Is yoga right for you?
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A recent article by Dr Cathy Stephenson suggests some great exercise options to keep healthy and fit as we age. She often recommends yoga and tai chi to older people as they are often slightly "gentler".
They are not as daunting if you are starting out but as they incorporate stretching, flexibility, strength and balance work, they are an incredibly powerful way to improve mobility and reduce your risk of falls.
She's right - yoga can be gentle, but yoga can also be very physically demanding. It depends on the type of yoga and how an instructor teaches a class.
Before your first yoga class, Dr Stephenson recommends talking with your health providers.
Here are a few questions to ask your doctor or physio, especially if you have health conditions or injuries, even old ones:
1. Do you think yoga is right for me?
2. What types of movement should I avoid? For example, bending over, twisting, putting pressure on your hands, going upside down, breathing too fast.
3. What types of movement would be good for me?
4. Is there anything I should tell the instructor before I start? E.g health conditions such as high blood pressure, problems with balance, previous surgeries, chronic pain.
5. Can you recommend a yoga teacher or studio?
Talking to your doctor or physio is only the first step. Then you need to talk with the yoga studio or teacher. Sharing information about your health and injuries with the teacher is important. As teachers, it helps us make sure the class is right for you. We can also suggest things to avoid or how to adapt them to be healthy and safe for your body.
Here are a few questions to ask a yoga teacher:
1. What is your class like?
2. Would it be OK for me to try the class if I am new to yoga? Would it better to try a beginner’s course?
3. My doctor or physio told me I should avoid these things - will that be OK in your class? How do I avoid those things?
4. I have these health conditions, concerns or injuries - will that be OK in your class? Is there anything I should be careful about or avoid in your class?
5. Is it OK for me to go to a group class or should I try a one-to-one session first?
It’s best to ask these questions before going to a class. Most teachers are happy to answer questions by phone, email or in person.
People regularly come to my yoga classes for the first time because their doctor recommended yoga as gentle exercise to recover from surgery or injuries. Yoga can be good for recovery, but it's not always OK. Always ask your doctor first, but generally you should not attend a group yoga class if you have had recent surgery or have an acute injury. In both cases, talk with your doctor and the yoga teacher before attending class.
To learn more about yoga’s benefits and get helpful tips on how to do yoga, see the Yoga for Healthy Aging website
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