Elisabeth Dols-De Rooij_Yoga for aging people_excerpt anatomy assignment for Yoga Moves Teacher training 2014
Yoga for aging people | by Elisabeth Dols-De Rooij
(excerpt from anatomy paper for Yoga Moves Teacher training 2014)
This paper will address three questions in terms of seniors and yoga:
1) What are some of the benefits and contraindications of yoga for seniors?
2) Are there appropriate yoga breathing techniques and pose sequences for our older clients?1
3) What can we, as yoga teachers, do to appropriately adapt our regular yoga classes to accommodate
clients who suffer from three of the most common health conditions facing seniors today: arthritis,
hypertension (high blood pressure) and osteoporosis.
Benefits and Contraindications of Yoga for Seniors
Yoga is an increasingly popular form of exercis activity for senior citizens. Currently, in the US alone,
approximately 1 million seniors participate in and practice yoga. Yoga journals and reports affirm that
regular yoga practice can increase strength, flexibility, balance and physical capacity, improve emotional and
spiritual wellness, and is relatively safe. Yoga has even been recommended as a form of “total
solution”exercise for seniors by the National Recreation and Park Association .2
And, Oken BS et al (2006)
reported that yoga intervention methods produced improvements in physical measures (eg. timed 1-legged
standing, forward flexibility as well as a significant improvement in quality of life measures related to sense
of well-being, mood, energy and fatigue.3
Moreover, the following benefits have also been recorded by seniors who have practiced yoga over several
decreased blood pressure
increased respiratory efficiency
improved musculoskeletal flexibility and range of motion (ROM)
Designing a Yoga Program for Active Seniors: http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/designing-yoga-program-active-
Follow this link to read the study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3639444/
increase in strength and resiliency
improved immune function
decrease in pain
improved somatic and kinesthetic awareness
improved depth perception
improved integrated functioning of body parts (Lamb 20014
We know that people of all ages can benefit from yoga practice; but this holds true especially for boomers
and beyond. However, despite these dramatic claims of improved functions across a range of physiological
and psychosocial domains, little is known about the physical demands, efficacy and safety of yoga for older
adults, therefore caution is required. Compared to younger persons, older adults generally have lesser joint
flexibility, strength and balance and their range of motion (ROM) can be reduced due to osteoarthritis, heart
problems, hypertension and osteoporosis.
Sensitivity is required for teaching this target audience as well as a broad pallet of knowledge, modifications
and an individual approach. Yoga is the antidote to the stiffness that settles into the body with the passage
of time,” says Suza Francina, author of The New Yoga for People Over 50, a pioneer in the field of teaching
yoga to seniors. Yoga counters the effects of gravity by lengthening the spine, opening the posture (and
chest) and moving each joint through its full range of movement. How you teach them, however, is another
General Yoga for Seniors Guidelines
Here are some overall guidelines to consider when designing a yoga class for active seniors:
Incorporate Pranayama, gentle asanas and meditation in every class.
Teach proper spinal alignment for every pose.
Avoid poses that require forward spinal flexion, twists and lateral flexion (for any client with
diagnosed or suspected osteoporosis).
Advise students to move gently through and within poses.
Incorporate spinal stabilization exercises in every class
Include yoga mudras to develop fine motor conditioning in the hands.
Feature poses that are comfortable and steady.
Encourage participants to rest whenever needed.
Urge students to use a chair or wall during balance exercises to reduce the risk of falls.
NB. Include ample time for social gathering after class as a strategy for addressing physiological goals for
the eldery on top of addressing physical goals.
Lamb, T. 2001. Health benefits of yoga. www.iayt.org/site/publications/articles/
Yoga For Boomers and Beyond/YogaJournal, http://www.yogajournal.com/article/teach/yoga-for-boomers-and-
What can we, as yoga professionals, do to appropriately adapt our regular yoga classes to accommodate
With the graying of the population, especially in Europe, the participation of senior citizens in our yoga
classes presents an opportunity for us to explore the development of each and every body . Moreover,
Iyengar’s recent death has raised my personal awareness for the elderly and Iyengar’s gift of yoga to the
West. In his book ‘The Tree of Yoga’ he refers to old age and irrigation as a way of supplying blood to those
areas of the body where it was before by doing yoga.
“By performing asanas we allow the blood to nourish the extremities and the depth of the body, so
that the cells remain healthy.” (from The Tree of Yoga, p32-33, Shambala Boston, 1988)
By remaining open to various yoga audiences, we can increase our awareness for different yoga styles. I
believe a combination of yin6
yoga is ideal for seniors as well as chair yoga. Chair yoga is a general
term for practices that modify yoga poses so that they can be done while seated in a chair for support,
making yoga more accessible for people who cannot stand for long periods.
Payne recommends reminding students of the intention of the pose to help them understand that the
benefit is the most important element. “For instance, the purpose of Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) is
to stretch the spine, and the hamstrings are secondary. If you soften your limbs, such as slightly bending the
knees, it’s easier to stretch your spine, especially if you are tight or a beginner.” He also recommends
dynamic and static movement for older students, “Moving in and out of the postures prepares the joints and
muscles and links you with the breath.”8
Health can be a conscious choice for many, and as a yoga teacher we can expect elderly people in our classes
more and more. As yoga professionals we need to understand age-related physical changes, know how to
modify and or direct the poses and sequences, treat students individually regardless of age, and encourage
(senior) students to use props.
Yoga styles Yin Yoga | Read more http://www.ekhartyoga.com/everything-yoga/yoga-styles/yin-yoga
14 Styles of Yoga explained simply: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8622/14-styles-of-yoga-explained-simply.html
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