The realities of teaching Yoga to the elderly: Yoga can help them in this transitional process of finding a place in today’s society and a reason for living through body awareness, breath awareness, relaxation, preventing stiffness in the joints, and mental alertness.
“It isn’t just giving movements to your students. It knows that there is so much more going on that creates resistance. They are watching their breathing, facial expressions, hesitations, and excitement. Melting down years of poor, negative fixed ideas about their body is a natural barrier for students (especially seniors).
They might have a particular physical problem or an array of ailments. Due to the complexity of their injuries and disease, an older person usually doesn’t know how to inform a teacher in a regular yoga class. Therefore, a teacher can refrain from asking too many probing questions initially and take some precautions to minimize any risk of further injuries. Take precautions such as:
Movement: No complete head rotations. Just gentle neck movements with the breath – forward, backward, sideways, and turning in Brahmamudra. Avoid inversions where the head is lower than the heart in standing poses. This will cause dizziness.
Show them modified poses.
Breathing: Only a few breathing techniques (pranayama) are safe and sound for older adults. Simple ‘humming bee breath’ (bhramari pranayama); inhaling, counting slowly to 4 and exhaling, counting slowly to 8 (ratio 1inhale:2exhale). There is no breath retention on the inhale (antar kumbhaka). Too much pressure in the chest cavity might strain the heart.
One can work toward breath retention after the exhale (Bahya kumbhaka). Natural ‘deep’ audible and abdominal breathing was eventually practiced with postures (asanas). Yogic breathing (might be difficult); simple, no retention alternate nostril breathing (Nadi shodhana). Breathing with awareness of the psychic passage in the spine (ujjayi pranayama) is recommended.
Mudras: Introducing the mudras can be very beneficial for the elders.
Limited use of Bandhas: No throat locking (jalandhara bandha) or navel locking (uddiyana bandha) should be performed. Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor are most important: ‘pulling up from underneath’ (moola bandha), bladder sphincter control (vajroli bandha), and anal sphincter control (Ashwini bandha). Rolling the tongue back (khechari mudras) is acceptable but should be performed gently and without effort.
Deep Relaxation: A person who has sleeping problems always falls asleep during the final relaxation, try and keep them aware during this time, yet allow their bodies to rest.
Ayurveda for the elderly: After 50, our bodies and minds are dominated by the qualities of Vata. This means that the Air and space qualities influence the older body by potentially becoming lighter, contemplative, spiritual, and Sattvic in nature. Emotionally and mentally, one can be burdened with anxiety, forgetfulness, moodiness, and insomnia. If they can get a consultation with an Ayurveda doctor, they can be mindful of their diet.
The privileges of teaching Yoga to senior citizens:
As a teacher, it brings a deeper, more compassionate awareness of the process of aging. It allows the teacher to understand and interact better with the older adults inside the class and outside in one’s surroundings. The yoga teacher training can become an opportunity for the elderly to ‘dress up’ or start taking better care of themselves.
Teaching and observing how the elderly enjoy their surrender during relaxation, and even more during the deep final relaxation (yoga Nidra). In old age, sleeplessness and fatigue are obstacles; this deep relaxation allows them to rest effectively.
Teaching Yoga to the elderly from this perspective, one can bring warmth and circulation through breath work and movement. Yoga practice also provides a way to settle the negative aspects of Vata into the more light-hearted spiritual qualities of this Sattvic constitution.
The elderly, anyone over and around 60 years, need to understand what their minds and bodies were capable of in the past and what is possible in their present condition. These expectations of themselves might differ significantly from reality. In their current stage, they can re-evaluate their time, priorities, and purpose in life.
- Start with Seated Breathing exercises.
- Then, seated gentle warm-ups from head to toe.
- Next, move into standing and balancing poses with the aid of the chair for support and balance.
- Return to Seated and floor stretching postures, focus on the mobility of the hip joint
- Led Deep relaxation
- Om chanting
Please encourage them to walk in the garden to practice their conscious breathing outside the class.