Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

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Getting older presents many gifts—maturity, grace, wisdom, experience, and perspective, to name a few. Growing older can also carry many challenges.

Physically, it becomes harder to keep extra weight off. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, over one third of adults 65 and older are obese.

Risk of life-threatening illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer also increases with age. Joint stress, osteoarthritis, and other types of pain will also commonly surface as you age.

Psychologically and emotionally, seniors experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Memory can decline, balance can be impaired, and with that, sense of self can suffer.

Not to mention the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease—which can impair the ability to have relationships and function in the world—doubles every five years after age 65.

With these statistics and more, the topic of aging often renders fear as birthdays pile up and you become eligible for social security. The good news is, there are so many things you can do to improve your overall health and well-being as a senior.

Healthy eating and exercise can assist in preventing disease, injury, and keeping your physical body in good shape, and meditation and brain training exercises can keep your mind sharp.

Yoga, especially restorative yoga, can also offer a wide array of health benefits—working physical and psychological wonders. Seniors, who often struggle with pain, joint stress, imbalance, osteoarthritis, and other physical limitations, can benefit from incorporating a yoga practice into their daily routine.

Here are just six of the many benefits of a daily yoga practice for seniors.

Yoga Improves Balance and Stability

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Many yoga poses focus on balance and stability, both incredibly important as you age. Strengthening your muscles and improving your balance prevents the likelihood of falls, which can be a common concern for elderly.

Not only does it prevent them in the first place, but an increase in strength and stability also helps seniors bounce back and recover, should a fall occur.

Yoga Improves Flexibility and Joint Health

If you’re looking for a gentle exercise that increases flexibility, yoga is a great option. Flexibility exercises such as yoga are great if your joints tend to be achy or stiff. In a study that looked at the effectiveness of yoga as an exercise to manage osteoarthritis in elderly women, researchers found that it provided therapeutic benefits.

Not only can these low-impact moves loosen your muscles, they can also tone your supporting muscles and help prevent injury.

Yoga Improves Respiration

With age comes respiratory limitations and reduced tolerance to physical exertion. Anything that reduces oxygen in the respiratory system can have negative effects on the mind and body. Recent studies have shown that a 12-week yoga program significantly improved respiratory function in elderly women.

Breathing is the foundation of life. Humans can go weeks without food, but you can’t go more than a few minutes without breath, so it’s a good idea to keep your respiratory system in tip-top shape at any age.

Yoga Reduces High Blood Pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to cardiovascular disease and is the second leading cause of kidney disease. Recent studies have found that yoga reduces oxidative stress in the elderly. Oxidative stress is one of the underlying causes of high blood pressure and, especially for seniors, is a strong risk factor for heart attacks.

Yoga Reduces Anxiety

Yoga classes are calm and restorative, relaxing your body and mind—especially those geared toward seniors. When practiced regularly, yoga can reduce your sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response, which can cause inflammation of all kinds and wreak havoc on your mind and body.

Yoga practice involves focusing on the breath and slow movements, which can help trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the by products of stress and feelings of anxiety.

Yoga Encourages Mindfulness

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Since so much of yoga is focused on breathing and listening to your body, an added benefit is the expanded awareness of Self through practice.

As you practice yoga and become mindful of not just your body, but also of your thoughts and emotions, you will become more connected to and mindful of your environment, your community, and the world around you.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”
-George Bernard Shaw

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Yoga For All Shapes and Sizes 
FitZonePLUS Aims to Make Everyone Comfortable at Its Studio  
by:  Liis Windischmann

Have you ever gone to a gym or fitness studio and felt so intimidated you wanted to leave? FitZone PLUS owner Suzanne Gracan can relate. She was active and involved in sports until an accident in 2001 left her barely able to walk for two years. After gaining over 120 pounds, a mixture of yoga and acupuncture helped her get back in action. But her experiences in yoga studios were not ideal. At her size, she wasn’t able to do all the poses and instead of being shown modifications to boost her confidence and master them in a way that worked for her body, she was told “just do your best.” She wanted to channel the shame and embarrassment she felt into something positive creating a small plus-size yoga class in 2002. She eventually opened FitZone PLUS in 2011 with just two classes — but those two classes sold out from day one! In two short years, demand for classes has grown so much that the company needed to move to a larger location.

As of this week, FitZone PLUS has a new, much larger home in Toronto’s Danforth area, a short walk from Chester subway station. The extra space will allow for even more classes — and not all just yoga. While FitZone PLUS specializes in beginner, plus-size and senior demographics, everyone is welcome to its many yoga, zumba, and personal training classes. Plans are now underway to introduce a kids’ program as well as classes for parents and their children. Other new classes will continue to be added as the company grows into its new space so be sure to visit the site often for updates!

If you are looking for some really fun events to stimulate you mind, body and soul, there are also some great workshops being offered. You can release your inner vixen with Burlesque 101 happening Saturday, October 26th or perhaps learn some tai chi. How about a little Sunday Zen Getaway on November 3rd with four workshops, mini massages and lunch? There are lots of options with new events being regularly added to the fun lineup and if you are interested in a future retreat, contact the studio to request info. No need to feel intimidated at this studio — no matter what shape your shape is in, all the caring instructors are trained to make your experience a positive one!