Anyone who has “tried to do” yoga, especially as we age, can attest to the difficulty of the balance aspect. I first began yoga when I was in my early 40’s and was quite easily discouraged due to what I viewed then as a complete lack of balance. When it was suggested to me again in my early 50’s, I decided to give it another try. What I found for myself was that I had gained a great deal of strength since the last time I had attempted yoga (due to daily regular exercise) which made the balance issues somewhat less challenging. However, the strength I had gained was largely due to strength training and a great deal of long distance running. What I had gained in strength, I had lost in agility (stiffened muscles and what I assumed to be age-related aches and pains). I found that the stiffness greatly affected my day to day balance in many activities. The re-introduction of a regular 2-3 times per week yoga practice has helped me to relieve joint stiffness and pain. Combined with the additional strength I have gained through regular strength and endurance training, my balance has dramatically improved.
My personal discoveries in the practice of yoga are echoed in this new study out of the University of Wisconsin, Madison which reports that the number of falls in older adults dropped 48% in the 6 months after instituting a regular yoga practice. You can read all about the study here.
One of the very interesting points of this study was the finding that just a few days of yoga each week was enough to improve balance and reduce the incidence of falls by 48%. The study tested this by assigning “homework” in addition to the twice weekly group classes, and found that there was no significant change associated with the additional practice. The study’s author, Irene Hamrick, projects that just a few days per week of practice might be enough to reinforce the critical connections between nerves and muscles and prevent balance related falls.
Live 2 B Health® offers senior yoga classes to all of their senior living communities as a regular part of their group class offerings. If your community currently holds regular Strength & Balance senior fitness classes, please ask about expanding your program offerings. If you are interested in finding out more information about our Live 2 B Healthy® programs and how your community can begin offering classes to your residents, please contact us today.