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How to Get in Shape After 40 with Yoga

Smiling Nora- Yoga After FortyPeople ask me, “Nora, how do you stay so thin?”. I respond, “I do yoga”. Next, they ask me, “But, how are you so strong?”. Again, I respond, “I do yoga”.

Finally, they ask me, “How do you handle stress at work?”. I say, “I do drugs”.  Ok, that’s not true but some days I am tempted! Of course, my answer is that I do yoga. Yoga is a great way to get in shape no matter how old you are.

This post describes how to get in shape after 40 with yoga. It could easily be called how to get in shape after 50, 60 etc. It tells you why you want to practice yoga after 40. It provides links on how to find a yoga class.

Choose Exercise for the Long Run

You’re in your 40s and looking at your life. Maybe you climbed the corporate ladder or built a career. Maybe you have been a caregiver. You probably have experienced divorce, illness or loss of a loved one.

You might be thinking about the future and the life you want to create. It might be time to get in shape and focus on your health.

Many ways to get in shape exist. Yoga is a great option. It’s a safe aerobic workout. It burns calories, builds strength and increases flexibility. It’s something you can practice your entire life and doesn’t cost a lot of money.

The number of older people practicing yoga is increasing.  According to a 2016 Yoga in America Study:

Yoga is for everybody. There are more male and older practitioners than ever before (approximately 10 million male practitioners and almost 14 million practitioners over the age of 50 – up from about 4 million men and 4 million 55+year olds in 2012).

Practicing yoga has many health benefits. This post touches on two critical ones for aging.

Have a Healthy and Happy Spine

Dhanurasana - Bow PoseHave you noticed how some older people have a hunchback? Do your parents or grandparents seem to shrink with the passage of time? One reason for this is that your spine changes as you age.

The disks in your spine provide cushion. They absorb impact for the bones or vertebrae. According to modern medicine, these disks shrink and lose moisture as you age. The spinal column can also narrow over time.

These conditions may lead to back pain, stiffness and a host of other problems.

Aside from aging, lifestyle impacts the spine. If you work on a computer all day, you might get lazy with your posture. Maybe you spend a lot of time traveling, either driving or flying on a plane. This adds to having poor posture and back pain.

Many yoga postures strengthen the muscles in the back and abdomen. They release tension in the chest and create flexibility. This helps you have good posture and a healthy spine.

Improve Your Balance

Virabhadrasana III, Bayfront Park Miami Free Yoga Class - Photo by Rafael Montilla According to the National Council on Aging:

  • Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. Every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall.
  • Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of fractures. They are the leading cause of hospital admissions for trauma and injury deaths. Falls are the most common cause of older adult traumatic brain injuries. They account for over 46% of fatal falls.

Good balance is important as you get older. Balancing postures improve focus, strength and stability. They help you stay grounded and regain your balance if you fall.  According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study mentioned above:

80% of practitioners self-report they have good balance compared to 64% of non-practitioners.

Ignore Your False Beliefs

You might be thinking that you are too old or inflexible to practice yoga. This isn’t true! Anyone can practice yoga. The key is that you take beginner classes and modify poses. Go at your own pace.

One myth is that practicing yoga isn’t a workout. Many people ask me how I stay in shape. They assume I’m doing something else other than yoga. They think taking a yoga class means meditating or stretching. These types of classes do exist.

But, other types of yoga classes exist where you sweat the whole time. My hardest workouts are weekend yoga workshops. When I don’t practice on a regular basis, I gain weight and lose muscle strength.

Add Other Activities

Consider adding walking, swimming or biking to your routine. These are low impact, aerobic activities. Combined with yoga, they will help you enjoy old age.

Look at how you can improve your diet. Make sure you are getting the right nutrition since your diet impacts your practice. Get lots of rest. Reducing stress helps too.

You’re Never Too Old to Start

At the gym where I teach, students of all ages attend yoga class. One student started yoga in his 50’s and has become addicted. He can do poses that some younger students cannot. Other students express that they always feel better after class.

Some have shared that their best night of sleep is after yoga class. They have no back pain and sleep soundly. This is inspiring!

Almost 100 and Still Practicing!

Have you heard of Tao Porchon-Lynch, the 99-year-old yoga instructor? She can do poses that most people can’t do, even youngsters. Her story, as described in her book, “Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master”, is inspiring.

 

Ready, Set, Go!

