Is Yoga Good for You as You Get Older?

Is Yoga Good for You as You Get Older?

I’m 51. It’s hard to think of myself as “older,” although my teenage son points it out to me all the time. I have been practicing yoga for almost my entire adult life, and I can tell you, some things get better with age. While my practice today doesn’t look like it did when I was 23, I also wasn’t thinking about health and longevity back then, it was all about being “skinny.” Of course I never accomplished that either, but what I got was so much more valuable.

I built a foundation of strength, mobility, and balance that many people my age don’t have. While Gen X is complaining about their knees and backs starting to hurt and “go out,” I remain relatively pain free, all due to my yoga practice.

I also have incredible patience with myself and others and view the world with an optimistic slant. I value kindness, compassion, and generosity, and love learning about how my mind works and what is actually happening in a situation, rather than jumping to conclusions and making assumptions. Yoga is so much more than physical poses on a mat. Practicing brings ease to both the body and mind.

Yoga for Strength

After age 30 or 40, you start to lose muscle mass. This only increases once you hit age 65. You could lose up to 8% of your muscle mass every 10 years. Practicing yoga poses will help you slow sarcopenia (muscle loss) and help you maintain the muscle that you have. There are many poses that are helpful for this, such as Plank pose, Locust pose, Warrior 2, and Tree pose.

Not only do these poses slow muscle loss, but bone loss (osteopenia) as well. When you strengthen a muscle, it tugs on the bone and stimulates bone growth. There is a natural decline in bone density as we age, especially in women over 50 due to declining estrogen. Practicing strengthening yoga poses where you are actively resisting gravity (pressing into the floor), can help slow this as well.

Yoga for Mobility

Early morning stiffness becomes more and more common the older you get. Sometimes it means getting a new mattress or pillow, sometimes it just means you need to move your body. Intentionally practicing mobility means moving your joints through their full range of motion. The less you move, the stiffer you get; the more you move, the better you feel.

Yoga poses such as Low Lunge, Half Split, Reclining Pigeon, and Yoga Mudra, all improve mobility through different joints. Stretching your muscles improves your mobility and how your muscles function. If you strengthen but don’t stretch, you will lose mobility. If you sit all day and don’t stretch, standing up gradually becomes more uncomfortable. As they say, move it or lose it. This applies to both muscle strength and joint mobility.

Yoga for Balance

Balance is something that you can definitely take for granted. When you were young and were climbing trees, and walking on the curb like a balance beam, balance was fun! But when was the last time you did those things? Now, your balance challenges might be going up and down stairs, getting in and out of a car, or holding 45 things while trying to get keys out of your pocket. If you don’t actively practice balance, these activities will start to get difficult.

You can find balance in many ways: standing on one foot, standing on your hands, shifting the weight from one foot to the other in different directions, etc. Vinyasa yoga is a flow style of yoga where you are shifting your weight from one pose into the next. Your weight moves from your feet to your hands, left to right, front to back, downward to upward.

Practicing this shift of weight is like cross-training for life. When you practice balance on the mat, it trains you for walking on uneven surfaces and catching yourself before you fall. You also get to practice falling while being kind and compassionate toward yourself. If you fall out of Standing Hand to Big Toe pose, it’s not a big deal. You shake it off and try again. This teaches you patience, being able to laugh at yourself, and helps heal perfectionism.

Yoga for Inner Growth

Over the years, yoga has not only taught me how to move my body, but has taught me about how I think. I used to be driven by perfectionism. The story I told myself (unknowingly) was that I needed to be perfect or I wasn’t lovable or worthy. Every time I failed at being perfect (which was constantly) my self love and self worth dropped to the point of self loathing.

Yoga (and therapy), helped me notice the stories I was telling myself and realize that they weren’t true. I continue to work hard and strive for excellence, but now I focus more on the journey than the result. I can be patient and kind to myself through the process, and have embraced “good enough” because, honestly, there is no perfect. Practicing yoga isn’t about perfecting Downward Facing Dog or standing on your hands. Yoga is about being in the body that you have and accepting it as it is.

Your body might be a little older now, your mind a bit wiser (or not). Can you meet yourself where you are? Can you be in the body that you have and appreciate all that it’s been through? Are you able to love yourself without needing to fix or change anything? That is what yoga has taught me. I can be comfortable in my own skin, not matter what that skin looks like. I can embrace my laugh lines, the “insulation” over my abdominals, and the “wisdom sparkles” in my hair. Yoga has brought me inner peace and acceptance. Overall, I deeply believe that yoga, started at any age, is definitely beneficial to any body and mind.

Getting Started with Your Yoga Practice

Get the free eBook, Top 10 Things to Know Before Attending Your First Yoga Class. Get an insider scoop on what experienced students know when going to class so that you feel more comfortable stepping on your mat for the first time! Click this link to access your free copy!

Join Strength and Balance for Beginners Over 50, free in the Facebook Group! November 10-12, I will run 4 classes over the course of the weekend to help you build strength and improve balance, all at a beginner’s pace. Feel more stable on your feet when going up and down stairs. Feel better able to get in and out of your car or a chair. Pick up a laundry basket or something heavy with confidence. Feel less stiff and achy when you get out of bed in the morning. Click this link to join the group and participate in this free weekend of classes!

Back to Yoga Basics is a 4 week online course that starts November 27. Starting something new (like practicing yoga) when you are over 50 can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. This course allows you to start at the very beginning, learning 25 yoga poses, breathing, and meditation so that you can step into any yoga class with more confidence and feel like you will not injure yourself. Click this link to learn more!

Join me online every Monday and Wednesday for Beginner Yoga! These 45 minute live classes guide you through yoga poses to build strength, improve mobility, support balance, and leave you feeling relaxed and energized. If you can’t join live, you can take these classes anytime on demand! Click here to see the full schedule of online classes, and here to see the Video Library.

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