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Yoga Benefits for Men and Women Over 40 (And How to Get Started Now)

Yoga Benefits for Men and Women Over 40 (And How to Get Started Now)

It’s never too late. Whether you’ve hit middle age or your golden years, the benefits of exercise are profound.

But as we age, not all exercises offer the same benefits. High impact training like weightlifting and running can hurt our joints. The challenge then becomes to find an activity that we enjoy and that can improve our overall health, with minimal risk.

Yoga offers just such an opportunity. More and more research has shown that yoga is an excellent total body exercise for your body and your mind.

In this article, I’m going to quickly show you the yoga benefits, whether you’re in your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s or 80’s. Then we’re going to show you how you can get started quickly and easily.

Amazing yoga benefits for men and women over 40

Here I’ll cover 6 benefits of practicing yoga:

1. Yoga improves strength

You don’t often associate Yoga with strength training. But you don’t have to look like a Mr. Olympia, nor do you have to train like one, to get the benefits of strength training.

Yoga uses many weight bearing exercises[1] like the plank, eagle (single legged squat) and the warrior pose which can create a burn with the best of them and improve muscles in your legs, core and shoulders for a great, low impact, total body workout. In fact, two of the five best exercises recommended for strength and balance are yoga poses![2]

2. Yoga increases flexibility

As we age, our muscles and joints get tighter and less flexible. We don’t need a scientific study to prove it. Just trying to tie our show laces, scratch our back or put on our socks is research enough.

Yoga offers a series of stretches for our legs, hips, shoulders, hands and back that have proven to improve muscle flexibility and joint range of movement. In fact, yoga has even been shown to reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis.[3]

3. Yoga benefits balance

Whether it’s biking, gardening or hiking, maintaining balance is critical to being able to continue doing the activities we loved to do safely well into our adult life. It also helps us avoid dangerous falls.

Try a one legged tree pose, or a headstand and you’ll get a sense for how good yoga is for your balance.

4. Yoga is good for your heart

Studies show that yoga can possibly lower your heart rate, eases palpitations, improves symptoms of heart failure, improves blood pressure and lowers hypertension when you combine postures, breathing and meditation in your yoga practice.[4]

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Yoga is shown to have similar benefits as brisk walking or other similar cardio exercises.

5. Yoga is good for your bones

People in their 50’s and beyond face the challenge of lower bone density, which could, if left unchallenged lead to osteoporosis. The weight bearing nature of yoga exercise has consistently proven to benefit bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis in those over 50 years old – especially women. In fact, one study showed that doing just 12 minutes of yoga a day can reverse osteoporotic bone loss.[5]

6. Yoga reduces anxiety and sharpens the mind

Yoga was traditionally done as a preparatory exercise for meditation. It’s emphasis on breathing and focus on the task at hand have been proven to have benefits for the mind.[6]

Yoga has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, improve sleep, and enhance overall well-being. Give savasana a try and you’ll instantly see what I’m talking about:

How to get started

Starting yoga is easy! Nearly 10% of Americans, of all ages, currently do yoga, so you’re not alone.

I’d recommend you start out by taking a beginners yoga class with a qualified instructor. This will give you the opportunity to learn how to do each yoga pose with proper form, which is essential to get the maximum benefit from each pose and to avoid injury.

You should also take a yoga class that includes the full gamut of techniques like poses, breathing and meditation. Doing so will ensure that you maximize the physical, cardiovascular and mental benefits of yoga.

If you have any preexisting conditions like a sore back, arthritis, torn rotator cuff, ACL or MCL sprains etc, it’s important to tell your instructor in advance. A good instructor will be able to amend poses for you to avoid unnecessary or dangerous strain to affected areas that might aggravate your injury.

Where to do yoga

Yoga classes are available almost everywhere, from your local health clubs and gyms to YMCA’s, community and senior centers. You can also find stand alone yoga studio’s.

Sessions cost anywhere from $15-$20 at yoga studios. You might want to buy individual sessions at first to see if you like your instructor before committing to multiple sessions to get a volume discount.

If you’d prefer to be in a private setting, you can also get a private instructor to come to your house.

