Yoga for Seniors

Health, Home & Family
on December 10, 2000

Oleta Burger is gently coaxing her class of stressed and out-of-shape students into a yoga posture, helping them create stronger bodies and peace of mind.

This isnt a group of young professionals looking for a release from high-pressure jobs, however. Burger is in her mid-80s, and many of her students are in their 60s and 70s.

Yoga, an ancient psychological and physical discipline, is gaining popularity as a way to improve physical and mental fitness and reduce stress. And its for anyone: senior citizens, mothers-to-be, men and women of all ages and sizes, and even children.

Breathing techniques or the yoga postures are beneficial by themselves, but only in combination do they provide students with yogas dramatic long-term effects.

Hospitals, YMCAs, and health clubs offer yoga in ever-growing numbers. Meriter Hospital in Madison, Wis., has yoga classes specifically designed for arthritis and fibromyalgia (widespread muscular pain and fatigue disorder), two diseases characterized by debilitating pain.

Burger laments that students frequently dont turn to yoga until they are suffering. Yoga, she says, can be the cornerstone of maintaining good health. From headaches, colds, allergies, and chronic fatigue, to more serious heart, kidney, or circulatory ailments, research is backing up what Burger has said all along: Yoga is for everyone and can only improve our lives.

Breathing correctly is an essential part of yoga, and Burger teaches her students to deliberately modify the rhythm and force of their breathing while doing simple positions called postures.

Yoga sometimes is confused with religion or mystical rituals, but that is nonsense, Burger explains. Yoga enhances religious beliefs you already have. Some yoga enthusiasts say that their own faithwhatever it may bebecomes deeper because yoga helps to clear the clutter from their mind so they can focus on the truly important things.

And that, says Burger, is what its all about.

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