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Yoga for Seniors

Jan 15, 2010 at 6:09 PM PST

yoga-asanas-for-older-peopleDinesh Kashikar, Sri Sri Yoga teacher, shares tips on how yoga can help seniors age with grace.

We are as young as we feel! Yoga asanas tone up the body, keep our internal organs and the hormonal system in balance, and refreshes the mind and spirit. Hence, it is essential for people of all ages to practice yoga regularly.

#1 Can seniors (above 65 years) do yoga asanas?

Yes, of course older people can do asanas. The basic premise in yoga is union – union of the various aspects of our existence like body, breath, mind etc. In fact the word yoga comes from a Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, which means ‘to unite’. Hence, it is possible for people of all ages and from all walks of life to utilize the techniques of yoga for creating a harmonious and joyful existence.

Elderly can do yoga asanas – provided they keep some guidelines in mind.

As age progresses, one should focus
on doing to the best of our bodily abilities.
It is more important to focus on HOW YOU DO
rather than how much you can do.

#2 What kind of asanas should one do as age progresses?

  • Substitute warm-ups with brisk walking and joint movements.
  • Standing Yoga Poses Triangle Pose (konasana series) and Standing Spinal Twist (Kati chakrasanas)
  • Sitting Yoga Poses Butterfly Pose, Cradling (if possible), body rotation, Cat stretch and Child pose (Shishu Asana).
  • Yoga Poses lying on the back or stomach Focus on repetitions rather than holding any posture such as the Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), the Locust Pose (Shalabhasana) or the Knee to Chin Press (Pawanmuktasana).
  • Yoga nidra is by far the most essential part of any yoga practice, and as age progresses, it becomes even more essential to help assimilate the effect of the asana practice into our system.

#3 Are there any easy exercises for senior people?

Sukshma Yoga may be practiced independently or as part of a larger yoga plan. People of every age can practice and receive the benefits of these exercises that can be comfortably practiced within 20-30 minutes. It includes simple and gentle exercises for the eyes, tongue and jaws, neck, hands, feet, knees, ankles and hips.

#4 How should senior people practice yoga asanas?

The Patanjali Yoga Sutras define asana as “sthira sukham asanam” that which is stable and comfortable is an asana. Thus, any posture, held with awareness, in a stable and comfortable manner constitutes an asana.

#5 Are you getting your yoga practice right?

Check your inner gauge, your smile-o-meter. Just do as much as you can, with a smile, for that is the indicator, which tells you whether you are doing it right or not.

#6 How does yoga practice for seniors differ from those for the young?

The same asanas performed by a younger individual could be more challenging in terms of effort put into the posture, the duration of holding the posture and amount of flexibility required. Some cardio vascular movements and abdominals would be more appropriate for a person with higher level of endurance and body fitness.

#7 Do yoga asanas increase the efficiency of immune system for the elderly?

Here again, the Patanjali Yoga Sutras provide a clue – it says – “heyam dukham anaagatam”, so that we can avoid the misery that has not yet come. As our age increases, the efficiency of our bodies and immune system seems to deteriorate, bringing on the possibility of various diseases. Regular practice of yoga techniques, such as asanas, pranayama and meditation can help to avoid these conditions, remove the misery, and lead to a happier and more fulfilling life.

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Poornima Raman

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