How to Do Yoga the Right Way

Editor’s Note: Yoga, once practiced by only a few people, is a growth industry in the U.S.  According to recent statistics, 15 million American adults practice yoga, a mind-body technique that combines physical and mental aspects. It can be beneficial in a number of ways, including increasing flexibility, battling lower back pain and providing peace of mind.

But older adults who either practice yoga or want to start should be cautious. Despite its (accurate) reputation in helping practitioners, yoga is an exercise that must be done correctly to get the most benefits and to avoid injury. And in fact, there’s not much evidence yet for its effectiveness in this age group. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it.

Talk to your health care practitioner first, and take a look at these tips from the Go4Life program of the National Institute on Aging:

Put safety first. Yoga is generally safe for healthy people. However, if you have special health considerations such as a joint replacement, arthritis, balance problems, high blood pressure, glaucoma, or other health issues, talk with your health care provider before starting yoga. Start with an appropriate yoga class—such as one called Gentle Yoga or Seniors Yoga—in order to get individualized advice and learn correct form.

Look for a well-trained instructor who’s attentive to your needs. Ask about the teacher’s experience and Standards s for teacher training and certification differ depending on the style of yoga. The International Association of Yoga Therapists (www.iayt.org) has developed standards for yoga therapy requiring at least 800 hours of training.

Practice mindfully. Be sure to let your yoga teacher know about any medical issues you have and ask about the physical demands of yoga.

Listen to your body. Yoga poses should be modified based on individual abilities. Be careful to avoid overstretching. Because older adults are at higher risk of developing strains and sprains when doing yoga, you may need to modify or avoid some poses to prevent injury.

For more on yoga for seniors, including help finding a yoga teacher who has specialized training in working with older adults, go to www.yoga4seniors.com. To learn about senior fitness, visit the go4life.gov.


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