Give a warm welcome
Organize a free “meet and greet” before you start a class. I often emphasize how yoga for older people provides a great opportunity to socialize with peers at a time in their lives that might feel isolating. Many older people are first-time yoga practitioners, so share information, demonstrate some foundational postures, and allow time for a Q&A.
One of the biggest barriers to older people participating in yoga classes is their trepidation about not being able to “keep up.” Sequence postures and transitions logically from standing to kneeling to sitting to reclining, rather than arbitrarily moving from standing to floor postures.
The pace of classes is important. Slow transitions and pauses between postures will allow students to have moments to experience bodily sensations. This opens them to an interoceptive experience of the breath and body. This is one of the fundamental aspects of self-realization, which is why we practice yoga.
See also Jana Long's Sequence for Seniors.
Encouragement is key. I help people in class rethink their language. The words “can’t” and “try” are eliminated. The mere suggestion of a new posture might raise resistance and a lot of grumbling. Rather than declaring that they can’t do a posture, or they are trying to do it, encourage them to know and accept their limitations and to follow their intuition.
Project your voice without overdoing it
Hearing declines in many older people. Invite anyone who has that challenge to come closer to you, or move around the room as you instruct the class. Please do not infantilize your speech; seniors do not like to be talked to like they are children!
Ask before assisting
Many older people have replacement parts, especially knee, hip, and shoulder joints. Always check with them before doing any hands-on assisting.
Watch also Jana Long's Short Meditation Practice.
About the author
Jana Long is a certified yoga therapist and a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider. She is also writer, a certified Master Gardener, and an ardent student of astrology. Learn more at powerofonecenter.com.