While the world of yoga continues to expand with rapid pace, the general assumptions around yoga being for a certain age or body type are still very much apparent. Perhaps the media’s, and in particular social media’s, representation of yoga, is responsible for this slanted view. In reality, if you walk into a yoga studio anywhere in the world, chances are you are likely to find people of all ages, genders, body types, nationalities and levels of experience. Yoga is a practice suitable for every body. For women, enjoying a yoga practice throughout all periods of the lifespan offers great benefits.
On our Bali yoga retreat, just about every week we welcome women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. Our daily yoga classes are suited to all ages and all abilities and our experienced yoga teachers are well equipped to ensure that all guests enjoy and gain benefit from the various yoga classes. With a wide array of yoga styles and workshops on offer throughout the week, guests have the opportunity to explore many different elements of what constitutes yoga, drawing on traditional elements yet with a practical approach to modern day life.
Yoga retreats for over 50s are becoming increasingly popular as an older and wiser generation becomes more and more interested in holistic health and wellness. Studies have shown that increasing numbers of middle-aged women are discovering and embracing the benefits of the ancient practice. Science is also discovering that those who stand to gain the most from yoga’s advantages are indeed the over-50s. Over 300 clinical trials demonstrate these wonderful benefits, for conditions ranging from arthritis to insomnia to obesity.
Why Try Yoga When You’re Over 50?
You may be surprised to know that in America, nearly 38 percent of yoga practitioners are over the age of 50. Along with the evident physical change of getting older, ageing also brings changes that are harder to see but very easy to feel, especially during movement. As we age we encounter general physiological changes in elasticity, stability, speed, strength, and endurance. The practice of yoga tends to take on a different focus for many women after the age of 50. This age group tends to be more interested in taking ownership of health and ageing rather than being able master advanced poses, for instance. It is also less about getting a perfect ‘yoga body’, and more about celebrating health, joy, and natural beauty.
For women over 50 that have been practicing yoga for some years already, they may start to notice little changes here and there when it comes to strength, endurance and flexibility. Just like any type of physical activity, as we mature, some activities that used to come easily begin to get a little more challenging. One of the terrific things about yoga is that there are many various styles and ways of practicing to support you through all stages of the life span.
Many studios these days specifically offer over 50s classes or mature-age classes. Some women attend these classes if they have practiced for a long time and are simply curious about how it differs from a regular yoga class. Some women may be coming back to asana after a break and don’t want to have to worry about a class with quick transitions, deep back bends, or arm balances. Other women may come following surgery or injury. While many women come that are brand new to yoga, either on recommendation or simply out of their own interest and intrigue.
The Benefits of Yoga For Over-50s
Boost Brain Health
Research took brain scans and memory tests comparing the effects of 12 weeks of memory exercises with a course of yoga and meditation on adults over 55. The latter not only had better improvements in their spatial and visual memories, but also reduced depression and anxiety and increased resilience to stress. Albeit a small study, it shows positive results on how yoga and meditation can be utilised to keep the brain in good health as we age. We can consider yoga fitness to really be fitness for the brain as well as the body!
Exercise Without Strain
Exercise is a crucial part of healthy ageing, but high-intensity cardio or strength training can also put strain on the body. Regular exercise reduces the risk of death by a third and the cuts the risk of chronic disease by 40 percent. Yoga can be an excellent low-impact exercise option that’s easier on the body. Yoga still does offer strength training as you utilise body weight in many of the postures. Yoga is a safe way to encourage movement that doesn’t have the risk of injury of some other exercises.
Protect Against Heart Disease
Studies have showed that yoga may help lower heart disease risk as much as conventional exercise, such as brisk walking. This is likely to be because yoga also reduces stress – a big contributor to heart disease. Previous research has also shown that practicing yoga is associated with some improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, which are all risk factors for heart disease.
Reduce or Prevent Back & Joint Pain
Yoga and stretching are a very useful form of exercise to assist lower back pain for people of all ages, and studies have shown yoga to be particularly helpful for those over 50 suffering from back pain. It can also be helpful in preventing problems in later life, such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Its benefits of flexibility, core stability, support, balance and strength have been shown to help those living with chronic conditions.
Support Bone Health
As we age, our bone density decreases. For some people, this decrease is so great, it results in osteopenia or osteoporosis. Yoga is valuable in that it helps to build muscle, body awareness, and better balance. Weight-bearing standing poses help build hip and leg strength and balancing poses help protect against falls that can cause fractures in already-brittle bones. A gentle yoga practice is both safe for those with osteoporosis, and can also be effective in preventing and slowing bone density loss.
Help to Manage Arthritis
Arthritis can cause daily pain in joints like hands, knees, wrists, or elbows. It can make you feel stiff and limit comfortable range of motion. Recent research has shown that a regular yoga practice can aid in reducing joint pain and help in improving joint flexibility. A regular yoga practice can also potentially reduce inflammation.
Help to Manage Hormonal Changes
In women, menopause can bring frequent temperature changes and hot flushes. Studies have shown that a restorative yoga practice can help decrease the hot flushes that can come with hormonal changes. Certain yoga postures can also help to relieve uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, from hot flushes to anxiety to painful menstruation. Yoga in general has been shown to be supportive of hormonal health in women, again due to its stress-relieving benefits.
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the most common ailments that affect adults as they age. Studies show that regular yoga can lower blood pressure, making a routine yoga practice helpful for women over 50. This can help to lower the risk of heart problems, chronic kidney disease, and strokes.
