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Make peace with your aging body through yogaa

by Sue Lanza

Practicing yoga at any age can be a joyous routine that can provide numerous physical and spiritual benefits. Unlike many daily activities we do, yoga can actually help us with our aging body by providing a quick "tune up", all without leaving home. So if your mind is willing, let's take a look at what yoga can do for you.

Are you thinking that you are afraid to do yoga at "your age" or even fearful of reading this article because I might ask you to get into a pretzel shape you can't get out of? Do not fear; just because you have an AARP card, it doesn't mean that you still can't be part of the yoga revolution.

Start With the Breath

I want to prove to you that the practice of yoga is not scary and you may have been doing some yoga for years and not even known it. How is that possible? Try this right now: sit with your back straight on a chair with your feet on the floor, feeling the solid earth below you. Close your eyes and put your hands lightly on your belly. Focus on taking a deep breath in through your nose and briefly hold it before slowly exhaling the entire breath. Be sure to empty out your lungs on the exhale. Repeat this twice more and be conscious of the movement of your belly in and out. You have just centered yourself and done a simple yoga pose of deep breathing.

Do you feel slightly more relaxed after this exercise? If done correctly, you should. Now think of how many times you may have used this technique in your every day life and not given it a single thought. Maybe you tried this before giving a speech before your church group or as you were preparing for a root canal. If it worked to calm you then, what about using this concept and a few others like it every day to give you more relaxation and a clearer spiritual connection?

Benefits of Yoga

You see, yoga is more than just a series of poses, called "asanas". It is actually a whole way of life that can help us learn to relax our bodies which in turn assists in calming down our mind. For our discussion today, we will focus on the aspect of yoga that involves these simple physical poses that can make our bodies feel delicious. But there is more. During the gentle movement of the yoga poses, many positive physical changes happen within our body such as bringing fresh blood to vital organs, lubricating the joints and giving muscles a good stretch that keeps them ready for action when we need them. And for aging bodies that snap, crackle and pop at times, this can be a welcome change.

Yoga Modifications = Success

Yoga for most people over fifty is all about modifications. How do I take a traditional yoga pose and bring it from "I can't possibly do that" to "Okay, I'll try"? We can adapt the poses to meet our limitations but without losing any of the benefits of a pose. So what are some ways that we can alter the yoga poses that seem too challenging to us? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Get off the floor and into a chair. Some seniors have a favorite tape or yoga sequence that they like but over time it has become more challenging because they don't have the physical strength or endurance to get up and down off the floor repeatedly. The simplest answer is to use a sturdy chair as an adaptation for both sitting and standing poses.
  • No pain, no pain, no pain! If something you try doesn't feel right, stop immediately. There are no awards given for trying difficult postures that strain you or cause any discomfort. Listen to your body as it tells you how far to stretch or move.
  • Support yourself with props. Whether in a chair or lying on the floor, use blankets, pillows, bolsters or anything soft to elevate and cushion body parts or help you ease into a position. It isn't considered cheating; in fact using these tools will help you stay safe.
  • Start slow. Even a few minutes of yoga practice a day can be a good start for a beginner. It is more about the quality of the experience than the actual time spent.
  • Find a teacher or a class. To add to your daily practice or to help you design a customized routine, ask around your area to find a gentle yoga instructor who works with seniors. You will pick up many tips and adaptations that you can apply at home.

Remember, of course, to get clearance from your doctor before embarking on any new physical activity including yoga.

Now that wasn't so bad, was it? No wildly twisted poses or super-challenging positions for you. Just think of doing your favorite yoga pose but the light version of it.

I wish you peace in your yoga practice as you sail through your senior years with increased relaxation and renewed spirit.