A few years ago a marketing guru suggested to us (yoga teachers) that we should identify our “ideal student” and instead of trying to please everybody we need to concentrate on servicing these “ideal” people.
For me it has been the “over 50’s”, the baby-boomers. Party because I belong to this group and partly because my lower back problem excludes me from doing and demonstrating the fancier poses.
Due to the “over 50” label when I get an enquiry about my classes most people start with telling me their age. I reassure them that I won’t ask for their birth certificate and during my 26 years of practicing yoga I have learnt how to modify the poses to suit the individual.
The question I am aiming to answer is “how is yoga over 50 is different (from other yoga)?”
Our classes are gentle in comparison to the dynamic ashtanga / power or yang yoga practices. Gentle means that we might go a bit slower (have a rest anytime you need to). When it comes to inverted poses we do the preparation for headstand and shoulder stand instead of the full version. Due to the higher number of medical conditions in the class we might have more than two variations for a pose – so every student can practice safely on their own level.
In my view our attention to detail exceeds what I have seen in big “general” classes. If we go into balancing standing poses with grace (i.e. hands on the wall until we feel secure standing on one leg) we stand straighter than a lot of people half of our age!
For an ageing / stiffer body it takes a bit longer to warm up so we start by warming up all of our joints (neck, shoulders, fingers, hips, knees, ankles and toes). With the colder weather we experience cramps more often than in summer and more often than the younger generations. This could indicate that we might not stretch enough or we have magnesium deficiency.
In my class we use a lot of props (blocks, belts, bolsters, blankets and chairs) which reflects more my Iyengar style practice than the age of the students.
Most of us have passed the “working long hours and exhausted all the time” stage in our lives and no one falls asleep (no one snores) during Savasana at the end of the class. We enjoy our tranquillity!
As in any class – some over 50’s prefer open windows / fans whilst others feel the cold – my aim to please most people. There are excellent breathing techniques to cool off hot flushes.
There is more and more medical research and evidence into the health benefits of yoga, including how it slows down the ageing.
Apart from the stretching and strengthening exercises yoga requires and improves concentration, stamina, reduces stress and some students appreciate the social aspect of practising together with likeminded people. There is no difference whether you are young or over 50!
I believe if a yoga class is marked for over 50’s, seniors or golden yogis – it is suitable for anybody who wants to practice in a small class with a senior teacher who most likely has seen a lot on the mat and off the mat.
People of all ages and with various pre-existing conditions (or recovering from injury or operation) would benefit from attending these classes. Students who new to yoga could learn the basics before joining in faster paced classes. Once you know how to do a pose safely you can prevent injuries.
I would almost promote the over 50’s classes as a type of therapy class!
Keep up and enjoy your practice!