Yoga in Midlife
A yoga class means different to different people. To some it’s another exercise to lose those extra pounds. To some it’s way to get rid of stress and achieve peace of mind. For few women it is another way to socialize, meet likeminded people and to some it’s even time pass… A good yoga class probably gives everyone what they are looking for depending on the effort they put in. For those who have already experienced benefits of yoga in their youth, you can simply skip the article and continue your
practice. But for those mid-lifers who are not sure how safe or effective yoga can be, stay with till the end.
For me, my personal yoga practice, as well as the class I teach is a continuous journey of self-search. I went for my first “Free Yoga Class” when I was about 33 yrs., thinking there is nothing to lose, so let me try this. (I have a tremendous craze of anything that’s FREE! ) But the yoga guru there Shri Subhash Sir was so dedicated and selfless teacher, my complete perspective to yoga changed within first two sessions and it soon became the way of life. Yoga gave me the vision to look at myself with curiosity,
strength, love and confidence. I took yoga more seriously as I entered my mid-life, probably around same time when I felt need to start my journey within. With my experience since then I feel yoga is not just recommended but “must do” practice in your midlife. There are many physical and psychological benefits of yoga practice, I am just listing few here Yoga Helps Toning Muscles As we grow old, our bodies are deprived of calcium, making bones weaker. Especially women who give birth, their calcium levels go down during their 40s. When bones go weaker the muscle supporting the bone and especially the joints need to be stronger. However midlife also is a starting point for natural muscle loss, which accelerates around the age of 60-70. Yoga uses your own body weight and offers a strength training form which is safer and more enjoyable. Yoga also works on deeper tissue of the muscle when you hold poses for long duration, developing the entire muscle strength and not just make it look puffed. Yoga involves stretching of the muscle where the muscle fibers lengthen which helps muscle tissue to recover faster and better. Thus, yoga helps muscle toning and building in healthier manner.
According to a study done at University of Connecticut, “Higher protein intake, combined with routine yoga practice, should contribute to maintenance of muscle by offsetting muscle losses and enhancing the body's ability to build muscle at the same time." Yoga Aids Weight loss Midlife women always complain about weight gain even if they are not eating different than what they used to in their youth. The reason is metabolism which naturally starts to slow down. There are multiple
factors like perimenopause, stress, insufficient sleep etc. which further adds to this weight gain. The high impact gym workouts might scare you if you are not a regular cardio person. In some cases, even if you have done cardio in your youth, reduced body strength and low bone density might make it challenging after 40. Yoga is a low impact bodyweight workout, hence safer on many levels with less chances of injury. Vinyasa flow including more sun salutation based workouts can aid to faster weight
Yoga Improves Posture
Old age is going to put you through many challenges, learning to hold your head high (literally) from midlife might come in handy later. Specially with prolonged use of gadgets like smart phones, laptops there are chances to compromise on good posture. A good posture not only makes you looks good and confident, but it affects the efficiency of your breathing to a great level. Asana in yoga means posture. Almost every pose in yoga is adding to good posture. There is a saying “you are as flexible in life as your back”. Doing regular practice of yoga asanas will improve the health of your back and your posture.
Yoga Makes You Look good Yoga emphasizes on better and more efficient breathing, which improves blood circulation, thus making your inner and outer body healthier. Cleansing processes in yoga detoxifies the body making the skin look nourished. Gravity starts showing its power over body making skin saggy and adding wrinkles starting from midlife, you cannot completely avoid that. However, breathing exercises like Kapalbhati (which literally means shine on forehead) can replace few lines on your forehead with shine due to improved blood circulation. Some asanas like lion pose, downward facing dog, head stand, etc. also help in firming facial skin. Yoga Gives You Peace of Mind Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean thoughtless state. You can try to settle down in your thoughts, accept them, possibly distance from them to analyze them and try to bring balance to life. Midlife
especially brings a haze of thoughts with doubts or anger about past and fear of future. Meditation can clear some fog and help you to peacefully come to terms with the present. Studies show that yoga can help ease stress and lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making you more peaceful.
