Experts: Yoga Greatly Benefits Seniors

Practice helps support good bone health, balance, mobility, they say

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Yoga may seem like an activity for lithe, young women; however, many seniors are finding that yoga benefits them in many ways, regardless of the state of their health.

Most seniors notice that their flexibility decreases as they age. While it may not initially bother them much, its cumulative effect can hamper activities of daily living eventually.

Carrie Jacobson, certified yoga instructor and manager of East Meets West Yoga in Buffalo, said that yoga can help otherwise sedentary people get moving.

“That is a huge benefit,” Jacobson said. She also recommended yoga to help support good bone health, as it is weight-bearing exercise.

Chair yoga can help people with mobility and balance issues get more movement into their days, according to Kandy Svec, registered yoga teacher and ayurvedic yoga specialist at Himalayan Institute Buffalo in Buffalo, who teaches an arthritis class and a chair yoga class.

She said that quite a few older clients find that yoga helps them improve balance, posture, breathing and sleep.
She also thinks that it can help decrease instances of falls since it can help seniors improve their posture and gait.

“If they have one or two days when they start feeling terrific, they start having more days,” Svec said. “They continue to come back to yoga, eat better and feel better.”

David Drost, owner and certified yoga teacher at Evolation Yoga in Buffalo, believes that many people have lived sedentary so long that their bodies’ lack of movement has caused imbalance and limited range of motion.

“As you progress through life, those imbalances begin to become glaring,” Drost said. “They’re not irreversible. The internal body systems can be healed. It needs to be in motion to do so.”

Thankfully, it doesn’t require eight-hour yoga sessions daily. Drost recommends an hour three or four times weekly. Though many online and pre-recorded yoga sessions can help out at home, Drost recommends a class setting at least initially to learn the proper alignment and, for people who tend to live isolated, for the group setting at class offers.

“Being with others is key to emotional stability,” Drost said. We’re emotional and need to be with others. When you practice willingness, acceptance and action, you manifest them in your physical body and bring them into mental and emotional life, understanding things are the way they are and we can have the power to change what we’re doing at that moment.”

Depression strikes many older people as they ruminate on losses and regrets. Anxiety can also take hold as they consider their future, especially if they fear losing control of their independence. In addition to the emotional stress caused by depression and anxiety, these affect physical health as well. Drost believes practicing yoga can help.

“Immobility can cause depression, as in, ‘My loved ones are gone. I’m just going to stay here,’” Drost said. “Just get out there and live. you can’t separate the willingness and acceptance in the body from the willingness and acceptance in emotions.”

Drost added that many seniors find that the camaraderie when practicing yoga can make pursuing exercise both more fun and easier to stick with.