Seniors age 55 and older represent the fastest-growing sector of the population and – like many other segments of society – are increasingly drawn to yoga. When dealing with this specific demographic, it's essential to for yoga instructors to learn how to best serve older students.
When teaching active seniors, one must always remember that age in and of itself it by no means an illness or condition. Age is a state of mind, and measured, according to many a yoga guru, by the flexibility of the spine.
Before you venture into the world of teaching yoga to seniors, it's important to be aware of the common medical challenges often seen in this sector of the population. Teaching seniors involves a willingness to work consciously with different physical needs.
Being aware of flexibility issues is hugely important. If it hurts for them to sit, then have them work lying down, or standing up with the help of a chair or wall to help with balance. If students can't stand, then use sitting poses. And always demonstrate poses at a level that's relevant to their abilities. Make it a win for the students.
You can also try including longer meditation sessions in senior classes, as well as frequent breaks—brief moments in Savasana, or Corpse Pose, for example. It's also essential establish safe postures and know share what the focus of the posture is. On that note, it is absolutely critical to understand the health issues your clients have, and above all, practice safely. People with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or those who have suffered a recent stroke, for example, should keep the head above the heart, which usually keeps inversions and standing forward bends off limits.
One of the easiest ways to reduce the intensity of a program is to reduce the length of which a pose is held. This will keep the class fluid, and also not require too much strength of the participants. Longer stances challenge musculature more, and exhaust the muscles. Atrophied muscles cannot hold poses as long as fitter and often younger muscles. Give the older participants time to improve their muscle strength gradually. Therefore, think about having a special 12-week course which gradually builds in increased pose-holding progressions. There should be a special sign-up, and you may even want to consider attaching a small fee for participation. Requiring a minimal upfront cost also inspires commitment. People don’t tend to want to miss classes that they’ve pre-paid for.
Slow down the transitions between asanas (or poses). By slowing down the transitions, the instructor will have more time to cue, cues can be more detailed and exact, and the student will have more time to react.
Cue each and every body part one at a time starting with the bottom or foundation up. By starting at the base, balance will be improved. Also, start at supporting structures and move out. In this way, the center of the body will be the focus, and any and all transitions will have a foundation of stability. Because balance diminishes as we age, an acute awareness of balance “tricks of the trade” will help your students feel more stable. With increased stability come greater power and a sense of strength. When someone feels stronger then often try harder and accomplish more. By cuing gradually and watching balance carefully, you will get more out of your students, and your students will get more out of their program.
Focus on success and always compliment when an exercise is performed correctly.
As your skills as an instructor improve, trying to integrate yoga tools into your program can assist your students with their balance and comfort. Blocks, pillows, bolsters, foam rollers, rolled up mats, walls, chairs and most importantly touching another fellow student to assist with balance can be an excellent was to challenge but assist your clients.
Teaching yoga to active seniors can be extremely rewarding. As you work with your students to alleviate pain, increase flexibility and balance, gain strength, and connect to their body in a positive, healthy way, you'll be inspired to continue to provide this amazing gift to people of all ages and walks of life.
CLASSES AT CALIFORNIA MANIA:
SCW YOGA FUNDAMENTALS I CERTIFICATION With Lawrence Biscontini, MA
Thursday, March 24, 7:30am-6:00pm
SCW YOGA FUNDAMENTALS II CERTIFICATION With Lawrence Biscontini, MA
Thursday, March 24, 5:30pm-9:30pm
Yoga Rhythm Dance with Sara Kooperman, JD
Friday, March 25, 10:00am-11:30am FR2D
Yoga+T’ai Chi=Yo-Chi with Lawrence Biscontini, MA
Friday, March 25, 12:30pm-2:00pm FR3L
Delicious Yog-ahh with Julz Arney
Friday March 25, 6:30pm-7:30pm FR6D
The Forgotten Salutations with Lawrence Biscontini, MA
Saturday March 26, 6:30pm-7:30pm SA6D
Full-Body Flexibility: Yoga Inspired Stretch with Jay Blahnik
Sunday March 27, 8:45am-10:15am SU2D
Yoga Touch with Sara Kooperman, JD
Sunday March 27, 11:15am-12:45pm
CLASSES AT FLORIDA MANIA:
SCW Yoga Fundamentals I with Lawrence Biscontini, MA
Wednesday, May 11, 7:30am-5:00pm
SCW Yoga Fundamentals II with Lawrence Biscontini, MA
Thursday, May 12, 5:30pm-9:30pm
Rising Hot Yoga with Sara Kooperman, JD
FR2D Friday, May 13, 10:00am-11:30am
BODYFLOW® with Lori Lowell and Emily Moore
FR5D Friday, May 13, 4:00pm-5:30pm
Step Yoga Fusion with Deborah Puskarich
FR6A Friday, May 13, 6:30pm-7:30pm
Delicious Yog-ahh with Julz Arney
FR6D Friday, May 13, 6:30pm-7:30pm
3D Fat Burn Fusion with Linda LaRue, RN, MEd, ATC & Jeffrey Scott
SA5G Saturday May 14, 4:00pm-5:30pm
Full Body Flexibility: Yoga Inspired Stretch with Jay Blahnik
SU3D Sunday May 15, 11:15am-12:45pm