Yoga Makes You Laugh a bit
If you are starting yoga after 40, your body initially might not bend and twist as you wish it should. You have to keep your sense of humor alive. If you fall back down, get right back up and keep trying but with a smile. Don't torture yourself for perfection. It's absolutely fine to sometimes to fall, laugh at it and have fun in your class. Ultimately it is all about feeling good.
Yoga Helps to Heal
Yoga is naturally therapeutic. However, if you have any health conditions like anxiously, blood pressure, arthritis, chronic back pain etc. you can look for special therapeutic or restorative classes to get specific benefits from your yoga practice. Yoga is one the most effective complementary therapies for various illnesses and diseases.
Yoga Helps Detox
When we are young we are so engrossed with career, work, children that we do not give enough attention to our body. Current lifestyle which includes wrong eating habits, pollution and stress adds to deposition of various toxins in our body. Midlife is the time where you need to cleanse and prepare your body for better and easier old age. Yoga offers some easy yet exceptional cleansing techniques which are especially beneficial in midlife. Ask your guru about these cleansing techniques.
Yoga Helps You Socialize in pure form Regular socialization in midlife sometimes might bring pressures to look good, wear expensive clothes, do right make up and behave in a manner that people will like you irrespective of if you are liking it.
Yoga teaches to embrace yourself as well as others as they are without filters. When you sit in Sukhasana on your yoga mat in a group, you will start accepting yourself and the universe around you as it is, in the purest form, its best form of socialization.
At 44 I thoroughly enjoy my yoga practice and would highly recommend everyone at any age to try yoga if you have not yet explored it. However, with all the benefits there is also a word of caution which needs to be remembered if you are new to yoga and starting yoga practice in your midlife. Being regular is more important than just starting the practice.
1. Listen to your body. Your body is your first guru, even before the guru in your yoga class. It is important to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, to see results but do not torture yourself. Be kind to your body, go slow and steady.
2. Do not skip Warm-up & cool down. No matter how boring it might look, warm- up &
cool down is the most important part of a practice especially if you are over 40. At this age one
might have stiffer joints and slowing your way in and out of a fast-paced practice like sun
salutations or vinyasa might easily injure them.
3. Don’t compete with your fellow yogis. Yoga is never a competition. Everyone’s body
has some strengths and some limitations. Respect your body.
4. Work your way into poses. Start from beginner level, feel free to use support or props
like blocks and pillows and work your way to advance version of poses. There is no shame in
using We all at all levels have still room for improvement, no one is perfect. Maybe that’s why
we call “Yoga Practice”
5. Avoid inverted poses. Unless you are regularly doing yoga practice don’t try inverted
poses like headstand/ shoulder stand if you are above 40 yrs. of age. These poses are
demanding and have strict rules. One can definitely do these after 40 yrs of age but only if you
are already practicing it regularly and under guidance.
6. Avoid gimmicks. Start with simple traditional yoga if you are new to it. Avoid hot yoga
especially. The hot temperature numbs the body’s pain-sensing capacity which is your guide to
how much you can safely stretch. Stretching muscle beyond 25% of the capacity might
permanently damage them.
7. Discuss medical history before you start. Let the instructor know about your health
problems in advance. If instructor warns you and suggests modifications, listen to him/her.
Doing modified pose does not mean you are weak in fact, it’s a way to avoid unnecessary side
effects on your health. In the case of extreme issues, consider therapeutic class instead of
regular group class to get personal attention and assistance from the instructor.
So, go ahead and join the yoga class near you. Share your experience, issues and questions about yoga
with me, and I will try to help you out. Always remember, you can start yoga at any age to get better
health for life, Afterall… Age No Bar!
1. Can I do Yoga if I have back pain or knee pain?
2. Can I do Yoga during periods?
3. Which type of Yoga class should I choose?
4. What is right time of the day to do Yoga?
5. I am not flexible, can I still do Yoga?