Yoga for Boomers

by Lori Chase

“When the breath wanders, the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.”
– Hatha Yoga Pradipika

While yoga is pervasive today, many from the baby boomer generation remember how it began to grow in popularity in the 1960s. Boomers were the first to really incorporate yoga into mainstream culture,
and now there are more people than ever practicing yoga in this country.

Some boomers have maintained this practice over a long period of time and have learned to modify their practice as their bodies age, but even for those who have never tried yoga, it’s never too late to start.

Yoga is a practice that includes physical postures (asana) and movement, breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation. There is a common misperception that yoga is an exercise only
appropriate for young, flexible people. True yoga practice does not require physical flexibility, but a
certain amount of maturity and patience, the ability to slow down and look within.

Many people come to yoga originally for the fairly well-known physical benefits of the practice, such as flexibility, strength, balance and range of motion. Other positive side effects are weight management,
improved digestion, circulation and posture, and increased immunity. Because practicing yoga improves all of these things, it contributes to the overall health and fitness of the individual and can be complementary to other physical activities.

Other people come to yoga specifically because of certain injuries or illnesses. A regular yoga practice
can help to reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, as well as alleviating chronic conditions such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia. For those wanting to avoid injuries that often come from high-impact activities such as skiing, yoga offers a more gentle
way to stay active and fit.

There is no denying the physiological changes associated with aging, such as loss of muscle mass and tone, loss of bone density, loss of flexibility, joint disorders such as arthritis, deterioration of lung elasticity and capacity, disorders of the circulatory and nervous systems, reduced immune function and sleep disorders, to name a few. The good news is that yoga can help improve all of these conditions, even if just by contributing to positive coping strategies.

“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”
– B.K.S. Iyengar

While these benefits alone could be enough, there are other, more subtle benefits to the body and mind that take place over time when one continues to practice yoga. These include stress reduction, improved
focus, concentration and memory, increased self-acceptance and confidence, and increased energy and
awareness. All of these contribute to a feeling of being more alive and present in each moment.

“Yoga is for everyone. ‘If you can breathe, you can do yoga.'”
– Krishnamacharya

In fact, pranayama, the practice of breath control in various breathing exercises, is part of an advanced
yoga practice.

Through yoga and mindfulness, one can cultivate health and happiness. Slowing down and connecting
with the breath, in the present moment, promotes a deeper awareness of all aspects of your life. You
may find yourself being kinder to yourself and those around you, eating better, sleeping better and feeling an overall sense of relaxation and peace. Yoga can help you to find balance in all aspects of your life, enhance your mood and improve your well-being.

While there are a plethora of books and videos available on yoga, the best way to learn is from a qualified teacher. Start with something gentle, perhaps a restorative practice, or if you are an active person who prefers a challenge, jump right into a hot yoga class. With yoga, there is something for everyone. If you try one and feel like it isn’t right for you, don’t give up.

Find the right practice, the right teacher or teachers, and stick with it over a period of time. Use your
practice to gain a deeper connection with yourself and it can become a tool that you can use any time,
you can take with you anywhere.

“It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness that it can succeed.”
– The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Lori Chase is a registered yoga teacher who teaches at a variety of studios and health clubs in Missoula. She can be reached at (406) 396-2275 or at

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