“Oh, I’m too old to start practising yoga, I missed my chance.” This or any variations of this phrase make me incredible sad. The truth is, can start practicing yoga at any age – really! It is just a matter of making the right choice and practicing within your limits.
A True Experience
A silver-haired, graceful woman entered the classroom as we were setting up our mats for the Asana-Pranayama-Meditation session. The APM class, as well call it, is a very gentle yoga session that lasts about 60 minutes. She looked quite anxious as she asked our teacher, “Is it okay if I sit here and watch the practice?” She waited there for 60 long minutes as we rolled up our mats and left the hall for the day. I was tying my shoe lace when she approached me. She asked me about my practice and how long I have been practicing. She was very much intrigued about yoga but looked a little skeptical about joining the class.
She told me she had been experiencing pain in her neck, back, and knees. But then she told me something that was shocking. She had tried yoga somewhere else, and her problems worsened. How could that happen? I was not convinced. After talking with her over a cup of green tea, she mentioned she had been using yoga DVDs, and I realised her aches and pains were the result of practicing without proper guidance.
An Eagle-Eyed Approach To Seniors’ Yoga
Seniors are looking forward to including yoga in their life more and more, given the tempting health benefits it offers, yet many find it a disappointing experience. Why is that so? One of the major reasons is the practice of a badly chosen style. Many people feel that practicing yoga is very simple and start practicing without being aware of the alignment and other aspects of various āsanas. You can practise yoga at home! Just ensure that you are choosing simple poses that give you a little stretch while easing your pain.
Everyone’s practice is unique, but I find that 20 to 30 minutes of yoga a day, up to six days a week is sufficient for senior citizens to experience the goodness it offers. Choose to include simple stretches for your neck, head, limbs, and back
I live with my in-laws who are above the age of 70, and when they began practising yoga initially for pain relief. Below, I’ve made a collection of poses that they practice regularly and that they find quite effective. Along with easing their pains, they find it gives them better sleep and keeps them calm and clear-headed. Always be mindful of safety when doing these poses and use props and modifications as necessary for your body.
Quick And Easy Yoga Sequence For Seniors
1. Tādāsana – Mountain Pose
This pose looks very simple, but it is the fundamental guide for all the other āsanas. It is a gentle and warm way to connect with your breath and begin the yoga practice. Stand tall with your feet slightly separated, and eyes closed. Allow your hands to rest along your sides, fingers pointing to the floor. Sweep your hands over your head on an inhale and stretch yourself, without exerting too much pressure, as if you wanted to touch the ceiling. Hold here for a couple breaths before relaxing.
2. Vrksāsana – Modified Tree Pose
Tree pose improves your balances, which could prevent falls. From Tadasana, lift your right leg and rest the right heel on your left ankle. Allow the toe tips to rest on the floor. Use a solid surface to keep your balance, and if you feel comfortable, join your palms at heart center in prayer and balance as long as possible. Keep breathing. Repeat with the other leg.
3. Uttānāsana – Standing Forward Bend
Improve the quality of your digestion and promote the circulation to the upper body with this pose. It is a very relaxing pose that releases the tension from shoulders, lower back, and neck. Stand with your feet separated hip distance and with an exhalation, bend forward from your hip. Lengthen the torso and relax. You can bend till you feel a stretch on your lower back. If you are feeling quite stiff, place a stool in front of you and rest your palms on top of that. Press your heels firmly into the mat while pushing your sit bones toward ceiling. Indulging in deep, long breaths, maintain the pose for 10 deep breaths. On an inhale, gently return to starting position.
4. Virabhadrasana II – Warrior II
This pose is good for your bones as it improves the bone density. It also stretches and strengthens your hips, groins, back, and inner thighs. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Turn to your left and step your left foot out wide while the heels are aligned in a single line. Turn your left foot towards the left at a 90-degree angle. Inhaling, stretch out your arms at shoulder level. On an exhale, bend your left leg gently allowing your thigh to come parallel to the floor while the right leg is straight. Breathing deeply, hold the pose for seven deep breaths. Repeat the same with the other leg.
5. Setu Bhandasana – Bridge Pose
Bridge Pose strengthens the lower back and hips, preventing hip fractures and sciatica. Lie down on your back, feet separated at hip-distance and place firmly on the floor stacked under the knees. Rest your arms along the sides. Breathing in, press the palms firmly on the floor. Suck your stomach in a little, tilt the pelvis, and lift the spine off the floor as high as possible. Hold for six or seven deep breaths and lower the spine, slowly, as you exhale. You can use folded blankets to support your shoulders, or if you want to hold the pose longer, try using a bolster under your lower back.
6. Bhujangāsana – Cobra Pose
Cobra Pose is a fabulous back strengthener and spine aligner. Lie down on your tummy, legs together, and toes stretched out to the back. Place the hands along the chest, beneath your shoulders. On an inhale, press the palms firmly into the floor and lift your torso. Allow your lower abdomen to rest on the floor. Keep the elbows bent. Tilt your head backward and fix your gaze on the ceiling. Breathing deeply, hold the pose as long as you can. Exhale and slowly come back to the starting position.
Prānāyāma Exercise: Abdominal Breathing
Conscious abdominal breathing helps in relaxing your autonomous nervous system. Lie down on your back, keeping the knees bent so that foot rests firmly on the floor. Keep your legs separated and hip-width apart. Place your right palm on your abdomen and the left one on the chest. Breathe in, through your nose, till your abdomen completely expands. Exhale through your mouth and let the abdomen fall completely. Keep the chest relatively inactive, focussing on your abdomen only. Repeat as many times as you want!
By The Way…
I finally convinced that woman to join our yoga class, and now I always see her smiling on her mat. It has been six months, and she says a quick hello and thanks every time we meet. What’s holding you back? Don’t be scared to try a few of these poses, or go introduce yourself at a local yoga studio. It’s never too late!