I’m right in the middle of my life (hey I’m aiming for 90+) and I reckon it’s the perfect time to embrace yoga. But then yoga can help us live well at any and every stage of life.
Here are some of the benefits of yoga at different ages.
For the Pregnant Mum and Bub
Pre-natal yoga has many benefits , and while the focus might be on the Mom helping herself to manage the lower back pain that is part of a progressing pregnancy and preparing herself for labour, inside the womb the unborn baby benefits from having a calm, Zen Mom.
For the New Baby
Babies are just about born doing the Happy Baby pose. They can benefit from another way of bonding with their Mom and the rhythm and calm of a yoga practice can often lull a baby to sleep. To sleep-deprived new parents this has got to be good.
For the Toddler/Pre-Schooler
Not saying yoga will totally tame toddler tantrums, but teaching young children yoga breathing and the skills of staying still can ‘theoretically’ help when meltdowns threaten. Yoga at this age is play-based and free-form, with singing, clapping and stories woven in. This combination of fun and calm is perfect for instilling an early love of yoga.
For the Elementary School Student
School can be stressful, and yoga provides the perfect antidote. Yoga for school kids can support other parts of their curriculum (counting, language learning) as well as building social skills, resilience, confidence, and empathy. As kids (particularly girls) head into the tween/teen years they can benefit from the body awareness and confidence yoga instils through its non-competitive nature and focus on strength rather than physical appearance.
For the Teenager
A childhood foundation of yoga can hopefully support strong self-esteem when puberty arrives and peer pressure hits. Many teens (particularly girls) drop out of team and competitive sports out of concern that they aren’t good enough or anxiety over their changing body.
If they can maintain a yoga practice, it can help to ground them through these years of change and uncertainty, and counter the stress of exams.
In Your Twenties
Practising yoga in your twenties can set you up to follow a yoga lifestyle for the rest of your life. Yoga is a practice you can take wherever you go – on your world travels or if you have to move around for work.
In your twenties you may deepen your understanding of the philosophy of yoga and start to incorporate a more spiritual practice into your lifestyle – being a yogi may become an integral part of your identity.
If you are on a busy career path, yoga can help to ease the stress of long hours and work pressure. And if you like to party a little hard, then yoga can provide some counterbalance.
In Your Thirties
In your thirties, you are likely to be settling down and starting a family. In the US, the average age for first-time-moms is 26, with the number of older mothers continuing to rise, while in the UK and Australia, the average age has climbed above 30 years old.
A regular yoga practice can help manage the stresses of parenthood, help with post-natal weight-loss and fitness, and contribute to work-life balance.
In Your Forties
Muscle mass starts to naturally decline by about one percent per year from age forty. Yoga can help build and maintain muscle strength and flexibility. It can also help reduce painful compression in the spine and joints from years of sitting hunched over at desks and driving cars.
As you enter mid-life, you may increasingly seek greater meaning and purpose in life, and a deep yoga and meditation practice can help guide you through this ‘mid-life’ crisis angst (I write from personal experience!).
In Your Fifties
Declining bone density becomes an issue, particularly for women, but the flexibility and strength that a yoga practice provides can help reduce vulnerability to broken bones as we age.
As women navigate the hormonal changes of menopause and men come to terms with declining physical strength and endurance, yoga can be a constant physical and mental practice that helps slow the aging process.
With children leaving home, the fifties can be a time of reprioritizing your own health and wellness – you are worth it.
In Your Sixties
You can be a fit senior who can still touch your toes if you keep up a consistent yoga practice that is suitable to your physical ability. This time of retirement or reduced working hours may also afford a chance to attend workshops and travel to yoga retreats, with an increasing number targeting seniors.
In Your Seventies and Beyond
The yoga asanas will probably need to be gentler and therapeutic (a modified chair yoga practice may be suitable). Joint mobility, strength and balance all decline with age and limiting conditions like osteoarthritis may impact yoga practice in your twilight years.
It is all about practising in a safe, healing way that is appropriate to limitations.
My mother, who turns seventy next year, attends classes twice a week. All the research suggests the health benefits are well worth it.