How to Begin Practicing Yoga After 50

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In 2012, Baby Boomers, the largest generation of Americans born in United States history, made up about 24 percent of the total U.S. population, the CNN library posted. And, if you’re like many of the now over-50 Boomers fighting the aging process, you’ve noticed some loss in strength, flexibility and range of motion. In looking for ways to turn back the clock, some Boomers turn to yoga to help improve their fitness and reduce health conditions associated with getting older. While engaging in yoga can be intimidating at any age, it’s never too late to start.

Reasons to Practice Yoga

  • The AARP notes many beneficial reasons for practicing yoga when you're 50 plus. Yoga, it states:

    • calms your mind, reduces stress and minimizes hypertension
    • strengthens your bones and reduces the risks of osteoporosis
    • improves your flexibility for a better range of motion
    • is easier on your joints and a low-impact exercise option
    • can help relieve some symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes
    • keeps you energized and evens out your moods
    • and helps strengthen and expand your lungs through deep breathing exercises.

Get Your Doctor's OK

  • If you're taking medications, have heart disease or other chronic health conditions, or you've had surgery, talk with your health care provider before you begin practicing yoga. Depending on your health status, ask your doctor if you should avoid specific yoga poses, movements or positions. For example, individuals with osteoporosis risk bone fracture with poses that require movements such as twisting your torso.

Do Your Research

  • Look for a yoga class that specializes in the over-50 crowd such as Silver Age Yoga, a discipline that practices Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga uses a gentle, meditative approach and focuses on breath work and the asanas or poses to help your relax and release tension. Find out if the instructor is certified, has experience in teaching seniors, takes individual limitations into consideration and can make minor adjustments to adapt the poses to meet your needs. For example, Downward-Facing Dog, typically performed on the floor, can become a standing pose when you support yourself with a chair.

Clothing and Equipment

  • While yoga doesn't require special clothing, wear comfortable, form-fitting clothes with fabric that wicks away perspiration. Don't be concerned with your footwear because you'll most likely be barefoot. Most yoga studios provide everything you'll need but, if you also plan to practice yoga at home, you may want to purchase your own mat, blocks for support, and straps, which help beginners grasp a limb or hold a pose longer. Take a filled water bottle and a towel with you to your class. If you also plan to practice yoga at home, online beginner videos or DVDs, such as those by instructor Rodney Yee, can help with your technique.

Tips for Beginners

  • To help you feel more comfortable when you first start practicing yoga, follow these tips and guidelines.

    • Ease into your sessions -- start your poses at a slow and gentle pace.
    • Avoid poses that may aggravate a medical condition.
    • Know your physical limits and avoid forcing yourself into a pose.
    • Avoid poses that cause you pain.
    • Move slowly from one pose to the next to avoid pulling a muscle.
    • If a pose is too difficult or complicated, ask the instructor to modify the pose.
    • Use blocks or straps if you need help getting into a pose.
    • If you struggle with finding your balance, use a chair or the wall for support.
    • To help with your balance, focus on a spot on the wall, floor or ceiling .
    • And avoid holding your breath, breathe slowly and deeply.

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