In this, the third instalment of our Yoga For Healthy Aging series we will take a more practical approach and provide you with 8 great teaching tips for Seniors Yoga classes…
- Posture is paramount! Practicing with a rounded or hunched back is potentially dangerous for students predisposed to vertebral crush fractures. For this reason ensure that forward folding postures are taken with a long back and straight spine.
- Having said this, forward folds can be great. They calm the nervous system, which stabilizes blood pressure, slows the heart and relaxes the brain and sense organs (picking up on point one, the exception to this rule are people who have significant bone loss due to osteoporosis because forward folds can lead to compression fractures).
- Embrace supported inversions: inversions, when practiced safely are great for counteracting the effects of ageing. This is because they work against the force of gravity, promoting the flow of blood to the heart, brain and upper extremities.
- Alignment is key. Damage to cartilage is often the result of the way we move through the day. Misalignment of the bones, poor posture, lack of body awareness and dysfunctional movement patterns can contribute to the kinds of wear and tear that contribute to osteoarthritic pain. Yoga can help to correct these movement patterns, which decreases joint pain.
- Standing balancing postures are great. They improve balance by increasing your students’ proprioceptive abilities; that is, their ability to feel what their body is doing (and where it is) in space. This will lower the risk of falling, a leading cause of injury.
- Remember that some of your students may be out of practice when it comes to transitioning to the floor (a movement that many of us take for granted). Encourage students to use the wall or a chair for support. Even those movements that seem impossible at first will become accessible over time as strength, flexibility and confidence increase so encourage them to stick with it.
- Weight bearing poses are good for building bone strength. Decreases in bone density can be associated with stress. The release of the stress hormone, cortisol, leads to a loss in calcium from bones and interferes with the grown of new bone. Weight bearing postures improve bone density and of course yoga’s effectiveness as a stress-relieving practice is well documented.
- Gentle movement can help to increase muscle range of motion and decrease pain. Inactivity weakens muscles and reduces the range of movement of joints, which further shortens and weakens muscles. This leads to pain, which restricts movement further and so the cycle continues. Yoga reverses this process.