You used to enjoy yoga, but it seems more difficult as you grow older. If so, it may be a good time to reassess your practice in light of the realities of an aging body. Beginning in our 40s and 50s, our bodies gradually lose resilience. Muscle fibers contract, motor neurons decline in number, and soft-tissue extensibility decreases. In short, we naturally become less able to flex, extend, bend and contort our bodies.
As for that difficult yoga, “difficult” compared to what? If you are returning to yoga after a long hiatus, do not use past performance to gauge your present ability. Your muscles may remember the asanas, but they will not go there as easily and should not be expected to.
If you have been practicing consistently and find that what bolstered you in the past seems not to work as well today, discuss your concerns with your yoga teacher, your physician and/or us. And if you have been practicing solo, resuming yoga classes may help you to make beneficial adjustments.
For one thing, consider Iyengar, a less vigorous yoga instruction that focuses on alignment and uses props to assist in stretching. Elements of safe yoga practice include
• A qualified teacher;
• Realistic expectations, based on age and health;
• A noncompetitive attitude;
• Awareness of limitations and injury-prone areas; and
• Patience with progress (and with healing, if you get hurt).
There is plenty of evidence that, when approached mindfully and with realistic expectations, yoga offers many health benefits for people of all ages. Also, feel free to ask for other exercise alternatives if you desire a different exercise experience. The key remains to get regular exercise.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Gladfelter, MPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Women's Health Physical Therapy Specialist at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness
Kim Gladfelter is a physical therapist, Pilates instructor, educator, author, and co-founder of PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness. She is known as a keen, well-rounded expert of healing through movement and women’s health specialist in the Silicon Valley area.
Kim has helped men and women of all ages to stay active and feel their best. She also writes about managing pain in her health columns, blogs and the local Los Altos Town Crier newspaper as well as reaches out to the local community, support groups, schools, libraries, and sports centers to advise and educate on body awareness and therapeutic exercise.