Thursday, March 26, 2015

Balancing Teaching Methods with Wisdom: Teaching Seniors

teaching seniors
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

In recent years, teaching Yoga to seniors has become more popular. As more individuals become certified Yoga instructors, teaching this ancient healing practice to a diverse demographic of students has become possible. A balanced practice of Yoga postures, relaxation techniques and pranayama exercises has a profoundly beneficial effect on all levels of an individual’s physical and emotional health. This encompasses all ages of Yoga students, including children, teenagers and senior citizens. There is also an opportunity to share the healing gift of this practice with individuals who are currently incarcerated, or who are in the hospital or at a rehabilitation facility. 

Unfortunately, in our society today, many seniors become isolated in their later years. Frequently their children may be too busy to spend time with them on a daily basis, and their own health challenges may create obstacles to getting together with their friends regularly. As a person ages, it may also become difficult to maintain the same level of physical fitness that he or she may have had in their younger years. By offering regular Yoga classes to seniors at a local community center, church or fitness club, you will be supporting them in maintaining a healthy level of physical activity.

As a Yoga instructor who offers classes to seniors, you will also help them to stay active and maintain a regular level of social contact, which will help to ward off isolation and depression that is so common in later years. By helping your older students to maintain a healthy level of social engagement, in part through a regular practice of Yoga several times a week, you will support them in staying positive and optimistic, which strengthens the functioning of the immune system. It is important, however, to be aware of modifying challenging Yoga postures when necessary, in order to ensure that you are teaching an effective and safe class to your senior students. 

There are many ways to modify Yoga postures, so that the poses still present a challenge, while mitigating the potential for injury. For instance, you may wish to use a chair for additional support if you are teaching Tree Pose to a group of seniors. By having your senior Yoga students stabilize their balance, by holding the back of a chair or wall when they are practicing this posture, they will obtain most of the benefits of Tree Pose without risking falling and hurting themselves. If an older person falls and breaks a hip or a leg, the risk of not fully recovering is substantial in later years. Statistically, when an older person falls and breaks a hip, the risk of actually dying from the injury is almost 50%, according to some researchers! 

It is highly recommended that you have all of your new students fill out a health questionnaire prior to participating in a Yoga class. In the case of teaching Yoga to a class of seniors, this is extremely important. In this way, you will be apprised of any serious health issues that could predispose one of your senior students to injuring themselves during class. Because older students often have substantial health challenges that need to be addressed appropriately during a Yoga class, having these students fill out health questionnaires prior to beginning a practice of Yoga with you is critically important. Reviewing your senior Yoga students’ health questionnaires with them for a few minutes just before class will also help to alleviate their anxiety about practicing Yoga with you. 

For instance, if a senior is on high blood pressure medication and becomes dizzy easily, you may want to make sure that he or she always has the support of a chair or wall when performing balancing Yoga postures in a standing position. Many senior citizens may also experience challenges with heart issues and limited mobility. By gently leading them through a safe and challenging Yoga class several times a week, their sense of balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility will all improve over time. You will also be supporting them in maintaining their social connectivity, which will further enhance your senior students’ probability of living long, healthy and active lives.  

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York; where she specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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parvezbdjsr said...

It is highly recommended for all yoga teacher that all of senior students fill out a health questionnaire prior to participating in a Yoga class. Thanks for sharing this valuable info.

Mary Wilson said...

By following balancing teaching methods, a teacher can improve their sense of balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility but precaution is must.

shirlsw12 said...

I had no idea that there were forms of yoga that are done with a chair. It's really important to know everything you can about things like this, especially if you're going to be teaching them. I know that if I were teaching something like this, I would want to do everything I could to be able to teach as much of it as possible.