Journalist and Yoga Therapy graduate Sally Webster interviewed our trainer Liz Williams on the importance of yoga for healthy ageing.
Healthy Ageing – and why getting older can be a gift.
If we manage our physical and psychological wellbeing as we age, getting older can be a rewarding stage of our lives, a real gift. Yet, it shouldn’t be done in isolation, but as part of a supportive community with a collaborative wellbeing team.
What is Healthy Ageing?
Liz explains healthy ageing is about how we can all maintain mobility and independence for as long as possible.
“It’s not just about physical independence,” Liz said. “It’s also about making our own choices. Having autonomy on where we live, how we spend our money, who we see. Remove this and our mental health deteriorates, along with our physical health.”
How can Healthy Ageing be practiced?
The most effective way to achieve this is through daily movement, connecting with others and especially meditation. These simple approaches can have significant benefits for older people.
“This does not mean it’s a one size fits all approach,” Liz added. ‘As yoga teachers and yoga therapists, we need to be aware that with older people the health issues and physical changes can be complex. There’s often been a life-time of behaviour ingrained and change can also be challenging to accept. We need to be skilled at understanding how to encourage our older clients to move, to engage with meditation, and how this can be incorporated into daily activities.”
The benefits of a yoga program for older people
It is well documented that yoga is effective in supporting mental wellbeing, but as Liz explained as we get older our anxiety and depression can increase. So, encouraging a yoga program is more than just being physically active even though this can help in reducing high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, fractures, effects of stroke, among other things.
“Yoga Therapy as a tailored, individualised program will have benefits to keep the body moving and additionally offer an awareness, supporting inner strength,” Liz said.
The need to understand age-related conditions and illnesses
The importance of understanding how physiological changes affect psychological changes is critical. So too, is working collaboratively with the older person’s health management team so the client can be supported with appropriate care and be valued.
Liz emphasised the need for training as we do not want to interfere with a client’s medical treatment plan, but beneficially contribute to it. This means we need to be informed of the range of medical conditions older people can experience and be aware of the social and psychological issues that could affect them.
“Nobody should be excluded from yoga,” Liz explained. ‘We just need to be skilled and trained in how to support our clients. The ‘Over 65’ is a diverse group with a lifetime of habits and everyone is different. We need to understand the limitations of the older body and how we can offer support by incorporating suitable modifications. It’s definitely not about leaving the older person in child’s pose. It’s about getting them involved, feeling they are valued and encouraging them to move.”
For more tips on how Yoga can play a role in Healthy Ageing watch the full interview here:
Liz will be leading our 5-part Yoga for Healthy Ageing online workshop series, starting Saturday 13 Feb 2021.