I am hoping that are you are ready to give yoga a shot. Try a yoga class and see how it goes. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to continue. But I encourage you to take a few classes and see how you feel before quitting.

I’ve written two posts on how to find a yoga class as listed below.

How to Find a Yoga Class for People Over 40

Find Free Yoga Online – A Basic Overview

The above posts will help you find a yoga class that is right for you. Remember to check with your doctor if you have medical conditions.

If you want to get in shape, I recommend any kind of Vinyasa Class. I prefer Ashtanga but other great options exist. Bikram Yoga is great for losing weight.

You might also read, “What to Expect in My First Yoga Class – Help for Newbies”.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you find a class, make a commitment. Like any get-in-shape program, you must practice to get results. If you practice only once a week, you won’t see a big change. Start with 1 class a week. Work your way up to at least 3 classes per week.

Ideally you practice 6 days a week, but this isn’t always possible. Try to fit as many classes as you can into your schedule. The more you practice the faster you will see results. You will lose weight, become flexible and build strength.

As Ashtanga Guru Pattabhi Jois said,

“Practice and all is coming”.

Happy practicing! Thank you for reading this.  I hope you feel inspired to practice yoga to get in shape after 40. Did you start yoga after 40? Have you been practicing into retirement? Please share your experience in the comments below.

All the best,

Nora

Nora

6 Comments

  1. Wow! Tao Porchon-Lynch is the yoga master we should all aspire to. She is an inspiration to all to keep fit and healthy. And so are you, Nora!

    Thank you for a very helpful article. I am so encouraged by you. I used to practice yoga. Then I stopped for over a year because I was busy with work (yes, bad excuse. I know). But it is true. I wanted my own online businesses and dedicated all my waking hours (after full time work is done) to build and grow it.

    And now, I have a frozen right shoulder. I am getting treatment from a Chinese physician who is a spine alignment doctor as well as acupuncturist. And it is helping. But I would like to practice yoga and be fit, healthy and especially flexible again. I miss my body being so.

    Are there yoga moves that can help my frozen shoulder?

    • Hi Timotheus,

      Thank you for the feedback!

      I can totally relate as I too am spending my time outside my day job on this website – and I love it! It’s inspiring to connect with people like you and help others in a way I never thought possible. God bless the Internet!

      Yes, there are lots of things you can do with your shoulder. First notice your posture when you are on the computer. Notice if you are hunching over and draw your shoulders up, back and down. In between working, stand alongside a wall. Slowly move your arm in a large circle whiling lightly touching your fingers on the wall. It might be hard do. So just do what you can. Pause and breath where it gets stuck.

      I asked my chiropractor about frozen shoulder once and he said it is frozen due to scar tissue that needs to be broken up. So I would look for a good massage therapist. In the US “Rolfers” are excellent. I would try to find someone with skills similar to a Rolfer.

      I hope you feel better and are able to practice yoga again!
      Nora

  2. Hi Nora. What an inspirational post. I love yoga and practiced it a lot in my youth (I’m now over 50) but have been thinking that it is something I want to start doing again regularly. I’ve been a dance teacher for a long time but I find that some of the exercises now are too strenuous and I yearn for something more relaxing so you have inspired me to start again – today! Thank you.

    • Hi Gail,

      Thank you for sharing! I’m glad the post inspired you. Some of my first yoga classes were in a loft in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. My teacher was an ex-dancer. She often talked about how professional dancing took a toll on her body. So I think you are on the right track.

      Happy practicing!
      Nora

  3. Loved this post. I am 63 and started yoga about 6 months ago. I do not go to a class per se, but I found online poses for those that are “mature” in age. I started slow and feel a big difference. I have spinal stenosis and arthritis and I move much better now than I have in years. I, on the other hand, never thought about the balance issue and as you get older, the cause of falls is balance. I wonder, though, does yoga help with vertigo? I have this issue also.

    • Hi Mary,

      Thank you so much for sharing! Wow – you started at 63! Good for you! You are an inspiration! You nailed it on the head – start slow and notice how you feel. There is so much information online. I’m glad you were able to find poses that work for you.

      Your question about vertigo is a good one. I believe yoga can help minimize it if not eliminate it. But I am not a doctor.

      You will want to practice postures that are grounding, where you are pressing your feet into the floor. I would just keep practicing. As you feel stronger, add new poses that make sense for you.

      You have inspired me to write a blog about this. Stay tuned!

      Enjoy your practice!
      Nora

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