Yoga and Pilates for Seniors

The secret to aging well means that we make lifestyle changes to ensure that we not only live longer but that our quality of life is enjoyable.  It means embracing our senior years rather than despising them.

Having a Yoga and Pilates practice can potentially give you that quality of life.  As we age, the body changes, somethings don’t come as easy to us as they once did.  We lose our flexibility, our muscle strength & tone, mobility and often our confidence in carrying out regular tasks.  So, if you want to keep doing the things that you always did, and enjoying life, then you must keep moving, strengthening the body, working on your balance and your coordination.  Yoga and Pilates can give you that and more.

As we age, we become less active, we lose muscle tone and strength, it really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’.  Most activities are done in a seated position: watching TV, reading, computer, sitting eating. Sitting has become the latest issue damaging our health.  It’s well known that a sedentary lifestyle is not conducive with a healthy life style.  For the older population, yoga and Pilates can provide a safer alternative to exercise, it’s low impact and people of any fitness level can participant in this form of exercise.

This form of exercise helps to strengthen and tone the body from the core, and we need the core to be strong and maintained in good working order to ensure that our trunk can support the movement of our arms and legs as we move through our day to day life.

As we age, women especially are more prone to developing osteoporosis so this form of weight bearing exercise can help with bone building to strengthen your bones as well as your muscles.    Not only is the body stronger but posture improves and with that come a sense of confidence and self esteem as you carry yourself through the day.  There is purpose in your life and a reason to get out of bed each day.  Exercise is not just for the body, but it is essential for the mind and soul as well.  When we are healthy, we feel good, and when we feel good, we engage fully in life.

At Your Breathing Space we have a lot of women and men over the age of 50 up to quite senior and all are catered for.  Everyone works within their own level of fitness and comfortability.  We are very inclusive here and while exercise is serious, we also make it enjoyable.  The aim is to have students leave feeling better than when they arrived, not just on a physical level but mentally and emotionally as well.  Humans are social beings and it’s important that our environment here offers an opportunity for all students to engage in that aspect.

Be open to receive

In my work as a restorative yoga teacher, part of what I do is to help my students get into the pose, this includes placing their eye pillows on, covering them with our weighted blankets and sometimes tucking the blankets around their feet or their body.  As I do this, I am constantly confronted with their awkwardness of having someone else done something for them that they could probably do for themselves.  They feel uncomfortable with being fussed over or feeling “awful” about me providing extra effort.  Some are beginning to enjoy the experience, relating it to feeling like a child again, getting tucked into bed, with a real warmth attached to their experience. 

For most of us, there’s a real willingness to give, we’ve been conditioned that way, believing that it is better to give, but when it comes to receiving, we don’t seem to be very good at it.  Even receiving a compliment can be difficult for some. Receiving can ignite the vulnerable part of ourselves as we create a moment of connection.  There is a softness and if we can allow ourselves to lean into this feeling of softness we can create more of it, slowly becoming more comfortable with receiving.

 As human beings we need to feel nurtured and supported, and while it is a lovely thing to give unconditionally, receiving is equally important.  There is a lovely exchange of energy as we unconditionally give and receive with others.  And I feel a sense of sadness at times when I witness the difficulties that some have in receiving.

Recently a beautiful soul offered to give me a massage, sensing that I might be needing some nurturing. I didn’t want to “put her out”, but I gratefully accepted because I was needing just that. I touched that vulnerable place within and enjoyed a wonderfully relaxing experience because I was willing to receive.

Be open to receive, let the walls of resistance drop away and honour your inner needs

Let's Talk About Multitasking

First, what is multitasking?

Well according to Wikipedia its an apparent human ability to perform more than one task, or activity, at the same time. Examples would be: walking and texting, chatting on the phone while you cook dinner, reading and watching TV.

We think we’re being efficient when we multitask, and for a lot of us it has not only become our natural way, it is also expected of us.

Are we being efficient or are we harming ourselves and perhaps those around us?

It takes effort to be focusing on more than one task at a time and often something happens because we weren’t fully present with what we were doing.  It’s a bit like having too many tabs open on the computer, eventually it freezes or crashes.

Research shows that it’s not as efficient as we’d like to think and may in fact be detrimental to our health and wellbeing.  So maybe its time you took a close look at what you are doing.

The way it works is that our mind has a finite capacity for attention on tasks, kind of like when you fill a cup of water, it can only hold a certain amount and the rest runs over the edge.  So, the more things you are doing at the same time, the less you are focusing on each of them.

Multitasking slows us down, think about it, when you’re dividing your time between several different things it takes longer to complete each task not to mention the energy of switching from one task to another, remembering where you left off.  Wouldn’t it be more efficient to complete one thing, then move onto the next?

