When most people think of yoga, there are some images that can immediately come to mind. These usually include limber, slim young people in tights, knotting themselves into a pretzel in an austerely silent room. While some people do practice yoga this way, it certainly is not the only way to do it. The reality is that yoga is an extremely inclusive exercise and pastime, and what is more, it can be fun, loud, and easy.
To tell us more about yoga for seniors, we spoke to the co-founder and director of Yogamigos, Gemma Egelton. Yogamigos is a mobile yoga business that champions the principle that yoga should be accessible to all Australians. They conduct their classes in numerous Aged Care facilities, including some TriCare Residences, and bring yoga to seniors nationwide.
Gemma has seen how yoga can be practiced and enjoyed by people from all backgrounds and fitness levels.
“Our yoga classes for seniors are all about enjoyment, connection, and feeling good.
“It is an ideal opportunity for residents to come together and do something physical and easy. If anyone feels intimidated to join, we want to assure them that they are welcome and that they will be able to take part.”
So what does yoga look like in an Aged Care setting?
A typical yoga class for seniors
The first thing to say is that no two yoga classes are the same, and that they are anything but typical!
Gemma explains, “There are some basics that start every class. Participants are usually seated, and we lead them in gentle movement and breath,” said Gemma.
“People can come in and out of the room, get a snack, or even fall asleep! We often put on music, so it is not unusual to do a yoga class with Frank Sinatra in the background. Participants can have a laugh and attend in their dressing gown, slippers, or wheelchair, and they can still get the full benefits from their practice.”
This is great news, as the benefits of yoga in Aged Care residences are significant.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga in an Aged Care setting focuses on encouraging gentle movement and circulation. Instructors work with the needs and abilities of participants to deliver enjoyable classes.
“If residents are struggling with confidence in the shower, we run a class that works with chairs to develop balance for those that can do the poses.
“A seated class can still encourage circulation throughout the whole body, which can benefit mobility, reduce body aches, and encourage flexibility.”
Yoga for seniors can also enhance digestion, improve sleep, and sharpen mental alertness.
Gemma has also seen the impact yoga can have on mood and mindset.
“As part of all our classes we practice our breathing while we move. This is a way of being in the moment, or doing mindfulness, which can be very calming and reduce anxiety. We may do a simple breathing exercise and invite the class to focus on their senses: to close their eyes and focus on what they can hear, feel, and smell.
“A huge and underrated benefit of doing yoga is the social aspect. It is not a silent, individual activity! Our classes encourage socialising, friendships, and building social confidence. We often see that the yoga groups will hang out after the class, chat, and have a laugh. The combination of the calm and fun elements of yoga can help with depression and feelings of overwhelm.
“We also see these benefits for people living with dementia. In fact, more than half of participants in our yoga for seniors classes live with dementia, and we just simply tailor the session to the abilities of who attends. Studies have even shown that yoga can slow down the progression of dementia.”
If there is one thing that Gemma would like people to know about yoga, is that it truly can be for everyone.
“You don’t need expensive gear or perfect fitness. Yoga can be friendly and approachable, and not something to be taken too seriously.
“You would be amazed how basic breathing and movement can help you feel so much better.”
To find out more about the activities TriCare Aged Care Residences are organising every week to build connection and wellbeing, get in touch with your chosen Residence, or book a tour below to see for yourself.