Exercise – Yoga to lift up your life
As for many people, the first week of January marked my first attendance at a yoga class for a while. I felt thoroughly relaxed and energised, although I did ache a little the next day.
There are many different types of yoga and I’m sure there are plenty of different blogs that will be much more informative than this one in that area. I want to share here my own experience of what yoga brings to me personally. Alas, I am far from being a yoga bunny and am not even particularly flexible!
I also want to share the story of a friend who started yoga last February and has really found a new passion and lifestyle through her practice.
I first took yoga seriously about 10 years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child. I’d been regularly working out for the 10 years before that, but I’d been predominantly focused on cardiovascular activity – burning as many calories as possible. When I became pregnant I knew that I need to find some alternatives, partly because my body had different requirements. and partly because I knew the demands on my time were about to change dramatically.
I initially found a few pregnancy yoga DVDs (Shiva Rea’s is still available), which I enjoyed for a while, even after my son was born. They certainly helped me through my pregnancy and to regain my former figure and fitness. Ultimately, I wanted more challenge and variety and I now have a whole range of yoga DVDs!
Working out at home has been invaluable for me as a busy mum and I still use these, although this fluctuates with the time of year and other commitments.
What I really value now is to go to a yoga class. I’ve been lucky enough to have had two fantastic yoga teachers over the last 5 years – each very different in style and approach – and I’ve learned a lot from them. This, in turn, facilitates the ‘home practice’ I do.
I feel various benefits from practising Yoga.
Initially I was attracted to it from the stretching perspective. As a keen runner (among other things) for the last 20 odd years, my poor body has been put through its paces. Yoga helps me stretch muscles that I’m not always aware of, and redresses some of the imbalance that we all hold in our bodies. This obviously becomes evermore important as we get older.
Yogis build strength through the various movements and poses (asanas), mostly by using their own bodies as resistance. This is great for strengthening bones and joints, again important as we age.
Yoga also has a positive affect on our minds. This is partly during the practice itself as we become focused in the moment on the movement of our bodies. It also helps us to become calmer and more grounded in everyday life. I’ve certainly noticed that I’ve become much more chilled and dare I say it almost ‘detached’, especially in stressful moments. I believe much of this is thanks to yoga.
Relaxation is also a big part of yoga. Depending on the class, we work during the majority of the practice, ending with relaxation (shavasana). This is an important part of yoga practice because it allows us to reap the benefits of our physical endeavours. It enables us to bring yoga from asana into self-awareness through meditation. I finish my yoga practice feeling relaxed in body and mind with much of the tension lifted.
You don’t need to be super-flexible
I am not that flexible, I’m not sure I ever have been – and worryingly my kids aren’t either – sorry guys! However, this is one of the reasons that I’m attracted to yoga, because it helps me to gently push my own limits. Looking around during class, I see a whole range of abilities, with each person working to their limits.
Size doesn’t matter
There are all different shapes and sizes in the classes I attend, and this doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to any of us getting a good workout. Hurrah!
We are all different
I sometimes find a pose particularly challenging, while others seem to do with ease. Then we move onto something else, which feels easier to me, but not necessarily to others around me. Our bodies are all very different (through genetics, lifestyle and other experiences) meaning that we’ve all got different starting points and needs. A good teacher will appreciate and work with this, providing a range of different alternatives throughout the class.
It doesn’t have to be expensive
Like most things in life, there are often people with expensive clothing and all the gear. Go for it, if this flicks your switch, but its generally not necessary. You just need some comfortable clothing and layers can be useful when warming up and cooling down for relaxation. Equipment may be provided by the sports centre or instructor, but you can also find a yoga mat, straps and blocks at a reasonable price online. Sometimes the supermarkets even launch promotions!
Age should not be a barrier
All the yoga classes that I have attended have encompassed a very mixed range of ages. In the lunchtime class I currently attend, I’d estimate that about 50% of the class are 60 or over – and there are quite a few men there too! This mix may partly be due to the time of day, but the older yogis are no less capable than anyone else, and many of them are much more flexible than I am…
How to get started
Now that I’ve experienced classes, this would be my recommendation for beginners. Given that there is plenty of variety in my immediate area, hopefully there will be where you live too:
– Yoga centre – specialising in yoga. Various types of yoga are often available as well as different ability groups.
– Classes at gym / sport centre – often part of gym membership. There are often options here too, so worth trying out, especially if you’ve already effectively paid for them!
– Classes in local hall – generally run by a self-employed yoga teacher
– Private classes – with between 1-4 participants, often in someone’s house
As well as having the instructor there to guide you, sometimes they are quite ‘hands on’ physically correcting your body which can be very useful. Practising somewhere with mirrors can also help!
Some people love the flexibility of being able to work out at home. But it’s helpful to have some basics, to ensure you’re doing it right, as well as having the discipline to get your mat out. There is a risk of injury if you get it wrong – especially if you’re older!
I’ve already mentioned DVDs, but there’s also a lot that can be streamed from the internet or on-demand TV these days too.
A friend of mine discovered yoga last year. Click here to read her story of how she started yoga and why she’s sticking at it.
I thought I’d end with a couple of inspirational articles on some amazing super-agers who practise yoga – incredible!
The world’s oldest yoga teacher – at 98
I can honestly say that yoga brings many benefits to my life, both physical and psychological. I am both grateful and proud that it is already part of my life. I definitely plan to keep practising yoga for as long as I can, for the benefits it brings me today, as well as those it promises for tomorrow.
In the name of Age Life Balance, can I tempt you to give it a go?
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.