How many mistakes do you find occurring when working on more than one thing? Be honest.  Studies show that higher than normal errors occur especially when the task you are carrying out requires careful thinking and planning.  Because we have a left and right brain, we can manage to carry out two different tasks without a lot of drama but once you start to add to this that’s when the wheels have the potential to fall off.

Next time you find yourself multitasking, and I hope that after reading this article you won’t be inclined to  multitask, notice what you are experiencing in your body – heart rate increases, breath may become laboured, mind starts to race and you have less clarity of mind.  Hello, you’ve just arrived in a stress response!  When you’re in a stress response, you are not present! This brings me to my favourite topic, Mindfulness. You can’t be mindful when you are spreading yourself across several tasks, you miss out on the moment to moment occurrences in your life.

Remember I mentioned earlier about too many tabs open on the computer? This is where our memory bank starts to suffer, and for those of us who are not as young as we’d like to be, it gets hard to retain short term memories when constantly switching from say, reading to watching TV. It becomes increasingly difficult to remember what you just read or saw.


How many of you eat your meal either in front of the TV or at your computer answering emails, not even being aware of the taste of your food?  Worse still, sitting on the couch in front of the TV with a box of snack food promising only to have a couple and the next thing you know the box in empty.  When you multitask, you are not present!  Food gets put in your mouth without much consideration to flavour, or quantity.  So perhaps multitasking is contributing to an expanding waistline.

Multitasking requires a lot of mental effort, cramming so much into our temporary brain storage that it effects our ability to think creatively.  Those lovely moments of deep insight just don’t happen.

I often hear people say to me that they are really good at multitasking and I have to wonder what they are basing that on. Especially after considering some of the facts in this article.  And let’s be real here, multitasking can be dangerous! Take the example of driving and texting, we all know how too often this ends.  Even cooking and watching TV or talking on the phone has its perils.

Sadly, in today’s world multitasking is very much a way of life and without realising it we are living in a less than fulfilling way.  Why not do yourself a favour a try doing one thing at a time, be present with whatever that is and see how that feels.  Don’t forgo your health in the race to be efficient, in the end you’ll lose the race.  

Eye Pillows

Ever wondered why we encourage the use of eye pillows in our restorative yoga sessions, apart from the fact that it helps to lessen visual distractions?

There is plenty of research out there that shows a regular restorative practice has multiple health benefits including managing stress levels.  Using an eye pillow can enhance those benefits by deepening the experience of relaxation.  When you place the eye pillow over your eyes, that light pressure not only shuts out the world around you, but it also stimulates what is called the Vagus Nerve.  The Vagus Nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body, originating in the brainstem and then travelling down the body, passing through the neck, chest, heart and lungs before ending in the abdomen and your digestive organs.  It makes up part of our involuntary nervous system, and it's job is to keep our heart rate constant, control our digestion, and it's also the line of communication between your gut and your brain.  So when you get that 'gut feeling' that's the Vagus Nerve at work.  Without getting too complicated, the Vagus Nerve works like a feedback loop; when we get stressed, the Vagus Nerve tells the brain to release chemicals that then tell the body to chill out.  That's our Rest and Digest response kicking in.  So long story short, the eye pillow supports us in relaxing mentally, physically and emotionally.

You can also use your eye pillow when you go to bed, not only does it support relaxation, but it also triggers an experience of relaxation that you may have had during your restorative class.


Why Restorative Yoga?

Do you find that every day you are running from one task to another, that life is very fast paced, and Monday turns into Friday in the blink of a eye?  Are you continually tired, constantly overwhelmed, your mind working overtime?  Then maybe it's time you took a closer look at Restorative Yoga.

What makes this practice different from other forms of yoga is that there is no muscle contractions involved.  The focus is more about relaxing the body through supported poses while paying attention to your breath.  You can achieve more opening in different parts of your body by softening and relaxing, and while you do still stretch, it is with a relaxed body.  The great thing is that it's possible for anyone to practice Restorative Yoga, from beginners to more experienced, and from children to seniors - everyone can benefit.

The challenge for most of us is to let the body and the mind be still.  we've somehow forgotten how to do this, and as a result, more and more of us are suffering from stress related dis-ease in the mind/body.  So the goal for Restorative Yoga is to calm the mind and body, and to be fully present.  We do this by resting in supported poses, being with your inhale and exhale, and then each time your mind wonders off to future thoughts, or past memories, you simply use your breath to bring you back to the present moment.

So what are the benefits of Restorative Yoga?

  • Deeply relaxes the body and stills the mind
  • Increasing your ability to deal with stress
  • Boosting your immune
  • Balancing your nervous system
  • Improving your capacity to heal and balance your system
  • Enhancing your state of mind
  • Improving the quality of your sleep

So if you think that maybe it's time you started to slow down, why not give Restorative Yoga a try?