I’m sure everyone has seen images or even videos online of lean men and women aged well over 70 with their body contorted into a yoga pose, often with their legs are around their ears and while they make it look effortless, it’s quite clearly excruciating and leads to your first thought being, ’maybe that’s not for me…’
Actually, the benefits of beginning a regular yoga practice are vast and you really can start this journey at any age. You don’t need to venture out to a class either, it’s entirely possible to lay out your yoga matt and do a short practice in the comfort and warmth of your own home explains Ciara Jean Roberts, a naturopathic nutritionist and yoga teacher.
Ciara believes that for bone health and to bring general calm to the nervous system through the breath, yoga is hugely beneficial. Of course, you must always take into consideration your own personal level of fitness and your health profile, but yoga is in no way competitive – you should always work to your own ability and never strain.
One of the key requirements for good health as we age is bone density and one of the many physical benefits of yoga is that the physical practice provides weight bearing through the natural use of our own body, which is great news for the bones.
Ciara outlines some simple poses that will ease your body into practice.
Do the plank
A simple pose like plank pose is great for building healthy bones and can be built over time. Start from a ‘table top’ position, on all fours, and slowly lift the knees, align wrists under shoulders and breathe. Keep the facial expression relaxed to signal to the mind to remain calm. You can always modify this pose by lowering the knees to the floor whilst you build strength. If it is tough on your wrists, you can also come down onto your forearms.
Lie with your legs up against a wall
This is another very accessible pose for all to do in the comfort of your own home. As the name suggests, sweep both legs up the wall and allow the back to relax fully onto the ground. The arms can spread out for a shoulder opener or can rest in towards the body. Spend five to ten minutes here. This is a gentle way to invert the legs. It is also helpful for the prevention of varicose veins.
At any point during the movements, you can rest in ‘Balasana’, or child's pose by drawing the knees to the ground and sitting the hips back towards the heels, letting the forehead rest to the ground.
One common thread that binds us all is our absolute requirement to breathe. In yoga, as it is a journey towards oneness and union of mind and body, we begin to acknowledge our relationship with our own breath. By focusing on you can influence it, deepen it. A great way to calm the nervous system is to lie supine on the floor, rest the hands on the belly and simply observe the breath moving in and out of your body. Spend five to ten minutes like this checking in at the start and end and noting what changes there are to observe. Do you feel calmer, lighter, less anxious, more connected? Yoga is very much a feeling practice. It is not the pursuit of gymnastics; it is meeting yourself where you are at each time with honesty, courage and an open heart.
Another key input for health is to oxygenate the muscles and organs well and often. So this means breathing deeply as much as possible. This also means the more you check in with our breath, the more present you become and the more you build self-awareness. This centre focus means you are then less likely to be carried off with anxiety issues.
As your strength develops you will find that there are many yoga poses that are beneficial for cardiovascular health and in turn the circulatory system. If you want a more dynamic routine that creates heat by increasing the heart rate research or try and learn the Sun Salutation A. It does take time to build resilience so it is best to start slowly, I have been doing this for years and still find it challenging, but the important thing is to keep a connection with the breath so start slowly and build up, with the intention of moving towards one breath, and one movement which creates more of a vinyasa energy.
As with any yoga for health, it’s most important to listen to your body and rest when needed.
Ciara Jean Roberts is a naturopathic nutritionist and yoga teacher, find details of her classes and workshops at Wholly Aligned.
Janey Lee Grace is the author of Look Great Naturally without ditching the lipstick and runs the recommendations site Imperfectly Natural.Last modified: June 10, 2021