Written by James Fleming
Exercise is important for people of all ages. However, seniors, in particular, need to make regular movement a priority.
Currently, only 28-34 percent of seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 are physically active and only 35-44 percent of seniors over the age of 75 are physically active.
If you’re part of the majority of seniors who don’t exercise regularly, it’s pertinent you make a change and find ways to add more activity to your life. Regular exercise will help you maintain muscle mass and bone density and avoid balance issues that could lead to falls and injuries.
Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise for seniors, especially seniors who haven’t exercised in a while.
Before you head to your first yoga class, you need to make safety a priority. It’s very easy for beginners to be a little overzealous in their first class and push themselves too far. Be sure to keep these five safety tips in mind. They’ll help you avoid injuries and get the most out of your yoga practice.
- Find a Beginner-Friendly Class
Finding a yoga class is just like finding any other type of fitness class. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and certain instructors and styles will be better for you than others.
For seniors who are new to yoga, a beginner-friendly class is a must. Most yoga studios and gyms will clarify on their schedule whether or not a specific class is good for beginners.
You can also talk to the instructor before the class starts and let them know that you’re new. They will keep an eye on you and show you how to modify specific poses, or they might suggest a different class that better suited for you.
- Understand Basic Alignment
Before you go into any yoga class, even a beginner-friendly one, it’s helpful to understand some basic information about proper alignment. Every pose is different, but the following guidelines will apply to just about everyone who practices yoga:
- Keep the knees in line with the second toes — don’t let them rock inward or outward.
- Keep your weight in your heels when the knees are bent and toward the toes when legs are straight.
- Keep a small bend in your knees and elbows at all times to avoid locking them out.
- Modify Poses as Much as You Need
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with modifying a pose. Don’t hesitate to put your knees down in a plank or use a bolster or pillow when doing seated poses like sukasana.
You might feel a bit awkward modifying specific poses is no one else seems to be, but remember that you’re there at yoga for yourself, not for them. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing — it matters that you feel safe and comfortable during your practice.
- Use the Right Equipment
Using the right yoga equipment can help you feel more comfortable and more secure during your first class. Some basic pieces of equipment that everyone should have on hand include:
- Yoga mat
- Yoga blocks
- Yoga strap
- Blanket or bolster
You can also use special pieces of equipment like wrist wraps or a knee brace. These tools can give your joints some extra support and make it easier for you to practice without feeling any pain or discomfort.
- Know How to Spot Red Flags
You shouldn’t experience any pain while practicing yoga. You might feel uncomfortable at times, but if anything hurts, you should skip it.
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if the sensations you’re experiencing are par for the course or something about which you should be concerned.
There are some specific red flags you need to look out for during your yoga practice, including the following
- Sharp, shooting pains
- Numbness, or tingling in your limbs
- Intense sensations deep in the joint
Another good rule of thumb is to check and see if you can smile and breathe steadily while doing a specific pose. If you can maintain a smile and a consistent breathing pattern, you’re probably on the right track. If breathing becomes difficult and you’re grimacing in pain, it’s time to back off.