Given its emergence into the ever-evolving world of health and fitness, it may seem like Yoga is only for the young, bendy and able-bodied. Don’t let this deter you.
Even if you don’t fall into any of these categories, and have never stepped into a gym in your life, you can still celebrate your golden years by embracing the benefits that come with a regular yoga practice.
In reality, yoga is for everyone, of every shape and every age. Some forms of yoga can improve our physique, making it popular with the younger generations, but there are many other physical and mental benefits that make yoga perfect for those of us over 50. It has been proven that yoga can stimulate our nervous systems, improve circulation and respiration, and provide relief from stress and anxiety.
By the age of 50, we have experienced our fair share of life lessons, sometimes losing and finding ourselves several times along the way. However, a daily self-care routine can help bring you back to basics. Below are 5 yoga poses you can easily work into your day to help you rest, relax and reconnect with yourself.
Ok so breathing isn’t necessarily a posture, but it is the most important part of any yoga practice. Breath is a vital part of our very existence, yet we often don’t pay attention to it. The depth and quality of our breath can reveal a lot about our wellbeing. By learning to control our breath we can balance the entire cardiorespiratory system, simultaneously calming and invigorating our whole being.
A common breath used in yoga practice is Ujjayi breathing. Often translated as ‘victorious breath’, you inhale and exhale through the nose whilst constricting the back of the throat. This creates an oceanic sound and cultivates an inner heat, burning up impurities in the body and mind.
Basic steps for ujjayi breath:
Sit with the spine straight and legs relaxed. This can be against a wall, on the floor, or on a chair.
Inhale deeply through the nose.
Exhale out of the mouth as if you are trying to fog up a window.
Inhale deeply through the nose again. This time on the exhale, keep the mouth closed, but maintain the same feeling in the throat as the previous exhale.
This should create a calming oceanic sound, like waves washing against the shore.
Repeat breaths for 5 minutes, or until you feel completely relaxed.
Downward dog is a pose of strong relaxation, with an extensive list of benefits. Its purpose is to lengthen and nourish the spine, whilst also stretching the backs of the legs and strengthening the arms. If practised correctly, it can result in stronger hands, wrists and ankles. This makes the pose especially good for fighting osteoporosis, a disease which makes the bones more fragile.
As down dog also serves as a mild inversion, fresh oxygen and blood are transported to the brain, working to make us feel more awake and acting as a natural anti-depressant. If you are suffering from lower back pain, downward facing dog can stretch and relieve the muscles around the lumbar spine.
Steps for getting into downward facing dog:
Start on all fours, taking time to ensure the hands and feet are firmly grounded into the floor.
Curl the toes under, start to straighten the legs and arms, whilst sending your hips up.
Keep the hands planted into the ground and the fingers spread.
Take some gentle movements by pushing each heel down to the floor in turn.
Make sure the knees are not locked and take 5 deep breaths into the belly.
Hold for one minute and return to hands and knees.
Bridge is a gentle pose that strengthens the entire back of the body – including the back, hamstrings and glutes – counteracting the effects of sitting for long periods of time. You can make the pose more gentle and rejuvenating by placing a brick underneath the sacrum. This added support allows your lower back to release and relax, nourishing the spine.
Tips for getting into bridge pose:
Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet planted flat on the floor. Focus on spreading the feet into the ground.
Have the arms by the side, palms down to the floor.
Engage the muscles in the legs, push the feet into the ground and lift the hips off the mat.
Broaden the shoulders against the floor and inhale into the belly.
Exhale and lower the body to the floor by rolling down vertebrae by vertebrae through your spine.
Triangle is the perfect blend of balance, strengthen and stretch. It strengthens the muscles in the back, whilst stretching the hips and hamstrings. You can modify this pose by performing it leaning against a wall. The gentle upward twist also aids digestion.
Tips for getting into triangle pose:
Start standing up with the front foot facing forwards and the back foot facing the side.
Lift the arms so they are parallel to the floor, with the palms facing downwards.
Hinge forward at the hips towards the front leg. Exhale to extend forwards and down, reaching the front arm towards the floor.
Resting the front hand on your toes or ankle, place the other hand on your hip and focus on opening the torso and stabilising through the legs.
If the neck feels comfortable, turn the head so you are looking up towards the ceiling.
Savasana, the final resting pose in a yoga class, involves nothing more than lying face up on your yoga mat. Alongside breathing, this is the most important part of any yoga practice. Savasana allows our bodies to reap the physical and mental benefits from our time on our mats. It helps to relieve stress, calms the brain and relaxes the body. It can be thought of as creating space for the benefits of our practice to take roots and grow.
A good savasana will leave you feeling completely rejuvenated. The mind will enter a state of bliss, and the definitions between our inner and outer worlds will start to blur. This happens when you allow yourself to detach from your body and your thoughts. Taking a little time each day to relax, especially after exercise, will help to clear your mind and regulate your physical body.
Tips for getting into savasana:
Lie on your back, the arms by the sides and the palms facing the ceiling.
When you feel ready, close your eyes. Turn your attention to your breath, in particular, the rise and fall sensation in the chest.
After about one minute, start to let go of the attention on the breath and the mind.
Consciously relax the entire body.
Whether you’re 55 or 85, new to the practice, or an absolute beginner, yoga can benefit your life in many ways. Whether you need to stretch or strengthen certain areas of the body, or if you just need some time for yourself to clear away the mental clutter. Yoga is not just about being strong and flexible. Yoga is about making the connections between the breath, the body and the present moment; it is about finding inner peace and a calm centre. This is something that has no age limit, and it is never too late to introduce yoga into our lives.