Yoga at Any Age
by Nicole Goldman
Yoga is all about the breath. That may sound simple or too simplified, but it is the essence of the ‘practice’ and it can be accomplished by anyone, at any age, at any time.
Sure, it gets more complicated from this starting point, but it all begins with the breath.
When you think of yoga, you may envision people contorted into all kinds of twists and bends with perhaps a spiritual flavor and that can be a part of yoga as well, but the beauty of this type of exercise or discipline is that it is truly an individualized expression and your yoga practice won’t necessarily look like anyone else’s.
When I was younger, so much younger than today, and was first taking yoga classes with a continuing education teacher at the local high school,
I was charged up by the opportunity to slip away from my young family for one evening a week. Leaving my husband with the kids and some pizza, I would go and just stretch, breathe and relax. Although I did have dance training from my Aunt Madga, an eccentric Hungarian prima ballerina, when just a preteen and enjoyed stretching and even contorting, I had not taken a yoga class until my late 30’s. This first class and many others since then, laid the ground work for a life-long practice. Not everyone has that history, but this shouldn’t preclude beginning in retirement or whenever you get around to it.
Like meditation, yoga asks you first to just sit quietly and focus on your breath. We can all do that. And that elementary task, just breathing and considering your breath is helpful and healthful from the get go. Concentrating on your breath, hearing your lungs take in oxygen and release it, is calming, stimulates your circulation and immediately relaxes you. As you sit and breathe and relax you will find that your breath slows down. Your hearing may become sharper and you can begin to feel the rest of your body enjoying the richness of your blood flowing.
While this breathing can be done while sitting in a chair, on the floor, or cushion, you can even begin lying down. Meaning, if you are a breathing, living human, aka still alive, you can do yoga and derive the benefits.
To move on from here however and gain increasing results, a class will provide some basic knowledge of poses that will add to the initial breathing equation. There are also hundreds, or more, videos on line that can guide you through simple stretches and routines, and these can be used in the long run, but it’s recommended to go to at least a few classes to start so you can be shown, and can then feel the best way to align yourself, how far to push yourself, and what kinds of poses work best for your body.
What are the benefits of yoga? They are vast. In addition to adding oxygen to your bloodstream, helping your heart rate to be calm and steady, the exercises are stimulating to your muscles, can help you strengthen muscles and there are incredible improvements to balance that can be achieved through fairly effortless techniques. Yoga is kind of like interval training where you push yourself for a few moments, holding a pose, stretching and engaging individual muscles (all the while breathing steadily), and then you release and relax and feel the rush of that exertion and the reaction from your body. Yoga can also contribute to good posture which is more than just standing up straight. An erect spine allows all your organs to sit comfortably inside you, to work properly, to do their job. Your agility and flexibility will improve through a consistent routine, and you can boost your energy level and even acuity with your breath unfettered.
It should be obvious at this point that I put a lot of stake in my yoga practice. I do it regularly to keep that pinched nerve in my neck in check, to keep my feet, knees and hips from feeling achy, to maintain good posture and energy. I can feel it when I haven’t been able to set aside a few 30-minute time slots each week. I get cranky, feel bloated, and my body drags.
If all it takes to begin is a few simple breaths, there’s no reason to resist.
© 2017 All Rights Reserved