Yin Yoga for Seniors

Top benefits, tips, and countraindications

Yin Yoga Techniques for Seniors

Seniors can benefit a lot from the gentle and low-impact exercises of Yin Yoga. Learn about the benefits, techniques and precautions to take.

Introduction

Yin Yoga is a meditative and passive branch of yoga. However it is not a very easy practice since it involves staying in specific asanas (poses) for at least 3 mins.

Nonetheless it’s great for seniors because it doesn’t require constantly moving up and down the mat.

Why Yin Yoga for Seniors?

Though Yin Yoga is beneficial for people of all age groups but seniors are perhaps the ones that stand to gain the most from this practice.

Benefits of Yin Yoga for Seniors

Let’s look at some of the notable benefits of Yin Yoga for seniors.

Relieves Pain

As you age your joints become stiff, and your muscles tend to become tight. That’s because due to aging the body produces less of synovial, a lubrication fluid in our body.

With lesser lubrication the joints become rough and invariably start rubbing against each other, causing pain and discomfort. In due course of time the cartilage in the joints wears down, inturn aggravating the pain.

By practicing Yin Yoga, seniors can help relieve pain in their joints and muscles. Yin Yoga puts gentle and sustained pressure on the connective tissues, particularly the fascia. This increases the production of synovial fluid thereby alleviating the pain in the joints.

Improves Your Balance

While aging one can lose the sensory elements and the ability to issue motor commands to the body. When this happens, you may lose your balance and stability in certain situations such as going down the stairs or even balancing on one foot.

Besides this balancing gets more challenging as you age because your muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments get weaker. Putting the optimum amount of pressure on these parts by practising yoga postures increases their endurance and strength.

Furthermore the deep breathing in Yin Yoga and other yoga styles, helps you focus on the present moment and disengage from distracting thoughts. Hence you train yourself to be more alert in situations where you need to effectively balance your body.

Improves Your Memory

Memory loss is a common sign of aging. It can happen because of three main reasons:

  1. Deterioration of the Hippocampus, which is the region in the brain that builds and retrieves memories.
  2. Lower production of Protein and Hormones that stimulate your neural growth.
  3. Decrease in blood flow to your brain.

Yin Yoga can help seniors improve their memory. According to a study, yoga can help improve memory better than brain training. The researchers though are yet to ascertain how Yoga does it. But they do believe it stimulates the growing connections among neurons by producing more of the protein called brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor.

Another study also states that Yin Yoga and other yoga styles positively impact the brain parts responsible for processing information and memory. In addition the stress-relieving effects of yoga help the brain to function with greater clarity.

Yin Yoga for Seniors

Boosts Your Mood

Depression is common in seniors. It affects almost 6 million Americans aged 65 and up. Yin Yoga or infact any yoga style has been proven to be beneficial to seniors.

Yet another study by researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) shows that yoga is better than other forms of exercise in regulating mood as it increases levels of GABA in the body. Low levels of GABA as such are linked to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Improves Your Sleep

Sleep difficulty is another major problem faced by oldies though they need the same amount of sleep as their younger counterparts. Unfortunately aging turns them to light sleepers, resulting in an increased risk of depression, infection, and undue mood swings, among others.

The focus on meditation in Yin Yoga is known to help seniors sleep better. Meditation increases melatonin concentration, the hormone responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. The breathing exercises in various styles of yoga also stimulates relaxation, which helps induce sleep.

Contraindications

Yin Yoga is a somewhat gentle practice compared to other Yoga styles such as Vinyasa and Ashtanga. But still it has its share of risks which one should be proactively aware of.

If you are a Senior who wishes to start practicing Yin Yoga to enjoy its benefits, it’s good to first learn about the precautions you need to take to reduce the risk of injury.

Those with Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis affects 54% of adults in America from ages 50 and above. It’s a common illness among seniors because bones tend to deteriorate as you age.

People especially seniors with Osteoporosis, should take precautions while practicing Yin Yoga since many of its postures are performed with spinal flexion.

While spinal flexion is not dangerous, still advisable to consult your doctor first and not unreasonably push yourself. Ofcourse inform your Yin Yoga teacher of your condition beforehand so he/she can assist you appropriately.

Those Who Just Came Out of Surgery

Those who’ve just come out of surgery (including seniors), can continue to practice Yin yoga. However be sure to consult your doctor before going to class. Also be sure to ask your yoga teacher if you can practice because he/she won’t know your medical record unless you tell.

Those with Serious Health Concerns

Yin yoga is great for seniors. But if you have rather serious health conditions, consult your doctor first. If your doctor advises you to avoid it, please take his advice seriously.

No Food Intake 2 Hours Before the Class

It is advisable not to eat anything for at least two hours before a Yin yoga class. It’s somewhat hard to get into a forward fold for three to five mins on a full stomach.

Avoid Practicing If You Have Been Sunbathing

Prolonged sun exposure can deplete the body’s liquids. If you have been sunbathing, it’s best to let the body recover before practicing yoga.

Technique and Tips

Seniors are more prone to injury compared to young adults. So when practicing Yin yoga, take the following tips seriously.

Props Are Your Friends

There is no shame in using props. Use the props you need to relax doing Yin yoga.

If you have difficulty bending down to the floor or standing up, use chair, table, or wall for support.

Never Rush Yourself

When coming in and out of a yoga pose, never rush. Practice each pose gradually. Doing this gives your connective tissues time to absorb the pressure. They will become more flexible as you stretch them which is what is desired.

When coming out of a pose, do it gently again. In Yin yoga, this is the time to rebound and come to Savasana (Corpse Pose). This time allows your body and mind to absorb the effects of the posture before transitioning to the next one. It also helps you avoid feeling dizzy.

Don’t Fight the Pose

Rest into the pose. At first you may find it challenging to let go or may even be tempted to resist. But rightfully allow your body to come down when there’s enough space and rest in the posture.

Don’t fight it nor force it.

Bottom line

Yin yoga can certainly help seniors regain their flexibility and balance and help them better manage their day-to-day chores. It also helps keep mental health problems at bay, and increases the overall sense of well-being. Seniors are known to have a better quality of life, one asana at a time. Join our Online Yin Yoga Teacher Training Course to start your journey today. Join the thousands who already have and are enjoying a healthier lifestyle everyday.

6 sources
  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10499055/
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response
  3. https://www.livescience.com/54696-yoga-may-improve-memory-better-than-brain-training.html
  4. https://content.iospress.com/articles/brain-plasticity/bpl190084
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819112124.htm#:~:text=Summary%3A,GABA%20levels%20and%20decreased%20anxiety.
  6. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/gaba-uses-and-risks
Shalini Menon
Shalini has a Diploma in Yogic Education from Yoga Vidya Niketan in Mumbai. She taught for some time and instilled an abiding love for yoga in many, including her family members. Her younger daughter also graduated as a teacher from the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram in Kerala and taught in Sydney, while her elder daughter went on to learn pilates.

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