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More over 50s are practising yoga now more than ever. In fact, us Brits are now spending £790 million per year on yoga classes alone and with a list of health benefits as long as your arm (or outstretched leg), it’s not hard to understand why practising yoga over 50 is so popular. What’s more, size really doesn’t matter when it comes to yoga (not that it ever should), with a surge in women of all shapes taking part in classes.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Research has shown that yoga and meditation alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle can rapidly reduce the fraying of telomeres – the part of our DNA that affects ageing. In other words… yoga could be our secret anti-ageing hero!
A telomere is a cap at the end of our DNA that protects our chromosomes and as we age it slowly starts to fray and shorten. External factors such as smoking, stress or a poor diet can increase the pace of which these telomeres shorten.
Scientist Elizabeth Blackburn has reported that 4-6 months of practising yoga can affect enzyme activity on our telemones – increasing it by 30 percent and reducing the rate of decay. Regular yoga will not only make us feel younger but give us a youthful glow too – with its scientific anti-ageing properties.
There’s also the more commonly-known benefits of increased flexibility, improved muscle tone and increased strength. If you’re injured or suffer from stiffness, yoga really comes into its own: unlike many forms of exercise, it’s very low-impact and, as a result, extremely kind on bones and joints.
So, want a slice of yoga over 50’s benefits for yourself? Here are our top tips for getting started – whatever your age or size.
1: Choose a class that fits your needs
First, find the type of yoga that’s right for you. If you want to use yoga as a way to relax, unwind and de-stress, try the Yin or Hatha disciplines. In these classes, you’ll hold poses for longer periods and focus on breathing techniques, making it perfect if you’re injured or have stiff joints, too. Looking for something a bit more lively to help you lose weight? Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga classes incorporate dynamic movement sequences (the “flow”) which get your heart pumping and add a cardio-based exercise element. If you’re a complete novice, book a session that’s specifically for beginners to learn the basics and get advice and attention from a teacher.
2: Try simple yoga poses at home
Not ready for a class just yet? Try an online video and get started in the comfort and privacy of your own home. YouTube is bursting with tutorials for every style and level of yoga imaginable. Yoga with Adrienne is a brilliant YouTube yoga channel for beginners – try her Foundations of Yoga videos to get the basics under your belt. But, be sure to head to a class as soon as possible: nothing beats having a teacher there to correct you in person.
3: Begin your day with a yoga meditation
Fitting in a yoga breathing sequence before your first mouthful of morning coffee is a brilliant way to clear your mind for the day ahead. Try sitting cross-legged with your hands in the prayer postition, close your eyes, and breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on your breathing – if your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to concentrating on the flow of your breath.
4: Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in
While yoga classes might conjur up images of bendy 20-somethings in minimal lycra, traditional sports kit isn’t necessarily the right thing to wear. Choose a soft top that allows for plenty of movement, trousers or leggings with plenty of stretch, and avoid dangly tassels or ties that might get in the way – and take your socks off! But, the most important dress-code of all is to wear whatever you feel most comfortable in.
5: Pause when you need to
Any yoga teacher worth their downward dog will remind you that you don’t “do” yoga – you practise it. Yoga isn’t something that can be “won”, and certainly isn’t a competition. So, if you’re mid-way through a class and finding it too much, don’t be afraid to stop. In fact, pausing and moving into child’s pose (sitting down on your knees with your forehead on the ground) is encouraged by yoga teachers.
6: Stay for the savasana
Ever wondered why yoga classes are often one hour and fifteen minutes? The final quarter-of-an-hour is devoted to your savasana. In savasana, your teacher will ask you to lie on your back, close your eyes, and focus on your breathe – sometimes they’ll even play relaxing music or tell ancient yoga stories. Some people leave before the savasana, but for many it’s the most rewarding and revitalising part of a yoga practise. Stay, unwind, relax, and we guarantee you’ll leave feeling amazingly calm.
7: Be consistent
As is always the way with exercise, you need to keep it up regularly to really reap the benefits. Even just one hour a week can have an amazing effect on your body. But, the more you practise, the more you’ll improve your mental and physical health: aim to consistently keep up two hours of yoga a week.