Yoga has become one of the most popular activities among people of all ages. It makes me feel really happy to see the diversity in every class I teach. Classes all over the country are filled with crowds that go from teenagers (even kids) to the more mature.
With regards to the younger crowd, we see signs of this popularity on social media all the time. But when it comes to the older crowd I will say that I have actually experienced that boost in popularity in real life as yoga interest among seniors has also increased considerably throughout the years.
Firstly, I saw that as a teenager when I first fell in love with Yoga. I remember my mother used to tell me my great-grandmother Hilda used to practice yoga by doing headstands (inversion) at her home back in the 1960’s. Secondly, I’ve witnessed that the number of seniors in the studio is increasing substantially.
They’re usually interested in gentle and restorative yoga, including meditation. It’s natural that the more experienced are generally concerned with health issues that are common within their age group.
Consequently, the focus today will be on beginning yoga for seniors, as we’ll be going through some of the most beneficial types of yoga for those looking to recover from an injury, improve their health, and be more active overall.
The Healing Power
Restorative Yoga is probably the most popular style among seniors. It was introduced in India, by B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014), who’s known as one of the most recognized and creative teachers of yoga.
Essentially, Iyengar introduced the use of props (blocks, blankets, pillows, chairs, and straps) to newly developed positions (asanas) with the goal of diminishing pain caused by hardly straining muscles and joints during regular yoga practices.
Judith Lasater, who was one of his students, was the one responsible for popularizing his teachings by introducing Restorative Yoga in the U.S. in the 1970’s.
The practice works by achieving a relaxation state while keeping the positions, with the use of props, for longer periods of time. When doing so, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart and breath rates, while increasing blood flow to vital organs.
This process triggers the body’s healing powers on the treatment of various types of injuries, illnesses, and psychological disorders. This is done by giving attention to, and focusing on your breathing. Therefore, breathing in and out is what releases the tension.
It’s a gentle practice. Many teachers use Restorative Yoga poses at the end of their regular routines to get their students prepared for the final or meditative stage of each practice. Usually, classes are especially set up, with dimmed lights and soothing music, almost like what we see in meditation classes.
It’s important to be connected with your breath and focus on the practice as a sense of motionless and shapelessness might come around. The goal is to allow it to pass, and use the props to help you find the best position possible.
While you’re doing it just think about the feeling you will have when being fully relaxed at the end of the practice – arms soft, legs relaxed, and a smile on your face.
The Search for Optimal Health
Martial arts expert and Taoist Yoga teacher Paulie Zink was who introduced Yin Yoga in the U.S. However, its popularity grew across Europe and North America thanks to the teaching of developers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers back in the 1970’s.
Contrarily to Taoist Yoga, Yin Yoga is not intended to be a complete practice, but rather as a complement to more active forms of yoga and exercise.
Let’s just say, in very short terms, that while Restorative Yoga tries to bring the body back to its normal state, Yin Yoga will take it from a normal to an optimal state.
It works by applying moderate stress to the connective tissues, with the goal of increasing circulation and flexibility. In comparison, it uses the meditative approach of yoga, as both practices truly show us how to feel our own body.
The bottom line is Yin Yoga will increase or keep flexibility with the goal of taking the healed body up to a higher level of optimal health.
It makes me feel really good to contribute to the benefits yoga gives to my students, especially seniors. It’s even more satisfying to witness the changes happening to their body, and the improvements they’re making to their souls as a whole.
It’s needless to say that the greater number of these seniors are experiencing both restorative and Yin Yoga.
Running the Extra Mile
The third option in our list is Hatha Yoga, which is one of the most traditional yoga practices in India. Essentially, Hatha means “force” in the Sanskrit language because it’s believed that its practice is challenging enough to force results to happen”. It can be practiced gently to allow the student to follow the flow.
Comparatively to Restorative and Yin Yoga, Hatha Yoga emphasizes on physical exercises to master the body, while mind exercises show you the path to your inner awareness.
The term “Hatha Yoga” translates into a system of physical techniques within the abundant concept of yoga. It also emphasizes proper diet, processes to internally purify the body, proper breathing (Pranayama and its regulation particularly during the yoga practice), and the exercise routine consisting of the postures.
It includes the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara), which consists of several positions performed as a fluid movement sequence.
You might feel it’s a little more challenging than the two styles described earlier, though modifications on the positions are welcomed, in order to adjust your body to your practice.
Just like other styles, the benefits of Hatha Yoga are endless. You’ll notice the difference in just a few practices, as you will be building an optimal immunity system.
With that, relaxing the mind and releasing tension from the body becomes a natural process. Your spine will be strengthened and the body toned. You’ll also notice an increase in flexibility, appetite regulation, and most importantly, a better health overall.