What’s the number one myth about yoga? I’d say it’s “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible!”.
Quickly followed by “I can’t do yoga, I’ve got a dodgy hip / knee / back”.
And, frequently, it’s people who are not as young as they once were, shall we say, whose bodies have started to display the familiar aches, pains and niggles which can start to appear as we get older, who think they can’t do yoga.
But this is exactly the group of people that a gentler, restorative style of yoga can help.
Over 50? How yoga can help you*
You don’t have to be flexible or in tip-top condition to enjoy the benefits of yoga. If you feel you’re starting to lose the flexibility you once had, then yoga will help.
In fact it will help to improve your flexibility by encouraging you to move your body differently – to stretch, bend and twist in ways which you may not do every day. This will help you to release postural habits, to stretch, strengthen and tone your muscles and to ease out tight or stiff joints.
And, because we hold emotional stresses and rigid thought patterns in our body, as you become more flexible physically you may find you release stuck thoughts and emotions too. As I’ve written before, flexibility isn’t just about your body!
The movement will also improve your circulation, benefiting your body while also improving your ability to concentrate and increase energy levels.
And deep breathing will reduce stress and ensure more oxygen is drawn into and circulates around your body, benefiting your body’s tissues and organs.
Take advice from the NHS
The medical establishment recognizes that yoga is good for you. As the UK’s National Health Service guide to yoga says: “Am I too old for yoga? Definitely not. People often start yoga in their 70s and often say they wish they had started sooner … Yoga is a form of exercise that can be enjoyed from childhood to your advanced years”.
I’ve had people come into my class in their 60s and 70s who, while being somewhat limited in their range of movements, have told me at the end of the class that they felt much looser and more relaxed – often sounding pleasantly surprised. They’ve also reported being able to sleep better after a yoga class.
Reasons to start yoga
Here are some reasons why who might like to start yoga – reasons given to me by students who have come to my classes, starting with a quote which might speak to you:
- “I am in my 50’s but not ready for my joints to lose their range of movement as they have recently been doing!”
- Improve or maintain flexibility
- Tone the core muscles – particularly those tummy muscles!
- Improve balance and concentration
- Ease back pain / discomfort
- To relax and reduce stress / anxiety levels
I recommended a family member, in his late 60s with hip pain and arthritis in his lower back, to try some gluteal strengthening exercises and Bridge posture and he’s told me that it’s really helped lessen the pain he feels in his hip – and the days he doesn’t do the movements, the pain often feels worse.
But choose your type of yoga carefully. There are many different types of yoga out, some more gentle and therapeutic, like Dru yoga, some more dynamic and aerobic which may not be so suitable for those with joint, back, mobility or balance issues.
Talk to any prospective yoga teacher about any health issues you may have so they can offer you advice and modifications or recommend another teacher in your area.
There’s lots of research out there which shows the benefits of yoga – too many scientific studies to quote here!
But here are a handful of recent studies / articles which may be of relevance for the over 50s considering yoga:
- Yoga may reduce stress and back pain at work
- Yoga benefits for arthritis
- Got back pain? Try yoga
- How yoga can help people living with chronic pain
- Saga’s guide to yoga: Body and soul workout
Spread the word!
Do you know someone who suffers from aches, pains and stiffness? Do you know someone who’s said “I’m not flexible enough for yoga”, or indeed, any kind of exercise?
Then tell your friend, your parents or grandparents – it’s never too late to start yoga!
*P.S. I’m not assuming everyone over 50 is stiff, inflexible and has health problems! However, as we mature we do tend to stiffen up and start to feel niggly aches and pains – it’s a fact of life for most of us. Yoga can help alleviate this, whatever your age!
Stella Tomlinson teaches Dru yoga in Southampton, UK. Dru yoga is a therapeutic form of yoga which is characterised by graceful movements, directed breathing and relaxation techniques, with a particular focus on maintaining spinal flexibility and a healthy back. Connect with Stella via Facebook and Twitter.