Yoga practice for seniors is a promising therapy for fear of falling
November is Fall Prevention Month and I thought it vitally important to write about the role of yoga in healthy aging and preventing falls as we age.
Falls are of course a leading cause of fatal and serious injuries in the elderly over the age of 65 and the danger of falling or the experience of falling creates fear that becomes debilitating. Fear of falling prevents people from leading full and active lives, increases depression and starts a vicious cycle in which fear prevents movement and lack of movement makes the persons balance, walking gait and confidence further deteriorate. So the reality is that fear of falling can affect the whole quality of life including social functioning, ability to take care of oneself and general mood.
What is clear from my years of yoga experience is that elderly yoga participants generally report feeling steadier and are less fearful of falling, not to mention the qualitative improvements people experience after yoga such as greater connection and sense of well-being. According to a study appearing in the International Journal of Yoga , yoga shows promise as a therapy to improve both balance and coordination in the elderly. The seniors participated in a one-hour chair yoga session twice a week for 8 weeks. After the study period, the seniors were tested for balance, fear of falling, ability to reach with arms, use of assistive devices, and how long it took to get out of the chair. Results showed that not only could yoga be safely practiced by elderly people, they improved in all measures, including better balance and reduced fear of falling.
Hatha yoga, because of its active mind-body component, has been particularly promising in treating this fear because the poses strengthen and increase flexibility in the lower body, the breathing exercises relax the body and the mind, enhances the yoga students sense of where they are in space, and most importantly decreases anxiety and therefore the actual likelihood of falling. At Tina Coleman Yoga, we deliver Hatha Yoga programs for aging adults to improve balance and decrease falls but also manage the fear of falling. Our “Steady Seniors Yoga Class” which includes postures, meditation, and breathing enhance mental and emotional well-being and improves an individual’s physical strength and stability.
I warmly invite you to contact me anytime if you have any questions about this class or any others we teach at Tina Coleman Yoga. Check out our blog if you are wondering which style of yoga is best for you.