. A healthy goal is to remain healthy and aware of our body.
Yoga as a therapy is real and the teachers who teach yoga to heal are known as yoga therapists. Nowadays, the term medical yoga has become synonymous with yoga classes taught in medical settings for curing health conditions. A certified yoga instructor goes through the basic coursework which helps them teach people of all age groups. However, the benefits of yoga remain the same.
Aging is a normal life process that we all have to go through. It is important to know that at an older age, you have softer bones and are more prone to injury. Hence, older students must not force themselves, but rather gradually progress through simple asanas. Yoga at an older age is best effective as a restorative and passive practice. One red flag you might want to avoid is where teachers teach a blanket yoga sequence to all attendees. Asana sequences and practices should always cater to your health concerns and goals.
In this case, it is necessary to find your Guru and devote yourself for a month. Group classes and pre-recorded apps tend to make everyone do the same pose, in the same way. This will risk your health as health conditions are not taken into considerations. Even finding the right yoga guru may be a challenge, so keep an open mind and look for other gurus, if you are unable to notice any physical or mental results.
Fluid Intelligence is the ability to think and solve new or unique problems. Yoga practitioners and meditators show a slower decline in Fluid Intelligence compared to other people. This will help you be mentally stimulated even at later ages when brain function is known to deteriorate. Yoga inculcates a sense of balance, calmness and awareness, which teaches us to accept life’s challenges and handle them gracefully.
Yoga can help you keep physically and mentally fit at any age. You can start slow and build up to any asana as there are progressions for all difficulties. To answer your question, no, it is never too late to start yoga. Finding the right instructor and enjoying the practice will help you reap the many benefits of yoga at any age.