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meagan mccrary on yoga for midlifers
My husband swears by yoga. He takes a class almost every day, and it’s become so important to him, it’s made me think about trying it myself.
I’ve been reading Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga by Meagan McCrary, and am shocked by how many different types there are. Of course I’ve heard of Bikram and Ashtanga but Moksha and Jivamukti?
What’s great about this book is that it explores more than a dozen different styles of yoga, so you have an idea of what to expect in a specific class. She explains the philosophy and spirituality behind each practice and tells you, on a practical level, just how strenuous the moves may be. And, in case you’re wondering what makes her an expert, well, just look at the photos above and below.
I know a lot of you are also considering starting yoga in midlife, so I reached out to Meagan to find out if there’s anything special we need to know. Read what she had to say, and then leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of her book.
As a 55-year-old woman who’s only done yoga once or twice, I’m a little intimidated about the idea of starting now. Is it weird to begin doing yoga in your 50s?
The great thing about yoga is that you can start it at any time in your life. My mom was 54 when she began practicing yoga and is still practicing at 63. In fact, she was a candidate for osteoporosis but, since starting yoga, her bone density has increased.
Are there specific styles you would recommend for midlifers?
Styles that would be least intimidating for midlife women would be Integral yoga, Kripalu yoga and Iyengar yoga, all of which have more of a range of students. For women who are intimidated, trying yoga for the first time in a gym setting or a power vinyasa yoga class would not be ideal.
If you are truly a beginner, start at the beginning. Take a basics or beginners course. Many studios offer a basics series, which often includes four or six classes once a week for four or six weeks. I like to encourage all beginners to really allow themselves to feel great about making it to a class. Whatever happens, you took a big risk and got there – not a small or easy feat. Just being in the room is enough. The rest will come with time.
What are the benefits of doing yoga as we age?
Aside from warding off osteoporosis, yoga is in the business of maintaining elasticity, which dramatically decreases as we age. In order for a body to move and function properly, the fascia has to remain somewhat supple – in other words, unstuck – allowing for full range of motion, blood circulation and oxygen flow. Yoga can also reduce the discomforts of menopause and help drastically with the transition. Aside from the muscular-skeletal system, yoga works to promote the healthy function of all of our systems, including the endocrine, or hormonal, system. It can also be tailored to help women transition into menopause by acting on major glands such as the thyroid.
Can yoga help the aging process mentally as well?
Yes! Yoga helps keep the mind sharp and can actually help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in the same way doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles can. In yoga, we are constantly asking our mind to help organize our bodies in all different positions, sometimes even upside down. This keeps the brain on its toes!
What are some of the things midlifers should look out for when starting a yoga practice? Are there any poses to avoid or be especially careful while doing?
Of course, it all depends on the individual. If someone is extremely overweight, many of the poses are not appropriate due to the strain on the knees. And if a person has back, knee or neck issues, then there are poses that shouldn’t be performed unless under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable teacher. But, in general, yoga is extremely safe for midlifers. It’s a very low impact exercise compared to most forms of working out, and it can be practiced well into old age.