Want to learn about a hot new exercise trend that’s been around for more than 5,000 years? Yoga is one of the fastest growing fitness movements in the U.S., with more than 10 million people practicing it. The boomer population is growing fast as well, bringing with it a passion for maintaining active, high-quality lives. One proven way to achieve this is to be physically fit. As we age, stiffness and spine compression set in. We begin losing joint mobility as well as muscle and bone mass.
The Top 5 Yoga Styles are powerful weapons to have in your arsenal to battle the effects of aging. Studies show yoga practitioners experience greater flexibility and strength, increased bone density, better circulation, improved balance and more energy. They see a reduction in arthritis symptoms, chronic pain, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, insomnia and stress. And don’t forget weight loss!
That’s a whole lot of benefit!
Senior yoga classes are cropping up everywhere. But from Iyengar to Viniyoga, it can be overwhelming trying to choose which style is best for you. Here are the Top 5 Yoga Styles for boomers. (And not one of them requires you to put your feet behind your head!)
Background: Pronounced HAT-HA (as opposed to HATH-A), this original yoga form was introduced by Yogi Swatmarama in the 15th century.
What You Do: Hatha is considered the foundation of all yoga styles. Sessions usually begin by sitting quietly to establish a calm, relaxed frame of mind. The series of yoga postures (asanas) are performed at a slow, gentle pace with a focus on regulated breathing.
Baby Boomer Benefits: Hatha is great for stress management, developing muscle and increasing flexibility. Its relaxed tempo makes it an ideal form for beginners who want to learn basic yoga poses. It’s important not to overdo the stretches when you’re first starting out. Just take it easy and enjoy.
Background: Founder B.K.S. Iyengar suffered from tuberculosis and created this yoga style in 1936 to improve his health.
What You Do: Using props such as blocks, belts, soft bolsters, and incline boards, Iyengar reduces stress on muscles and joints while methodically working every part of your body. Moving slowly and focusing on breathing, Iyengar emphasizes correct alignment and the accuracy of each pose.
Baby Boomer Benefits: This yoga form is terrific for building strength and improving balance. Iyengar’s props and focus on proper alignment make it a good form to practice if you’re suffering from back pain or chronic arthritis, or recovering from an injury.
Background: Viniyoga was developed by T. Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of yoga. This technique takes the specific situation of each student into account.
What You Do: Viniyoga uses proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), which in regular language means a focus on warming up and contracting each muscle before stretching it. Teachers usually work one-on-one with students, tailoring poses to a student’s needs and limitations.
Baby Boomer Benefits: Because of the emphasis on warming up, there’s less chance of injury. In fact, Viniyoga is often used therapeutically; those suffering from lower back pain find it especially beneficial. The long, deep stretches of this yoga style develop flexibility and promote relaxation.
Background: Aqua Yoga is a hybrid form. Basically, you take Hatha yoga poses and add water.
What You Do: Perform yoga movements while standing in chest-deep warm water. This style is super low impact and gentle. The buoyancy of the water reduces stress on joints and connective tissues, plus the water’s warmth allows for greater range of motion and deeper stretches.
Baby Boomer Benefits: Aqua Yoga develops strength and balance, while simultaneously reducing stiffness and guarding against injuries. The water pressure against the chest wall creates natural resistance, improving lung capacity as well. Aqua Yoga is a wonderful exercise choice for those dealing with arthritis, hip or knee replacements.
Background: Laughter Yoga was founded in India in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria as a result of his efforts to use laughter as a form of medicine.
What You Do: Laughter Yoga combines yoga breathing techniques with laughter exercises. No flexibility required! You don’t even need jokes or a natural comedic sense to try it. Always done in a group, there’s no talking (only laughing!) during sessions, except by the instructor.
Baby Boomer Benefits: Research shows that hearty laughter offers loads of physical and psychological benefits. Aside from standard yoga rewards, Laughter Yoga helps improve cardiovascular health, tone abdominal and back muscles, and generates an energy boost similar to that of an aerobic workout.
No more excuses! You’ve got nothing to lose and loads to gain by trying yoga. Decide which of these Top 5 Yoga Styles will work for you!
As yoga teacher and author Suza Francina states on the back cover of her book, The New Yoga for People Over 50, “You’re never too old to do yoga.”
Have you ever considered trying yoga? Or do you participate in a different yoga style from those listed above? If so, what health benefits have you experienced from it?
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