The gentle stretching of yoga poses can go a long way in helping develop greater flexibility, which can ensure that you maintain a good range of motion as you age. Our range of motion naturally declines as the body ages, making everyday activities more challenging. While yoga works to keep the whole body flexible, of great relevance in older adults is spine flexibility and mobility. Yoga helps to keep the spine pliable which goes a long way in keeping us mobile and pain-free.
Assist Insomnia & Sleep Issues
As we age we tend to be more susceptible to night wakefulness or restlessness. When it comes to yoga, intentional, slow breathing can foster a sense of relaxation and calm. A slow yoga and stretching routine before bed can help encourage drowsiness, lower stress and create a peaceful tranquility in body and mind. In fact, studies show that yoga can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Boost Emotional Health with Chronic Illness
Chronic illness can not only cause pain and fear, but also depression, anxiety and sensations of hopelessness. Yoga can be effective as a pain-management tool for painful diseases and can also be a helpful meditative tool for those diagnosed with a chronic illness. Meditation has been shown to help reduce anxiety, boost mood and create a sense of peace within, just to name a few.
Yoga works your proprioception, or your sense of your body in space. Without regular attention, this can diminish with age, but it doesn’t have to. With much of proprioception in your ankles, standing yoga poses ensure that you maintain your sense of balance. This may help you to walk gracefully for years to come and, more importantly, also prevent falls or injury.
Support a Healthy Weight
Yoga is a movement based activity that all women over 50 and beyond can enjoy. Yoga has a host of benefits, such as normalising digestion, boosting the metabolism and toning muscles. All of these things can help with weight loss or weight balance. It can be harder to manage weight as we age and become more sedentary and the body metabolism slows. Yoga is a wonderful way to stay active in a gentle yet effective way.
Things to Consider for Yoga Over 50
Well, chances are you are feeling inspired! Of course, there are a few things to consider when it comes to starting yoga when you are over 50, or perhaps picking up yoga again after an extended break. Here are some guidelines for a smooth and enjoyable transition.
- Be Open: Try not to allow preconceived ideas of yoga sway you when you enter the yoga room. Be open to allowing the practice to be what it is. If you are returning to the mat after some time, also be open to starting exactly where you are at without expecting to bounce straight back to your old practice and level. Try not to overthink anything and just follow the lead of the teacher. Stay connected to your breath and enjoy the journey.
- Don’t Judge Yourself: It can be tempting in a yoga class to judge your body and compare it to those around you whilst in poses. Try your best to remain focused on your own practice and what your own body can do! Every body is different and everyone can do yoga, no matter how different your practice may look to your neighbour’s. Yoga is a practice – there is no end goal. Each class is a fresh opportunity to move and breathe. Don’t berate yourself for what you think you can’t do. Over time, you will notice your practice change, so just appreciate where you are at each day.
- Start at the Beginning: If you are new to yoga or coming back after a long pause, opt for a class suited to beginners. Most studios will let you know which classes are for beginners, or you can always ask. Generally, Hatha Yoga classes will be best to start with, or a restorative style of class. Don’t be afraid to ask the studio and teachers, or get a recommendation from someone you trust. Turn up a little early and explain to the teacher this is your first class and let them know if you have any concerns or any injuries too.
- Be Comfortable: Don’t worry about what the media suggests you have to wear to yoga. Go in what you feel comfortable in. Perhaps choose a soft top that allows for plenty of movement, and leggings with plenty of stretch. Do avoid anything too tight that limits your breathing, and anything that you can’t move freely in. Yoga clothing is easily accessible and affordable these days, you can even ask a sales person to help you find something perfect if you are unsure.
- Pause Any Time: Yoga isn’t a competition. So, if you’re mid-way through a class and finding it too much, don’t be afraid to stop and pause. In fact, pausing and moving into child’s pose (sitting down on your knees with your forehead on the ground) is encouraged by yoga teachers for anyone in class at any time. Your practice is your practice, and whether you do one pose or ten poses matters less than the way you feel and breathe in the space of the class. Listen to what you need and be true to that. Yoga is a self-care practice, so make sure you tune in.
Beginning a yoga practice as an older adult can be a little intimidating. However, yoga truly is a practice that is suitable for all ages, and for women over 50, yoga can be an excellent way to stay active and lower stress levels. Embarking on a yoga retreat is a wonderful way to dive into the practice in a supportive and safe environment. Escape Haven is a wonderful yoga retreat for over 50’s and we love welcoming and introducing women of all ages to the practice of yoga. If you are unable to embark on a yoga retreat for over 50’s, many local yoga studios are offering classes suitable for an older generation, and all studios will offer beginner classes. Keep in mind that the practice of yoga is about self care and self compassion. Your practice is your practice. Don’t allow preconceived conceptions of yoga hold you back from trying something that could have the power to transform and greatly impact your life, health and longevity.
Your Escape Haven Bali Retreat offers a luxury wellness experience for body, mind and soul
We invite you to experience our award-winning Bali retreat. If it’s time to fill up your cup and reconnect with yourself on a deeper level, we’d love to help you rejuvenate, unwind, reawaken and experience the very best of Bali. Dive into transformational yoga and meditation classes, exhilarating surf lessons in the warm waters of Bali, fun fitness classes and restorative healing sessions. How much or little you do is all up to you.