If You Are Only as Old as You Feel, How Old Are You?
A simple checklist by a geriatrician in evaluating your biological age, asks three questions:
How flexible are you?
How good is your balance?
How strong are your muscles and core? As our chronological age grows, we slowly lose all three of these capabilities. How much we lose and at what age has much to do with our lifestyle. You may have heard that Yoga can help stave off these losses, but there are so many Yoga styles. Which one can be most effective?
A brief history of traditional hot yoga a.k.a. Bikram-Style Yoga
Bikram Choudhury traveled to the U.S. from India in the early 1970's and brought with him a Hatha Yoga practice that would revolutionize Yoga in this country. A sequence of 26 Hatha Yoga postures with two breathing exercises. The sequence was devised for beginners and was designed to work every muscle and joint in the body in a standard, 90-minute session. Since then, thousands of teachers have been trained in this method across the globe, and millions of students have changed their bodies minds and health, practicing with these certified teachers. It's a practice you can start from any level of health and tap into radical health benefits. We say "never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again." That quote is especially relevant for seniors, who need a safe way to improve and retain their strength, flexibility and balance. We believe there is no better exercise or Yoga practice to support the health of those over 60 years of age. Boulder's Bikram Yoga studio was the first hot yoga studio opened in Colorado and is led by 70-year-old Radha Garcia, who is living proof of the value of the practice for seniors.
What Benefits Are There for Seniors? Traditional hot Yoga and the warm room are especially suited to seniors. The benefits of a regular practice are almost too many to list here. We suggest that you trust no one but yourself. Try the practice for four weeks, and we assure you that you will be convinced of all of these benefits.
A Regular Practice Can Heal You. Honestly. Stiff and aching joints, back pain, neck pain and other ailments common to seniors show marked improvements from the practice. The poses carefully work through every joint and muscle in your body. The Hatha method of contracting and holding the muscles and then releasing sends fresh blood flow and synovial fluids to the joints while strengthening all the supporting muscles around joints. Lymphatic fluids throughout the body are circulated by the postures. Internal organs are massaged.
Build Core Strength and Muscle Strength. A regular practice helps build muscle throughout the body, and especially in muscles supporting joints. The Spine Series of poses, in particular, work on strengthening the supporting muscles up and down the spine, relieving pressure and reducing pain.
Improved Flexibility. Yoga practice in general is known to improve flexibility in joints and tendons. The Bikram practice works on all joints in the body safely and the warmer temperatures facilitate safely stretching further.
Improved Balance. A series of the poses focus on balancing. In those poses, supporting muscles are strengthened and the body adjusts to balancing. Most students see a marked improvement in their balance over time, protecting them from dangerous falls.
Improved Mind-Body. The traditional hot Yoga is actually a moving meditation. Once a student is familiar with the set 26 postures, the mind is able to relax while the body goes through the familiar poses. The practice becomes familiar and comfortable
Body Cleansing and Flushing. Of course, you will sweat in the heated room. And that's a good thing. Sweating helps to flush glands and skin pores. Compression of the lymphatic glands moves and replenishes fluids.
Hot Yoga and Seniors What is it about the Bikram style of Yoga that makes it suitable and desirable for seniors? Radha shares these insights.
Safety. The Bikram sequence is specifically designed to be safe for Yoga novices. The 26 postures were selected because they can each be done to some extent by anyone, and are the least likely to cause an injury. There are no head stands. No arm balances. No poses that can injure a student when they are followed as directed.
Heat is Good. Bikram-style Yoga is normally taught in a hot room. The heat helps to loosen tight joints and muscles and facilitates practice of the postures while minimizing risk to the joints. Students sweat in the heat and that sweat helps clear toxins from the skin and glands. No student is ever pressured to continue a session if the heat is a problem. A short rest in the savasana pose is usually all that is needed to stay in the class.
The Sequence. The postures in Bikram-style beginner's Yoga are always the same. The sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises was carefully designed to carefully warm up the body and then progress through all the muscle groups and joints. Each pose has many levels of achievement so that everyone can benefit from each pose based on their progress. Each successive pose builds off the previous pose to progress and keep the student safe. Think about that - a sequence of ancient Yoga poses, practiced for thousands of years, that has been so carefully tuned, that it is never varied anywhere in thousands of Bikram studios!
Are There Special Classes for Seniors?
Beginners are welcome in all classes, But on Tuesdays at 12:15 we have a special class called "easy street," that emphasizes easing seniors into the hot room. Boulder Bikram Yoga is offering a special 60-minute session in a warm room rather than hot room. The classes are only for seniors, and offer and opportunity to sample the practice with other Yoga newcomers. Studio owner Radha Garcia teaches these sessions with an emphasis on creating a welcoming and safe environment for seniors. are you coming in for hot yoga for seniors? leave us your comments below...
Peace and love, BBY