I was over 50 before I walked into my first yoga studio.
I had weight issues, sore knees, stiff joints, hot flushes and a busy mind that had trouble keeping still.
I also sensed that aerobics, pump class and pounding it out hard at a gym circuit didn’t seem to address any issues other than giving me a little more muscle tone. Don’t get me wrong, muscle tone is great especially when you feel you never had any. But it still didn’t address my adrenal fatigue, weightgain, sore knees and other menopausal issues. I employed a Personal Trainer who worked me hard. She noticed my body shape wasn’t changing. I was still stressed, seemed to be worsening my knee pain and the busy mind revved up with the elliptical machine speed.
Then Yoga came into my life at the suggestion of a friend. What could it hurt?
My first reaction was ‘no way, this old body couldn’t get anywhere near those poses’.
Besides feeling very inadequate against some seriously svelte young yoga bodies in the class, I put my judgements aside and self talk was silenced while I hooked into the class. Of course for the first few weeks I thought I was going to die. But I noticed subtle changes starting to show up.
That was about 6 years ago and here’s the healing and somewhat unusual things I’ve learned about the wonders of yoga, particularly for the 50+ body. I’m loving seeing our regular Sunday paper liftout, ‘The Body and Soul’ starting to mention yoga for all sorts of things. I’ve studied and read lots of publications for the 50+ body with menopausal symptoms, blood sugar issues, blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and even anxiety and yoga is mentioned all the time as being the preferred form of movement to alleviate or at least lessen the symptoms of many midlife health issues.
1. Stretch out your emotions with Yoga
Yoga isn’t always the come in stressed, walk out calm and lifted experience we think it should be. It helped me sit with my emotions and listen to my self talk. It helped me to step out of my body and take a good look back at myself. The asanas I seem to love are the ones that are strong and slow. They allowed me time to feel, be quiet, breathe through them and become aware of any rising emotions. Now as an instructor it’s quite interesting to see whether pidgeon pose creates a little upset in the class, or whether heart openers bring emotions to the front. It’s ok if you feel stuff rising up, yoga is great for that in the sense that it teaches you to sit with it. At the same time yoga can STILL be the relaxing calming end to a full on stressful day. As per these references in the Sunday Body and Soul liftout that indicate yoga is gaining so much more traction as being more than just a form of movement. In fact, I’d prefer to not lump it into the ‘exercise’ category as it’s so much more. It becomes a way of life for the true lover of yoga.
2. The fascial release of Yoga
Just as we come face to face with our emotions, we also learn where in the body they seem to live. The fascia is that fascinating collagen loaded network of mesh, sinew and tissue that winds its way around muscle, tendons and joints. It sits under our skin and weaves its way throughout our entire body. It’s a somewhat underestimated powerful part of the body that has recently come into the spotlight and is being studied by doctors, exercise physiologists, stretch therapists and yogis alike. As our fascia runs directly in line with our meridians, as far as chinese medicine is concerned, work the fascia and we work corresponding organs while releasing hidden emotions. Google fascia, emotions and held in pain and any number of articles will come up. This one is an example – great info.
3. Improve bone health with Yoga
We’ve heard it many times before ‘if you’re worried about bone density, get into some resistance training or weight lifting’. I love yoga because I’ve noticed not only myself but with my clients, their balance has improved no end, their posture is totally changing, they’re looking stronger and standing taller. I personally feel stronger all over and I know I can use my whole body weight in resistance style asanas rather than lift heavy weights in the gym. It’s a great feeling to master a mean ‘chaturanga’ – the all over brilliant body shaper and bone saver.
4. Yoga improves sleep
There’s nothing more annoying than a busy brain in a tired but wired body that’s trying hard to sleep at night. Besides working muscles to tire them in an evening yoga session, being able to quiet the mind so you can sleep is crucial. Especially for the menopausal body. We deal with hot flushes, night sweats and poor sleep on a regular basis but when you can tire the body out enough to fall into bed and sleep, it’s pure bliss. Sunday’s paper had a good little article about yoga and sleep. They suggest restorative yoga, which is great for bringing down a worn out wrung out body. For the uninitiated ‘restorative yoga’ is crucial for a stressed body. It requires the use of bolsters, cushions, blankets, straps and blocks all placed strategically around the body to place it into a deeply relaxing state. So if there’s a restorative class in your neighbourhood, go and try one. But sometimes your body needs some musculature work. See the points above – the fascia holds emotion. So the thing that can release pent up feelings in the fascia is to stretch it out and apply some resistance for release. I love Bob Cooley’s work about ‘The Genius of Flexibility’ – he goes into incredible detail about stretching the fascia for all kinds of health benefits.
5. Yoga for the 50+
What can I say? Best thing I ever found. The 50+ body can be a culmination of lots of symptoms. We can carry a mixture of any number conditions in varying levels of severity from adrenal fatigue, osteoporosis, liver and thyroid issues, tension, anxiety, mysterious weight gain, sore joints, back ache, sore knees, oedema and circulatory issues. The 50+ body is a magnificent culmination of life’s traumas, tensions, stresses and celebrations and a simple pounding at the gym isn’t always the answer. The 40+ woman is noticing her body is changing. She may be noticing she’s heading into her menopausal years and the same workout that served her well in her 20s and 30s simply isn’t doing the same for her body now. The 50+ woman may be well in the throws of menopausal issues and even the thought of going for a walk in the heat scares her, let alone dealing with a gym workout. The 60+ woman may be dealing with changing bone density, deeper fatigue and a sense of ‘I’m too old for this kind of exercise’. This is where YOGA comes in for the entire age spectrum from 40 to 90. Yoga will give you the resistance, balance, flexibility, meditation, calming of the nervous system and an understanding of your own body. It will help the 40+ and beyond body to tone, shape, work the fascia, give you back that agility, flexibility and elegance and ease of movement that we desperately want as we age.
There’s absolutely no reason why the ageing body should simply accept sliding into a painful, stiffer, movement restricted old age.
With Yoga and Stretch Therapy we can certainly maintain a level of bone health and strength to support this magnificent body,
the only one we’ll ever own, all the way into our very late years.
Check out the photo above. From top, me at 57, Vicki at 53 and Annette at 60++.
We’re all mastering an elbow plank, not an easy feat for a 60++ body.
But all of us can feel the benefits, the strength that’s improving throughout our body, our posture and our agility are all improving.
Would you like to experience one of my Yoga for the 50+ classes? Or would you like to enrol in our next ‘Roll Back the Odometer’ class?
Is the thought of Yoga possibly too daunting for you? Maybe you’ve never tried it before and are a little uncertain? Maybe you’d prefer my Stretch class. My stretch class is a gentle but deep introductory form of yoga based stretches that isn’t quite a full yoga class. You’ll feel a complete release of tension from the entire body and walk out feeling looser, freer and lighter.
Click up onto my ‘Yoga and Stretch’ page right here for details about my classes. Or simply send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to find out more.
Would you like more information about our next ‘Roll Back Your Odometer’ Program? If so, click here. Our current 8 week program is nearly complete, but we’re about to kick off the next. Want to be involved? Make sure you email me.