What type of yoga is best for you?

There are several types of yoga to choose from. We’d definitely recommend you do a yoga practice that includes poses, breathing and meditation, as opposed to a fitness session that includes some yoga poses.

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Hatha Yoga

    Best for beginners because of slow pace and introduction to basic techniques.

    Hatha yoga simply refers to all styles of yoga that are grounded in physical practice. A Hatha class generally teaches the basic physical poses. Hatha yoga classes are good if you’re starting out because they offer a classic approach to breathing and poses and typically go at a slower pace than some of the other styles. If a class calls itself hatha, it’s generally intended for beginners.[7]

    Bikram Yoga

      Best for beginners, people who want a sweat or those who like a set routine because of Bikram’s predictable routine.

      Bikram yoga is hot! The yoga studio is set to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity.

      Invented by Bikram Choudhury about 30 years ago, Bikram yoga includes a series of 26 poses, with each one done twice per session. The heat is supposed to increase flexibility and suppleness.

      Bikram is one of the most popular types of yoga around, so its pretty easy to find. Just make sure you can stand the heat and stay hydrated!

      Ashtanga Yoga

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        Best for those looking for a more rigorous workout and a predictable routine and sequence of exercises.

        Ashtanga is rooted on ancient yoga. It’s a more defined and difficult style of yoga that has a set sequences of poses, where each movement is tied to a breath.[8]

        Ashtanga always performs the same poses, in the exact same sequence. It was popularized in the West by K. Pattabhi Jois in the 1970’s.

        Vinyasa Yoga

          Best for those looking for a high intensity workout because of its faster pace, of flowing from one movement into another.

          Vinyasa is a very fluid style of yoga, and probably the most athletic.[9]

          A variation of Ashtanga, Vinyasa coordinates movement with breath and you typically flow from one movement into the next, not staying n one pose for very long. It’s different from Ashtanga, in that there is no set sequence of movements.

          Iyengar Yoga

            Best for those with injuries and those obsessed with form and getting their poses right.

            Iyengar yoga is not afraid to use props, blocks, straps, walls and blankets to help you hit the perfect form with precision detail. The biggest difference between Iyengar and Vinyasa is that while there is no set sequence, each pose is held for a set period of time.[10]

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            Yoga equipment

            One of the great things about yoga is that you actually don’t need any equipment or special clothing.

            All you need are clothes that are either loose fitting or stretchy enough to allow you to do any of the poses without restriction.

            You may want a mat of your own eventually, but if you’re just getting started, often times studios provide one for you. Straps and pillows, if used, are also typically provided by studios.

            Yoga frequency

            If you’re just starting out, some yoga instructors suggest doing it everyday for 10-25 minutes, so that you can start to train your muscle memory for each yoga pose.

            That might mean you got to 1-2 classes per week, to make sure your getting good instruction on how to perform each pose properly, but then doing 10-25 minutes a day at home when you’re not going to the yoga class.

            As referenced earlier in this article, one study showed that doing just 12 minutes of yoga a day can reverse the effects of bone density loss.

            Then again, many instructors will tell you that doing just 1 class a week will have benefits to your health and state of mind.

            Summing it up

            Yoga is one of the fastest growing activities in the United States, with people of all ages enjoying its benefits to the health of your body and mind.

            A relatively low impact exercise, regularly practicing yoga, even for short periods of time, will improve your strength, balance, flexibility, cardiovascular health and your mind.

            With so much to gain and so little to lose, give it a try and see how it makes you feel!

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

            Reference

            More by this author

            Marc Felgar

            Marc Felgar is an aging, health & senior care expert focused on improving the lives of mature adults.

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            Last Updated on July 23, 2019

            5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

            5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

            In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

            Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

            How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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            • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
            • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
            • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
            • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
            • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
            • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

            When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

            1. Realize You’re Not Alone

            Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

            2. Find What Inspires You

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            Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

            On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

            3. Give Yourself a Break

            When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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            Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

            4. Shake up Your Routines

            Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

            Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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            When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

            5. Start with a Small Step

            Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

            Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

            More to Help You Stay Motivated

            Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

            Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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