Creating Resilient Cultures   in Healthcare

The Wisdom of Senior Yoga

Yoga is an empowering practice, whatever age you are. With all of us living longer, the idea of taking good care of ourselves has a much deeper meaning.

I teach yoga to a group of seniors every week and I have never met a more articulate, positive, and flexible group of people in my life.  They think I am there to isnpire them, but the truth is, they inspire me.  I asked them why they practice yoga, and they shared some interesting wisdom:

Body

“I do yoga for me. I reach places in my body and soul that I can only reach in yoga.”

Lucy is eighty-two and has severe osteoarthiritis, having endured several joint replacements in her knees and hips. She walks to class every week and always thanks me for a “great workout.”

Regaining the flexibility we lose as we age is a huge benefit of yoga. Studies have shown that yoga also improves balance, core strength, lean muscle mass, and overall well-being, no matter how old you are. I personally can speak to losing body fat, gaining half an inch in height, improving my sleep, and relieving my chronic low back pain after working years as an emergency room nurse.

Mind

“With yoga, my mood is much better, and it helps me with my everyday worries.”

Harriet, who is seventy-two, has a lot to worry about, with financial concerns and a son who is debilitated with diabetes and heart disease. She comes in pleasant and smiling, always asking about everyone else as if she doesn’t have a care or concern in the world.

Everyone, including seniors, feels better mentally when they practice yoga. We also get our minds off our ailments and limitations and focus on what we can do, so we become more accustomed to look for the good first. Dr. Andrew Weil wrote an article titled “Yoga Promotes Weight Loss” a couple of years ago, in which he revealed the results of a new study. He found it isn’t so much the poses and the stretching that provide yoga’s weight-loss benefits, but rather the mindfulness associated with the practice. Mindfulness includes greater consciousness of our bodies, promoting more mindful eating and a greater awareness of stress and how we cope with it.

Spirit

“Yoga allows my spirit to be open for the opportunity and grateful for all of my blessings.”

Jane, who is sixty-seven, takes care of her husband with endstage Alzheimer’s and is trying to keep him at home for as long as she can. Being a fulltime caregiver, she can’t always get to class, so she gives herself the gift of yoga every day with 30 Days to Grace.

A huge benefit of yoga is the renewal of the spirit that comes every time you get on your mat. It is the movement of energy, or prana, that makes us feel whole and hopeful and gives us a different perspective. You are not the same person after your yoga practice as you were before.

And as my seniors continue to teach me, it is never too late to start!

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