Yoga After 50 For Dummies
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Anyone who thinks that Yoga is just about poses, about being especially mobile or flexible, is really ignoring what some people would argue is the most important part of the practice. Yoga is a philosophy of life — and, as such, offers a lot of important insights on ways to find more joy in life and reduce suffering.

Of course, you can get a multitude of health benefits (especially if you're over the age of 50) from a regular practice, but just as many off-the-mat practices can enrich your life and relationships in many important ways.

Take Your Vitamin G

Because there is a direct link between the mind and the body — between what you think and how you physically feel — finding a place of gratitude will bring that positive energy right from your thoughts into your cells.

Create a gratitude journal where you can record, on a daily basis, the things for which you’re most grateful. I believe gratitude is a powerful practice and so I put it at the top of my off-the-mat tips.

Eat Well

Your Yoga teacher, and often times even your doctor, may not have the specialized training to adequately assess your diet. Yet what and how much you eat is certainly related to your overall health. While Yoga traditionally suggests you probably need to eat less as you get older, exactly what your diet should look like must be determined by a true expert.

If there’s one thing that Yoga teaches, it’s that we are all individuals, with individual needs. Instead of a Yoga teacher telling you to not eat this or eat more of that, considering letting a health professional be your guide.

Find a Cardio Workout You Like

yoga plus cardio ©Kzenon/

Clearly, certain types of Yoga are more physically demanding than others and probably get your heart rate up more, such as a physical flow practice or a typical power Yoga class. But if you’re not in those sessions, it’s important to get your heartrate up, to exercise your heart muscles, so consider another type of cardio exercise, like walking, swimming, or biking. In most cases, Yoga is going to have the opposite effect by bringing your heartrate down.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Getting the proper amount of sleep is critical. You should address any sleeping issues you have and explore the tools that Yoga has to offer that may help. Sometimes a Yoga routine itself will help make you tired. Or, you may also choose to try a routine that employs the concept of Yoga sleep or Yoga Nidra. If you don’t get enough sleep, it may be hard to meditate because you might keep nodding off during your practice.

Avoid the Blue Light before Bedtime

The original Yoga masters did not, of course, talk about blue light. But if they were living today, I’m sure they would. Blue light is a problem stemming from modern technology — from all electronic devices with screens — and it needs to be mentioned in a Yoga context because it works directly against the Yoga tools that fight insomnia or stress. You should cut down on the amount of time you’re exposing yourself to blue light or block it with special glasses or an app. And especially avoid using your electronic devices (even TV) before trying to sleep.

Communicate to Enhance Intimacy

Some Yoga masters would argue that goal of Yoga philosophy, in general, is to help improve personal relationships. As you come to know yourself better through Yoga, you can in turn be more empathetic and understanding of the people around you. That can be especially true with a life partner. Sharing your thoughts, desires, and fears can be extremely challenging. But such candor can break down walls and make what’s good even better.

Find Time to Meditate Off the Mat

Developing some kind of meditation is so important that I want to encourage you to develop a routine separate from your physical Yoga practice — off the mat, if you will. Maybe you’re going to find the time while sitting at your desk, walking the beach, sitting on the couch, or lying in bed. Try some different techniques and different locations. See what works.

Say Goodbye to Your Ego

Your ego can create a competition in your mind with the person on a nearby mat. Or even if you do Yoga alone, sometimes you try to prove something to yourself. In both of these cases, when you want to show how flexible you are, Yoga can ultimately lead to injury — and this is the danger of listening to your ego instead of your body. One of the benefits of being older is that we sometimes find it easier to let go of ego-driven concepts and expectations.

Invite Others to Join In

I try to avoid using a lot of Sanskrit or Yoga jargon, but I can’t help mentioning the term Sangha. Basically, it’s a term that means community, and I want to encourage you to bring people into your Yoga world or join people who are already there. There’s a lot of power to be found in connecting with others, and Yoga can be a means of achieving that. Even if it’s just doing Yoga together.

Start Today

You may have heard the saying, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself.” Well, it’s never too late, so start now.

And if it’s true that your body often reflects what’s going on in your mind, make sure there’s something good to draw upon — something celebratory.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Larry Payne, PhD, is the president of The International Association of Yoga Therapists. He founded Samata International Yoga and Health Center and is the author of Yoga After 50 For Dummies. Don Henry is a Yoga therapist who has been teaching Yoga for more than a decade. He is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America.

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