In recent years, engagement with yoga has skyrocketed with an estimated 300 million people practising yoga worldwide. In 2019, it was reported as one of the top ten fitness trends in the world and certainly looks set to continue in popularity.
The term ‘yoga’ stems from an ancient Indian practise, originating as far back as 3000BC. It is used to descibe both a spiritual and physical displicine, whereby breathing techniques alongside exercise and meditation are used in a bid to improve overall health and happiness.
Yoga for Over 50’s
Importantly, there is an ever growing body of evidence linking the practise to a number of significant health benefits.
When considering the benefits of yoga it is important to remember the practise can be taken to incredibly varied levels of depth. However, the focus on improved flexibility and strength can certainly reep its benefits in the demands of everyday activities, particularly given the unfortunate natural decline of muscle strength as you age.
Simply put, it means you will move better without feeling stiff or tired. This can have profound effects on those suffering from arthritis, however please do consider the varied nature and certain moves are not suitable for people with the condition.
Improved muscle strength and flexibility is also linked with better posture, of which there are many more benefits – read our ‘Tips for better posture’ to understand these further. The NHS also reports yoga is particularly beneficial to those with high blood pressure, heart disease and various chronic aches and pains (especially lower back pain).
Furthermore, it is a often considered a relaxation technique, which has been shown to be effective in reducing stress, promoting a feeling of calm and lowering the chance of depression.
So, if you are feeling ready to get started here are our three top tips.
Getting Started with Yoga
1. Do your research
With yoga being such a varied practise, there are many different styles and your suitability to these may depend on a number of factors such as health conditions and your overall fitness. A quick internet search of yoga will see many different names thrown around, including; bikram, ashtanga, lyengar and sivananda. These terms refer to various levels of vigor. Whilst there doesn’t appear to be one style that outshines another, it is important you spend the time understanding which you are best suited to before you sign up to a sixth month trial! Hatha Yoga is often recommended to a beginner, as it is slower moving whereas bikram yoga refers to yoga in a hot environment, which may not be suitable for people with some medical conditions. Once you think you have found a class you’d like to try, most yoga teachers will be happy to discuss further with you what is involved.
2. Find a friend
You can read more about the benefits of getting fit with a friend in our blog ‘getting fit at fifty’ but in short, it can often be more fun and certainly less daunting attending a class with a pal. Although, yoga is not the sort of exercise class that allows for a good catch up given they are usually done in silence! That being said, attending a class alone can allow you to make new friends too, so don’t be put off going it alone- it may prove to be even more relaxing!
3. Be prepared
Whilst it is worth trying yoga before you consider investing in any equipment, if it soon becomes something you enjoy and want to stick at you may benefit from equipping yourself with certain items like a quality yoga mat and comfortable, stretchy clothing. You can usually rent yoga mats at a class but in the long term you’ll likely save money by investing in your own. Plus, if you have your own equipment, you can get some extra practise in at home!
Beginner Friendly Yoga Poses for Over 50’s
With over 300 poses on offer, your quest to taking up yoga can be a little daunting and some of the poses become extremely advanced. To help get you started, we have highlighted three poses suited to the beginner.
1. Mountain Pose
This is usually the base for all standing poses, and no, you are not simply standing up. It involves engaging your whole body into a good posture, maintaining balance and a calm focus from the offset. Whilst your feet should stay together, the pose can be modified by widening the feet to help with balance.
2. Downward Facing Dog
One of yoga’s most commonly recognised poses, the downward facing dog stretches and strengthens the entire body. The pose begins on your hands and knees and involves bringing your knees up, gently straightening your legs so that your body forms an ‘A’ shape. The position is held for between 1 – 3 minutes before returning back to your hands and knees.
3. Cobbler’s Pose
The previous two poses are both classed as standing poses, however the cobbler’s pose is seated. Yes, you really can stay seated and still engage in yoga poses great for your body and mind! It may not be as easy as it’s sounds though, as the cobblers pose works on the idea that it is unlikely you have been naturally sitting in this position during everyday life. As a result, it is an excellent way to stretch neglected areas of the body. By sitting tall, keeping your spine long, with the soles of your feet touching each other, you draw them in as close to your body as comfortable. The pose places particular emphasis on the groin and inner thigh.
Give Yoga a Go!
As with any sport or exercise, as you progress and improve you are able to take on more challenging poses. The beauty of yoga is there are so many poses on out there, you can truly never get bored! Whilst there is a never-ending stream of tutorials, blogs and step by step guides to help you practise yoga in the comfort of your own home, it is recommended, that to begin with, you experience yoga under expert guidance from a qualified instructor. That way, you can be sure you are getting your posture and breathing right. Once you’re set though, take your yoga mat with you anywhere you like, the beach, the park, an open field and be prepared to release your inner zen!