Am I Too Old for Yoga?
No one is too anything for yoga. Practicing yoga wisely is good at any age. An exploration of deepening and linking breath with movement to just the right depth is great for people as they age. How do you know how deep to go? You take a movement as far as it feels safe, even if it’s an inch. Then, the next time, you take that movement just a bit farther into a mild stretch, but not into pain. In yoga, we move in a direction, not to a predetermined place. For each body, the movements go to a different place; the right place. Only the person who is doing the movement will know how far right is. We can hurt ourselves, but if we move wisely, we know when to stop before that happens.
In our youth, we move with vigor, increase flexibility quickly, and mend easily. As we age, we learn or move much more wisely, and spend more time working on our inner selves and our relationships with others. As we grow into our later years, less time should be spent on vigorous movement, but more on sitting and keeping attention while concentrating on breathing and maintaining a wise amount of flexibility. Yoga is different for everyone, and we do what is best for our body and mind with great consideration for our age.
I recently traveled to Ohio to visit my dad. He just turned ninety. My sister now lives with him in senior housing and arranged for me to teach a yoga class. Over twenty people showed up for it, including my dad. It was his first yoga class. Ninety is not too old to begin yoga.
We sat in chairs in a semi-circle. We slowed and deepened our breath and linked breath with movement of the arms. We twisted in our chairs, gently, moving to a depth where we felt safe. For some of the movements, I gave them the option of staying in the chair or standing behind it with hands on the back of the chair. At the end of the hour we sat in the chairs with eyes closed, calmly focusing our attention on our breathing.
Most of the participants thanked me and told me how much they enjoyed it. A few had taken yoga before and were all in their eighties and nineties. One woman said that she takes yoga every week at a local health club. She said, “I even get on my mat and do many of the more advanced poses.”
I had a great time. It felt good to introduce my dad to something that’s been a very important part of my life. The group was very receptive to the things I asked them to do and seemed disappointed that I wouldn’t be back the next week.
You’re never too old for yoga.