A quick search on Google for “the benefits of yoga” will instantly bring up thousands of websites citing both traditional texts and scientific studies detailing the seemingly endless positive benefits of starting and maintaining a yoga practice. For women, especially women 60 and above, yoga also has specific for conditions like menopause, osteoporosis, chronic pain, cancer, depression, and so much more.
How to get a foot in this vast world of yoga? Here are some tips and inspiration for women in their 60s and up to remember to help keep a positive outlook on starting a yoga practice.
The Father of Modern Yoga himself, Sri Krishnamacharya, said, “The breath is the guru to the asana. Obey the breath.”
Nearly all yoga styles practiced in studios today are influenced by Krishnamacharya. He was the teacher of the originators of the top lineages of modern yoga schools like Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vini Yoga, and he even was the first to accept a western woman as a student, Indra Devi, who was instrumental in bringing yoga out of India.
Rather than asana, Krishnamacharya, taught the importance of breath while moving through the postures. For him, pranayama was an integral part of a vinyasa practice, making each movement a meditation in itself rather than a preparation for meditation.
Don’t Sweat It
Many yoga classes may look intimidating because they seem to be filled with fit, young bodies who can contort themselves into many shapes and gracefully glide in and out of the postures — or at least that’s what many pictures and videos may lead you to feel. But in reality, yoga is not about who is the most flexible, who is the strongest, or who can do the most Sun Salutations.
According to V Nanammal, a 99+ year old yoga teacher whose daily classes in Tamil Nadu are packed with people daily, “Yoga is not about sweating.” Rather than being a trendy fitness regimen, Nanammal and her family adhere to the way yoga had been traditionally passed down to them with focus on peace and wholeness.
The body may not be as quick and flexible as it used to be as we age, but limited range of movement should not scare away anyone from starting a yoga practice. Just be aware that most injuries happen to seniors and they mostly occur during the transitions between asana when you might be in a rush to get to the next ppse that you forget to check in with how the body is feeling and moving.
Whether you’re in a static pose, moving through a vinyasa sequence, or transitioning in and out of an asana, always keep mindful of what you are doing and what the body is ready for. If you need to take a few extra breaths to move to the next part of the series, go ahead and honour where your body is at. Be present first and foremost with yourself when you practice yoga and that is the most important part.
Not All Yoga Is For Every Body
Doctors are starting to prescribe yoga to their patients as part of a more holistic health program. The problem is, even most doctors don’t understand that the way yoga is practiced today comes in hundreds of styles and not all of them are suited for seniors or those who have mostly sedentary lives.
For those of any age starting a new yoga practice, try out classes that are described as gentle hatha. Hatha is a traditional style that mostly allows long holds in each pose. Most studiis offer Vinyasa classes which have sequences designed to move with each breath and may be tricky to follow for the first few sessions until you get more familiar with the poses. Seniors may also want to look into Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Chair Yoga, and even Laughter Yoga!
Be Inspired: Most Of The World’s Current Oldest Yoga Teachers Are Women.
You’ll be in good company when you start a yoga practice even if you are in your 60s. The Guiness World Book of Records keeps tabs on who the oldest yoga teacher is. The record has been changing over the years but most people who have held the title have been women who are in their 70s and even 80s. That’s not including the many yoga teachers in India who are not recorded anywhere and could very well be in their 90s. Afterall, according to many traditional yoga texts, one of the yogic superpowers one can get through regular practice is eternal youth and long life.
Teachers like Tara Porchon-Lynch are active, healthy, and inspire young and young-at-heart alike.
Start At Home
If the idea of going to a group class seems terrifying, first of all, know that neither the teacher nor the other students will be judging you or your practice. That being said, if you prefer to start in the comfort of your own home, there is a wealth of resources you can use. Many yoga teachers will offer private yoga classes and will bring everything you need for a class custom tailored for you and your needs. You can also try watching some full length classes on YouTube to find a style of yoga that you like best. Another option is to subscribe to a yoga website like yogaglo, cody, or gaia which have high quality videos from renowned teachers from around the world who can teach you right in your own home.
Go With Friends/Family
Sometimes you just need a little push and moral support to start a new activity. Make it a new thing to do with friends and family so everyone can reap the benefits of a new, regular yoga practice. Add to the fun by going in matching outfits or creating a team name for yourselves. The yoga teacher and studio will love this enthusiasm and being surrounded with all that positivity will help keep the practice going.
Make New Friends
Even if you can’t find a yoga buddy to accompany you to class, rest assured that a side effect of yoga is happier and more relaxed people who are mostly more than happy to bond with a new yoga practitioner with stories of their own yoga journeys and how it changed their bodies and their lives. You’ll find yourself making new yoga friends in no time and you’ll all support each other in class with your presence and energy.
Check In With Your Doctor Or Holistic Healthcare Practitioner
As with any new movement activity or health routine, consult with a health practitioner who will support your new practice. Fortunately, many doctors around the world are seeing the benefits of yoga too and will even prescribe yoga to patients before medication to help any ailments.
Doctors are even prescribing art, nature walks, and journaling in addition to yoga, making the approach to health a holistic package for a longer and happier life.
Enjoy The Practice
Above all else, take pleasure in your yoga practice and the insights it brings about your body, mind, and self. Practice the postures and sequences with joy in every single breath and you’ll soon find that positivity radiating from all around you even after you roll up your mat and leave the class.
Remember that yoga is the best medicine and gift you can give yourself at any age and it’s never too late to join a class. Take the advice and be inspired by traditional yoga teacher and other women over 60 who have a thriving yoga practice.
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Susan views the world through a lens of spirituality, health, and compassion. Her positive outlook on life shines through her writing, which is heavily focused on yogic living, meditation, and conscious eating.