If your response to the word yoga is “I don’t know about that,” then perhaps you’ve never seen it done, or maybe you’re familiar with it but remain skeptical. Yoga is a combination of physical postures, breathing exercises and relaxation.
Researchers are studying whether and in what ways it helps older adults physically and mentally. The National Institute on Aging reports that people in their late-40s who practice yoga had a reduction in chronic back pain. Additional studies are being done with persons age 50 and older.
Yoga is not just for the fit and flexible and does not require that you stand on your head. According to an AARP fitness expert, “Saying that you’re not flexible enough to practice yoga is like thinking that your house is too messy to hire a maid.”
Although is it generally a safe activity, you should talk to your doctor before starting yoga. Discuss your health conditions, including joint replacements, arthritis, balance problems, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, glaucoma and others to see whether there are particular yoga positions that you should not try.
Join a class to learn correct form, and start with a class labeled Gentle, Beginner or Senior. The instructor should be certified and be willing to modify poses for your individual health needs.
It’s important that you pay attention to your body as you begin yoga to avoid overstretching. Yoga should not hurt. It’s okay to move into each posture only enough to provide an easy, pain-free stretch.
You might be thinking that yoga classes aren’t within your budget. However, if you have a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C) or Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap), your benefits may include a gym membership. Call the member services number on your card, or consult with SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program) to find out if a yoga class would be free for you.
Call 515-993-3750 to make an appointment with a SHIIP counselor, and take a look at the Medicare website for more information.
Ann Cochran is the health navigator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.