People always seem to be busy working on something or the other, and all that work can contribute to stress, anxiety, and physical strain on the body. But fitness for older adults can help in a big way. Enter the art of relaxation and restorative yoga. The purpose of this valuable exercise is to help take your body into a very deep state of relaxation. It’s like putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your hectic life for 75 minutes of peace and serenity.
What Is Restorative Yoga?
The modern restorative yoga practice is derived from B.K.S. Iyengar’s yoga style known as Iyengar Yoga. Iyengar himself, who lived to 95, is regarded as one of the most influential yoga instructors in the world. His age alone shows the positive impact that restorative yoga can have on fitness for older adults and on aging well.
Restorative yoga is essentially based upon the principle of aligning your mental and physical state through stillness or through gentle movements done slowly over drawn-out periods of time. It also incorporates the idea of mindfulness, which involves being aware and conscious of everything that’s happening in each passing moment. On a side note, mindfulness has been shown to not only benefit fitness for older adults, but also help to improve sleep.
No matter what exercises you do, fitness for older adults can help anyone with an active and busy lifestyle to stay in shape. But the great thing about restorative yoga in particular is that it works well for all fitness levels. For more active individuals, it gives their body the chance to relax and recuperate. It’s even better suited to fitness for older adults and those recovering from an injury or illness, because restorative yoga allows you to achieve relaxation on a physical, mental, and emotional level by providing your body with a soothing and gentle energy.
Restorative yoga is also useful in fitness for older adults, because it uses the assistance of props, which allow your body to hold poses for longer periods of time and put less strain on muscles and joints. Props that are typically included in restorative yoga include blocks, straps, blankets, pillows, eye pillows, and bolsters. The wall is also used for some postures.
Most restorative yoga postures can be done with or without props; however, you obtain a deeper sense of relaxation when using props in your anti-aging yoga routine, because you’re less concerned about holding your balance and can focus more on proper technique and breathing.
Common Restorative Yoga Poses
The trick to using restorative yoga in fitness for older adults is to master the different poses. There are quite a few different ones, but the following are some of the common postures to help get you started:
• Child’s pose: The best restorative version of this posture, especially in fitness for older adults, is to use a bolster; you can even have a blanket draped over you or resting on your lower back. Start by kneeling with your shins and ankles flat on the ground; the bolster should be positioned between your legs. Lean forward so that your head lies gently at the top of the bolster with your arms stretched out in front of you. This restorative yoga posture is unbelievably rewarding for relieving fatigue and improving mental stability.
• Reclining bound angle pose: Your back should be flat on the ground and the soles of your feet should be touching each other so that your legs are spread apart like a butterfly. Your straight arms should be spread out on the floor, palms up, and angled at approximately 45 degrees from your torso. This position will be held from five to 10 minutes during typical restorative yoga classes.
• Legs-up-the-wall pose: This restorative yoga pose is a supported version of the advanced shoulder stand posture, making it the perfect alternative to use in fitness for older adults. In the shoulder stand pose, you’re lying flat on your back with your legs in the air, perpendicular to the floor. With your hands behind your hips, your pelvis and lower back are raised off the ground so that you’re balancing on your upper back while keeping your elbows flat on the floor. For the legs-up-the-wall pose in restorative yoga, you’re doing the same motion, but you’re using the wall to hold your balance and keep your legs up. You can either raise your hips slightly or keep your back stays flat on the ground. You can also use a bolster to support your lower back. You want to maintain a slight distance from the wall to avoid any strain. This anti-aging yoga posture is held anywhere from five to 15 minutes.
• Corpse pose: You usually begin and end yoga with the corpse pose because of its relaxing effects. To do the corpse pose, just lie flat on your back with your eyes closed, your straight legs spread slightly apart, and your arms resting palms-up at a 45-degree angle on either side of you. For most people who practice restorative yoga, you typically obtain maximum benefits when a bolster is used under your knees and a blanket or pillow is comfortably positioned under your head. You definitely want to use these props when it comes to fitness for older adults, just to make sure everything is properly supported. This particular yoga posture is known to relieve mild depression and lower blood pressure. You can also reverse this posture and flip over on your stomach with the optional variation to bend one leg at a time.
Added Benefits of Restorative Yoga in Fitness for Older Adults
As previously mentioned, restorative yoga is a great option for fitness for older adults, especially those who are new to yoga, because of its gentle, slow, and therapeutic pace. It is a less intense physical activity, which is perfect for the aging body. It’s also useful for helping to release pent-up tension, making it a good stress management technique.
As many yoga practitioners will tell you, you don’t need to go fast and hard to reap the benefits of exercise; sometimes slow and steady can be just as effective, especially when you’re talking about fitness for older adults. Although it might feel like you’re not doing anything productive when you’re practicing restorative yoga, you’re actually accomplishing quite a bit.
“Part of the reason we’re so stressed and so diseased is that we’re completely out of balance,” explains Tracey Soghrati, a yoga instructor and registered nurse. In today’s high-stress society, what’s more valued is “producing more, doing more, and becoming better,” says Soghrati, and that’s why people of all ages are always on the go and constantly stuck to their smart phones and other gadgets. Exercises like restorative yoga can help to restore some of the balance that winds up getting lost in all that hustle and bustle.
Aside from emotional and mental balance, older adults have reported many other health benefits with restorative yoga, such as relief of back pain, headaches, insomnia, arthritis, and hypertension. It is also helps reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Furthermore, yoga complements treatment plans from other health and wellness practitioners, like chiropractors, acupuncturists, or naturopathic doctors, because it doesn’t require you to eat anything that can interfere with medications or to do anything that puts extreme strain or pressure on your body.
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