Start feeling good again! Hilda Silver has practised yoga for her entire life, but it was only after a minor back injury that she realised how important it is for over-50s to keep mobile and flexible, and began teaching a yoga class for seniors. Says Hilda…
By starting and maintaining a yoga routine, you will begin to see benefits very quickly. Regardless of your age, experience or gender, yoga is a great activity as it helps the body to be healthy and feel revitalised. This can contribute to relieving the stress that sometimes feels like it’s about to swallow you up. And most yoga routines will help to relax you physically as well as emotionally.
The parts of yoga most equipped to fight stress are the deep breathing techniques. These are transferable techniques that can be practised anywhere, anytime which makes them the ultimate stress buster.
In the 21st century, where we are continuously surrounded by technology and there is less human communication, the 5,000-year-old practice of Yoga is perhaps needed more than ever. Mobile phones and sitting over computers cause physical problems and the ubiquity of cars means people tend to walk less. The beauty of yoga is that it is beneficial to young and old alike.
Hatha Yoga is the most traditional form. Around the world it is the most practiced style and most of the newer styles of yoga originate from it. Hatha Yoga focuses on stress relief by using savasanas, controlled breathing and meditation.
Let’s look at the many benefits yoga offers:
- Improves muscle tone, flexibility and strength
- Helps to improve posture
- Beneficial for neck and shoulder problems
- Keeps joints moving to prevent stiffness
- In a well-balanced class with forward, backward and sideways postures that result in improved blood flow and nutrients to the spine and vertebrae will help to prevent disc compression and back pain.
- In mature years when osteoporosis can occur, weight-bearing yoga exercises can help alleviate bone-density problems.
- Helps with balance, which can be an issue as one gets older.
- Helps increase drainage of lymphatic system
- Through yoga relaxation, blood starts to flow more smoothly to areas such as hands and feet, thus improving circulation. It can help to prevent blood clots which can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
- Boosts self-esteem and helps create a positive attitude
- Helps with concentration and creativity.
- 12 Although Yoga is not normally aerobic, it can sometimes be done faster to raise the heart rate which is beneficial for fitness. It has been shown that yoga can lower the heart rate.
- Lowers cortisol levels which can help with high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and over-eating.
While Yoga in itself does not promise weight loss, it does make you more aware of your eating habits. Therefore your attitude to food may change which may lead to long-term, healthy weight-loss.
Another benefit relating to yoga, recently highlighted, is the benefit of yoga in boosting brain power. A study showed that after only 24 yoga sessions there was an improvement in the mental state and performance by a group of pensioners performing everyday tasks. Amongst a group of sedentary older adults, performance on cognitive tasks was seen to improve after practicing yoga 3 times a week for 8 weeks.
My yoga story began in my twenties in my home town, Glasgow, where I enjoyed gymnastics. When I was asked to attend a yoga class, I thought it was another type of gym class. However, I quickly realised that yoga was something special. I knew this was more than an exercise class because when I came home after a session, I felt so energised and well. My late father used to say to me: “I don’t know what you do in that class but you are glowing.”
I certainly did not realise then that this was the start of a wonderful journey which was to become an important part of my life. When I moved to London in 1977 it took me two years to find the right yoga teacher. Since then, I have had five wonderful teachers, each appropriate for the different stages in my life.
In 1982 I started my own class in North London, where I live. On that first day, a young lady turned up to the class. She was my first student and 32 years later I still teach her (and a group of friends) on a Monday night! For many years, while I had a “day job” I would teach evening classes, including working with local councils and at educational establishments.
In 1990 I tried to introduce yoga to City firms. At the time, just two – one an American firm and one a Canadian firm – showed any interest. My idea was ahead of its time!
Four years ago I hurt my back lifting a case. After a couple of days of bed-rest and pain-killers the pain improved slightly and I decided to get it checked out and I was sent for a scan. This revealed 4 disintegrating discs and 2 bulging discs. I tell you this story because up until then I was continuing to practice yoga in the same way as I had done for the previous 10 years; pushing myself into postures which I had always done and “knew” I could do but was in fact finding them harder each time.
I always tell my students that there is no competition in yoga. However, I have always competed with myself. Now I had reached a situation which made me realise I could not beat – my age.
This had a big effect on me. I realised that I was getting older and, although, mentally, I felt no different, my body was telling me that I was aging. It was not medically unusual for someone of my age to feel the effects of wear and tear, but my pride was hurt that after 35 years of practicing yoga, I was still unable to protect myself against the ravages of time.
Old habits die hard and gradually, with the help of my teacher, I adjusted the way I did my yoga practice so that it was more appropriate to my current condition. Because, of course, I did not want to hurt my back again!
In 2013, having come to realise how important it is for over-50s to keep mobile and flexible, I began teaching a yoga class for seniors.
The beauty of yoga is that it does not matter at what age you start as you will benefit at your own level. I have seen great improvements in my students, some whom started in their 70s. Like everything you need to make an effort but if you keep at it the rewards will be beneficial. Here are some of the comments from my students:”Hilda tailors the poses and exercises to our various needs. I feel great after every class!” “Hilda manages to pay attention to each individual’s needs making sure we get the benefit without straining.” “ Each class gives us a balance of physical exercise tailored to age and ability.” Hilda is an excellent teacher, sensitive to individual capabilities and needs. It helps that she is warm, friendly and positive and this makes her classes all the more …relaxing.” “I began this Yoga class with a stiff neck and aching shoulder – leftovers of whiplash…After 8 weeks the pains had disappeared. Hilda’s practical informative attitude to yoga for us older folk is refreshing and, evidently, effective.
“The postures were chosen for the specific needs of the group, so lots of neck and shoulder work for those of us crouched over computers most of the day. I had a great time with this group, felt the benefits in my posture and [improved] sleep…Hilda [is] sensitive, kind and enthusiastic teacher, who is able to work with all levels of experience.”
Hilda Silver teaches classes in London as well as one-to-one lessons and private groups.
Tel: 07810 205343; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
See Hilda take part in one of our lovely makeover videos below:
Do you like Yoga? Have you never tried it but want to give it a go? Tell us below!
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