Yoga is an ancient practice that marries breath and movement to create strength, flexibility, and peace in the mind and body. Despite the fact that it originated in Northern India over 5,000 years ago, yoga has become as much a part of American culture as the 4th of July. The number of Americans with a regular yoga practice has grown by 50% between 2012 and 2016, with a staggering 20.4 MILLION people now saying they regularly practice it.
This centuries-old practice definitely isn’t just for fit instagrammers practicing beautiful poses in exotic locations. There are benefits for anyone who does yoga, but a regular practice can truly work wonders for seniors. Seniors have different needs from middle-aged folks, and there are some styles of yoga that may be better suited to an older crowd. If you’re looking for a slower practice that still offers multiple benefits, you may want to try Yin Yoga.
Originated by Paulie Zink, Yin yoga is a slow, graceful practice that blends Taoist meditation, Hatha yoga, tai chi, and martial arts. Yin yoga involves some of the same asanas, or poses, you’d see in other types of yoga classes (like the popular Ashtanga or Hatha styles), but instead of rapidly flowing through the pose sequences, each pose is held for an average of five minutes during which the teacher will offer dharma talks. These talks are meant to offer insights into the anatomy of the poses or inspirational, reflective monologues. The focus of Yin yoga is not to build a fire within the body, like other styles, but rather to embrace the discomfort and lean into long, extended poses. While it is low impact, it is not for the faint of heart – sitting in discomfort can bring up a surprising amount of emotional baggage!
Benefits of Yin Yoga
For seniors, practicing Yin yoga can have innumerable benefits for both physical and mental health.
- Yoga is excellent for core strengthening, which is critical to balance.
- Yoga improves flexibility through active stretching of tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
- Yin yoga’s extended poses encourage deeper work on the connective tissues of the body, which increases circulation in the joints. This is great for seniors, who sometimes experience a loss of joint mobility.
- Yoga is a practice in approaching ones’ body with patience and grace. As we age, it can be especially beneficial to remember the capabilities we have and to be able to find comfort within our bodies.
- Yoga is a lesson in calming and centering the mind, and finding physical as well as emotional balance. It is excellent for reducing anxiety or stress.
- Yin yoga is the act of sitting with discomfort, and adapting to stress. This can literally change the chemical makeup in our brains, slowing the release of stress hormones like cortisol.
- Yin yoga involves being motionless throughout long-held poses. This is a great foundation for meditation, which has many benefits for emotional wellness.
Yin yoga, with its myriad of benefits, is an excellent choice for seniors – particularly those who experience chronic pain or anxiety. It is low-impact and safe for seniors, but provides long-lasting effects in many aspects of life. As with any new exercise regimen, it’s important to speak with your primary care physician to ensure that it’s safe for your body. Being open and transparent with your yoga teacher is also important, as they can offer modifications to support any injuries you might have.