“Age is a relative concept. I really do believe that age is mostly in our mind”. Kat Farrants shares whether she thinks there is an appropriate Yoga for seniors.
Our culture enjoys categorising people, and age is one of the most fundamental ways that we categorise ourselves and each other. We think of age-appropriate behaviour, age-appropriate dress, and we expect our bodies and minds to function in certain ways, depending on our decades. It’s very normal, in our culture to say ‘for an x year old’. But time is a relative concept, and age is certainly in our heads. Often, we act and feel the way that we should be acting, and the way that society’s norms have told us to behave. Our culture is incredibly strong, it becomes hard-wired inside us.
Is there an ‘Appropriate’ Yoga for Seniors?
Sometimes, I’m asked about Yoga for Seniors – “can we do a yoga for seniors course? Can we have a Yoga for Seniors section on the website?” To be honest, this completely flummoxes me.
Is there an appropriate yoga for seniors? I don’t believe so. In fact there are many people, several decades older than me, who are more mobile, more healthy than I am. I blush when I think of putting Yoga for Seniors on the website and some of my teachers, who might be in that age category, but would in no way identify as a ‘Senior’. I feel appalled and embarrassed by the thought that these incredibly vibrant, mobile, healthy and strong people would come across Yoga for Seniors. A lot of their practices are stronger, more disciplined, and more challenging than mine. I wouldn’t be a fan of ‘yoga for in your 40’s’, or yoga for mid-life, so why should there be a Yoga for Seniors category.
Equally, there are many people several decades younger than me who don’t enjoy my level of health or mobility, strength and flexibility. We associate youth with all those things, but for whatever reason, for many folks, that just isn’t a reality.. So age-appropriate yoga and movement just seems daft.
The Research Says…
Having said all of that, the ageing process does tend to slow up the body’s processes. And there is a ton of research that yoga and can optimise our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing as we move through midlife. Multiple, well-designed studies (see study here) provide data showing that yoga practice has positive effects on cellular ageing, mobility, balance, mental health, and prevention of cognitive decline.
Research shows it is never too late to start experiencing all the benefits of yoga and qigong, some of the best forms of movement as we age: Improving flexibility and balance, supporting muscle and bone strength, reducing stress, enhancing sleep, boosting mood, cognitive and cardiovascular function.
As I’m now in my magnificent midlife, I’m aware of a slightly different view I hold towards life and fitness. I’m aware that I want to retain my mobility, health, strength and balance. I’m not looking at getting fitter or stronger, but maintenance is exactly what I’m looking for. I am looking for practices to help my mindset, to move into self-acceptance and self-compassion about my changing body.
Toxic Cultural Messages
There are so many toxic messages in our culture that we should ‘stop the ageing process’, we should try to hide wrinkles and the changes that take place in our bodies. Instead, I want to learn how to accept and to love the changes in my body, and the changes evident on my face. I want to approach my body with a sense of curiosity and compassion.
I am sure that sense of self-esteem and self-confidence is absolutely key to enjoying our changing bodies. Keeping a sense of curiosity, compassion and kindness, accepting and loving our changing bodies and mind, as much as we accept and love those around us. Celebrating wrinkles, celebrating the fragility of life, and celebrating the learnings and the wisdom that we accumulate through the years.
My Exercise in Midlife
I’m aware that I now need to do more strengthening work than I used to, and have started to do Barre workouts, which I absolutely love.
The majority of my exercise is done with my dogs on the hills around where I live. That way I’m able to get some perspective on my day, spend precious time with my dogs and also work on my fitness.
Having said that, I still find that there is nothing like the mobility and stretch of yoga. Just that moving my body in all directions. I usually start the day with perhaps a 20 minute class, or shorter, if it’s a busy day. My current favourite classes are with Clive, Ava and Lucy.
I do sometimes start the day with Qigong with Mimi. Qigong is a practice that’s really grown on me. It is very meditative and all about the transitions, balance, gentle strength. Exactly what my busy mind needs.
I’m also sure it’s the mental focus from these practices that will really help me in my journey through the decades. It’s the breath work and the meditative practices will all help me see life’s transitions in their fullness.
I really love this poem by Mary Oliver, reminding me of the many joys of moving through the years.
Everyone should be born into this world happy,
and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway i’m not where I started!
And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you too decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.
Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.Mary Oliver
Try the Movement for Modern Life ‘Ageless Movement Course’
The Ageless Movement course is designed to offer various physical, emotional and mental practises that support us as we move through midlife.
Consider this course a companion, inviting you on a journey through the decades with a sense of play, an open-mind, curiosity and self-compassion.
The course is split into six sections – you can navigate to the section that you need today depending on how you feel.
- Movement for Strength, Mobility, and Balance
- Accessible Movement
- Yoga to Nourish and Support
- Movement for Health & Vitality
- Restorative Movement
- Self-Acceptance Meditation
The Ageless Movement course is accessible to everybody, regardless of age, ability or experience. Ageing is a gift and this course offers tools to help reveal all of its exquisite layers.