Could you do with being stronger, more flexible, and fitter? Us too! If you’re looking for a new type of exercise to try during lockdown, and want to feel a stronger connection between your body and mind, then yoga might be the answer. We compiled the best tips from gransnetters on starting yoga over 60, as well as some expert advice from yoga instructor Barbara Currie. So if you’re thinking about taking up yoga later in life, here’s a few reasons why now is the perfect time to start.
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“Yoga makes you aware of poor posture and can help correct it, which is important when going about your everyday life, even in the garden. I wish I had started yoga a long time ago and then perhaps I would not have the back problem I have now.”
Yoga is an ancient mind and body practice that originated in India over 5000 years ago. Yoga has now been adapted all over the world into a hugely popular form of fitness. Modern yoga is focused on strength, flexibility, breathing and mental wellbeing. There are lots of different types of yoga, and depending on your fitness level and goals, there will be a branch out there for you.
Yes! If you want to crack on with a new form of exercise before lockdown is over, yoga is gentle and safe and so is perfect for starting at home. Lots of gransnetters have recommended it as an indoor exercise of choice. If you want to try out various forms of yoga, there are plenty of videos on YouTube to get you started, some of which are formulated especially with seniors in mind. The NHS website is a good resource for exercise videos too.
“I started yoga a year ago as I did no other exercise. I persevered, not doing all the exercises, and it took several months before I began to notice how much more supple I was, and now I can rise up from the bed or sun lounger without using my hands - it’s a small miracle.”
If you're able to, you can get started with yoga at any age, provided you're sticking to the right type of class for you. If you have any health concerns, you should check with your doctor before you start, and explain them to your teacher so they can help you adapt the practise. Barbara recommends that beginners "go very gently to begin with", and to "read a little about yoga before they start. If you are feeling very tired and stiff, you may need a chair at hand so you can take your first class at your own pace, and rest when necessary. After a few weeks you will be delighted at how much better you feel and how much your flexibility improves.”
Barbara in the 'boat pose'
“I do yoga every day in the morning. I feel energetic and fresh throughout the day.”
“My friend loved it, apart from the farting which always seemed to happen during the last exercise/relaxation bit.”
Yoga has a plethora of health benefits, and no matter what stage of life you take it up at, you will see a difference in your health and fitness with regular practise.
“All bodies are different and if it hurts - don't do it.”
You don’t have to be fit to do yoga. As Barbara points out, “you can start yoga at any level. Each pose can be done carefully and slowly, to your own feeling of comfort and always without strain. Every time you perform a movement it will get a little better, so never give up.”
"I'd tried yoga before, and dismissed it forever, as I thought I didn't like it - it was much too slow for me. Then I was dragged along to a class years later by a friend, and it was totally different - much faster and more energetic, and I loved it! I'd thought all yoga classes were the same, but there's so much variety depending on what type you do."
No matter what your fitness level, there's a type of yoga for you. There are many different types of yoga, but there are seven in particular which are popular in the UK. Here is a simple rundown of a few different types you might want to try.
Hatha yoga is what you probably think of when someone says ‘yoga’. Though the term is actually an umbrella term that refers to the physical practise of yoga, in practise if you attend a hatha yoga class you’re likely to find yourself at a slower and more relaxing class.
This type of yoga practice emphasises alignment, detail, and precision in postures. The style develops strength and flexibility, and involves holding poses for a long period of time. If this appeals to you, it might be best to wait until we’re able to attend yoga classes again - this class relies heavily on the interaction of the instructor with individual students. The teacher will help students into poses by adjusting them and by providing blocks and belts when needed.
Ashtanga is an energetic and physically demanding form of yoga. The practise involves briskly moving through a series of physical sequences, with an emphasis on breathing.
Hot yoga is a vigorous form of yoga which takes place in a studio heated to approximately 40 degrees. It’s designed to reflect the conditions of yoga practice in India. The heated studio increases flexibility and allows for more calories to be burnt. Unless you have particularly strong central heating, this is obviously not a style you can try at home. But if you want to feel some of the benefits of hot yoga, try doing your yoga routine after some cardio - you’ll feel more flexible with your muscles warmed up.
Yin yoga is a slow-paced form of yoga, which involves holding poses for two to five minutes. Yin is meditative, and is fantastic if you want a calming class that will increase your flexibility.
This is a relaxing type of yoga. A restorative yoga class is spent in four or five simple poses, with props like blankets and bolsters making poses easier and more relaxing to hold.
Kundalini means 'coiled, like a snake'. This type of yoga is a system of meditation that aims to release pent-up energy.
So how do you know which style is right for you? There are so many different types of yoga that the selection can feel overwhelming. Barbara’s advice is to “start with a beginner’s level Hatha yoga class and move on to a stronger one when you feel ready. If you start a class that is too advanced for you, you won’t enjoy it. Go at your own pace, always without strain and there should be plenty of gentle exercise, deep breathing and calm.”
Barbara recommends starting with one yoga session a week for the first year. If you maintain a commitment to regularly practising, you will start to notice an improvement within a few weeks.
Physical attendance at yoga classes is obviously not possible at the moment. But as much as you can practise using online videos, the benefits of having a teacher who really understands your fitness levels are undeniable. Lots of yoga teachers are offering online classes, so if you want to support small businesses while practicing yoga, why don’t you see if you can find an online instructor? The Yoga Alliance has a list of certified yoga instructors, so take a look if you want some expert advice.
Yoga is perfectly safe for older people - its benefits can be felt at any stage of life. Yoga is particularly effective at targeting physical problems which can arise later in life, from healthy bones to flexibility to anxiety relief. It's even been suggested that yoga can prevent osteoporosis.
You also can join a class suitable for your fitness level. Are you able to sit down on the floor and the get back up again easily, without the support of a chair, or someone helping pull you up? If not, then you should think about starting with a chair yoga class. For example, to join a mixed-ability yoga class, you need to be able to get up and down from the floor. Some yoga classes are chair-based, or aimed directly at seniors or beginners.
Disclaimer: The information on our diet and fitness pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to contact your GP before you start any new form of exercise if you're concerned about your weight, have existing health conditions and/or are taking medication.