Body-positive Yoga

The Sisters Guide to Yoga in Our 40s, 50s, 60s and Beyond

Do you want to manage weight, relieve stress, connect with African culture, tone muscles or build bones? There’s a practice just for you! Here are options that fit your life.

Gerrie Summers

The Delany sisters (Sadie and Bessie) of Having Our Say fame practiced yoga into their 100s. In fact, Bessie Delany started her yoga practice when she turned 80 because her older sister was looking younger than her! Yoga’s many health benefits include slowing down the aging process. “It’s important for women to evolve our practice as we age,” says certified Vinyasa instructor Carleen Shankle. Respecting your body’s strengths and limitations can help you avoid injuries and get greater benefits, she says.
Find the right practice for you:

In your 40s

At this stage in life we’re juggling the pressures of work, relationships, marriage and/or raising a family. Metabolism begins to slow. The body starts to lose lean muscle. Focus on self-care to keep potential health problems at bay. As you begin to feel hormonal changes, yoga can help you feel more relaxed and centered while keeping you in shape physically. Try:

Kemetic yoga is a system based on ancient Egypt (Kemet) using geometric postures as seen in hieroglyphics. The healing and regenerative movements activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Some poses are similar to Hatha postures, with different names based on Egyptian gods and goddesses. If you’re a regular to yoga, you probably won’t work up a sweat, so if you need more cardio …

Vinyasa yoga is the move if you’re looking for more, well, movement. Vinyasa is adapted from the more vigorous Ashtanga yoga. Breath and movement is coordinated as you flow from one pose to another. But if you want more of a challenge …

Ashtanga/Power yoga: Ashtanga is fast-paced, more intense flow with specific sequences of six poses done in the same order every time, preferably six days a week. Power yoga is based on Ashtanga, but is more like an exercise class with an aim toward cardio and muscle building. Many women looking for a more active practice also enjoy Bikram (done in 90-minute sequences of 26 poses in 105 degrees) or hot yoga (not as strict, more variety). High-intensity yoga, hot yoga or power yoga may cause you to sweat out your silk press!

In your 50s

Yoga can help balance hormones and reduce the stress, insomnia, weight gain (including around the mid-section) and the threat of osteoporosis associated with menopause. “As we age, it’s important to check back in with what our evolved needs may be,” states certified yoga instructor Tiffani Moore. “If the body invites you to slow down into a deeper practice, listen to it.”
After 50, especially if you’re new to yoga, consider starting with …

Iyengar yoga: Attention is paid to proper alignment and props are used such as blocks, straps, blankets and bolsters to help you ease into postures. If this is not active enough for you …

Hatha yoga can either be calming or energizing depending on the instructor. It’s perfect if you’re having hot flashes that could send you into child’s pose during a flow yoga class. Hatha’s slower pace makes it a good choice for beginners and older yogis who want to build strength. You learn basic postures, as well as proper breathing, while holding the poses.

In your 60s and beyond

You want to maintain strength, flexibility and bone density, while keeping your brain active. Yoga can help you maintain balance and stability needed to prevent falls. Consider:

Yin yoga/ Restorative yoga: Yin yoga is done at a slow pace. Students hold poses for several minutes or longer to target connective tissues The instructor should be able to modify your pose, either by positioning or through props like blankets and blocks.

Iyengar yoga is often the go-to for students with chronic conditions or injuries. Teachers have knowledge of anatomy and form and can make sure you have proper alignment.

Hatha yoga: Many classes called gentle yoga are actually beginning Hatha classes. As with all yoga practices, ask your instructor which asanas are safe to do, considering any medical issues like high blood pressure and osteoporosis. “I encourage women to work one-on-one with a yoga instructor,” adds Shankle.

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