Just after my 60th birthday, I committed to starting a yoga practice. I had heard enough to know that it would be good for me, YAY! and I was ready to jump right in. Oops… Let’s just say that I got off to a rough start. So, I regrouped, did some research, and started over. I am so glad that I did, so pleased that I didn’t give up after a false start, because what yoga’s given me is immeasurable.
If you are over 60 and thinking about making yoga a part of your life, I applaud you! I also know that you may have some concerns –
Am I too old, too unfit/overweight/fragile?
Will I feel out of place among people who know what they’re doing?
Can I learn this?
Do I want to put this “pressure” on myself?
I hear you and I understand your concerns. Instead of “jumping right in,” as I did on my well-intentioned false start, consider the following:
Check in with your doctor
Ask her if there is any medical reason that you shouldn’t practice yoga. Ask if there are any aspects of your health (such as a tricky knee, osteoporosis, or a past surgery) that you should mention to a yoga instructor in advance of a class, so that they can guide you to prevent injury.
Watch a few online classes
Be sure to bypass the 60-minute power-yoga videos and instead look for titles that specifically indicate they are for those over 60. Also look for words like “beginner” or “gentle” in the title. These classes will give you a sense of the pace, rhythm, and type of positions and moves you are likely to experience in a real-time class.
Find the right venue and teacher
Google “Yoga Winston-Salem” to immediately access many local yoga options. Read the reviews for those that sound like a potential fit. If something piques your interest, e-mail or call to inquire about beginner classes. Most instructors have experience with students who are new to yoga and will understand your questions and your concerns. If they seem dismissive, move on. Some even offer one-on-one instruction for new students—something that certainly would have been beneficial to me.
Invest in some basic gear
What you wear will affect your comfort and movement, so take yourself to TJ Maxx, or to Athleta in the Thruway Shopping Center and buy some leggings, yoga pants, and loose-fitting tees and tops. At this point, I practically live in these “athleisure” essentials.
Bring your learning mindset
The babble in your head will also affect your comfort, your movement, and the overall quality of your yoga experience. Speak nicely to yourself, remember that you are a student, not an expert. In fact, many yoga instructors point out that regardless of where we are in our practice, we remain students forever.
Easy does it
Don’t push yourself too far or too fast. If you “throw yourself in” you risk injury, fatigue, and disappointment. Because yoga coaxes you to slow down and pay attention to your experience, it facilitates your ability to self-monitor.
Let go of comparisons
And speaking of self-monitoring, it leaves little room for your striving self or your hard-to-please ego. Everyone around you is a student; everyone is practicing. Everyone came with their own history, baggage, and unique body and mind. Notice any in-the-moment urge to compare or compete, then focus on the next tip.
This is for you
After listening to the tale of my yoga restart, my wise 78-year-old friend and longtime yoga devotee gave me the best nudge possible, saying simply, “Always make your yoga practice for and about you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing or what they may be thinking. That’s their business.”
Consider solo or tandem practice
By participating in live classes, you have the advantage of the instructor guiding you as you learn the poses. Over time, you might consider taking online classes in the comfort of your own home or together with a friend, in theirs.