Yoga can teach you gentle postures to help improve your balance and reduce yoru risk of a fall at any age. Yoga can be done by anyone at any fitness level and many of the balancing postures can be done while holding onto a chair or counter for support. Yoga is not just for the young or flexible!
Why Worry About Your Balance?
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults over the age of sixty five fall each year. In the year 2000 over nineteen billion dollars was spent on treating injuries resulting from a fall. Falls are one of the biggest reasons older adults lose their independence. Falls can result in broken bones, head injuries, and injury to internal organs. They can decrease a person's ability to move around, leaving them unable to care for themselves. The good news is that there are exercises and yoga postures that will improve your balance and reduce your risk for a fall.
You Are Never Too Old To Start
Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that a lack of balance and the resulting falls are an unavoidable part of getting older. Age does cause changes to both the eyes and ears, which can cause your balance to be off. In addition, as we age we are more likely to be taking medications that can cause dizziness or lightheadedness. However, a common reason many people fall is due to muscle weakness. As life becomes more sedentary, our muscles become weaker and tighter. Here, the old saying "move it or lose it" really applies. Adults can lose up to ten percent of total muscle strength each year between the ages of fifty and ninety. As your muscles weaken they are less able to help you maintain balance and to stop you if you start to fall. If you allow your muscles to become tight and inflexible you will find it harder to reach and bend and do everyday activities. The harder these activities are to do the more likely you are to get out of balance and fall. The good news is that muscle strength and flexibility can improve at any age and at any fitness level. I have had students well into their nineties who start an exercise program and improve their strength, range of motion and their balance.
Yoga Increases Body Awareness
Yoga teaches many techniques that can help you to reduce your risk of a fall. The heart of yoga is about teaching the student to be mindful about how the body is responding to the movement. When practicing yoga, the student is encouraged to be one hundred percent present in the moment and aware of sensations happening in the body and mind. While holding a posture your body may sway and have to work to maintain balance. With practice, you will learn to make adjustments and shift your weight in order to maintain balance. As you learn to do this in your yoga practice, you can learn to translate that knowledge into everyday life. Many times falls happen as we are rushing around to do everyday activities. As you learn to maintain your balance in yoga, you will learn to notice when you are out of balance during the day and make the necessary adjustments.
Yoga Improves Muscle Strength and Joint Range of Motion
As mentioned above, you may find your body swaying to maintain the yoga posture and your balance. As you continue to work to hold the posture, your reflexes and muscles get stronger and better. Many standing yoga postures also require you to be in a slight squat or lunge position which helps to strengthen the muscles in the legs. In addition, yoga teaches very slow and gentle stretching for the entire body. This will help you to increase the range of motion in all of your joints. As your flexibility improves, everyday tasks such as grooming, getting in and out of the shower and reaching items in high and low places becomes easier. The less you have to struggle during everyday tasks, the less likely you are to lose your balance and fall.
Try Several Classes
Yoga classes can vary greatly from studio to studio and from teacher to teacher. There are hundreds of styles of yoga. Some are quite vigorous and others are very gentle. Some are more physically active and focus on postures and others teach more meditation techniques. It is important to try several classes with different teachers to find the right fit for you and your beliefs.
For more information visit:
Centers For Disease Control
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
National Institute of Health/Senior Health
Part two will cover some simple postures you can do to improve balance.
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Yoga to Improve Balance in Seniors
Yoga is no longer just for the young and felxible. It is now a common household term and there are studios and gyms teaching yoga in almost every town and city. While yoga can be very challenging it can also be very gentle. These articles will teach you some yoga basics to help improve your balance
- Using Yoga to Improve Balance in Seniors: Part I
- Using Yoga to Improve Balance in Seniors Part II