Strike a healthy pose: Yoga offers benefits for all ages

Saturday, April 10, 2010
Marie Todd, a group fitness instructor at Fitness Plus, leads a yoga class. (Fred Lynch)

Sherry and Greg Boyd have different reasons for attending a restorative yoga class, but the end result is the same: They feel better. The Cape Girardeau couple, both 65, have been going to Yoga on Broadway for several years. Sherry is a local massage therapist and Greg is an engineering professor at Southeast Missouri State University.

"Yoga is slow and easy and it works with the muscular system. It relaxes me because it stretches and lengthens my muscles," says Sherry. She credits the exercise with helping her continue to work as a massage therapist. Greg says the class helps his stress level and occasional low back pain.

The misconception that older people can't participate or benefit from yoga is simply that: a misconception, says Amy Sutherlin, fitness manager at HealthPoint Plaza in Cape Girardeau.

"People of all ages can benefit. As we age, it's even more important to get up and move. Yoga can ease arthritis pain, increase strength, flexibility and mobility, improve balance, help with depression, improve sleep and sometimes blood pressure," says Sutherlin.

Jim Main, 56, Kris Jeffers, 43, and John Oehl, 28, from left, practice yoga at HealthPoint Fitness in Jackson on March 6, 2010. (KRISTIN EBERTS)

According to Sutherlin, most yoga classes begin with a warm-up and then work, which includes strength poses, balance poses and poses to strengthen the abs and back. A cool-down follows, including stretches for hamstrings, back and hips, then a final relaxation which includes visualization and breath work, intended to help people reach new levels of peace and calmness.

Another misconception about yoga, says Carlea Lastrapes, yoga instructor at Fitness Plus in Cape Girardeau, is that the focus is on meditation and breathing.

"Yoga is about fitness and strength and flexibility," she says. "Yoga has become a mainstream fitness regime." Lastrapes teaches private yoga classes with 15 to 20 people in each. At least half are seniors. "Yoga is definitely beneficial for all ages and most people who perform yoga don't look their age. You perform yoga with a mindful approach, focusing on correctness and breathing and leave your to-do list at home," she says.

Jane Greening, who teaches yoga as well as other classes -- including a combination yoga/Pilates called Yolates -- defines yoga as "strengthening, stretching and good for blood pressure." The 75-year-old from Jackson is also a physical therapist. The classes have been especially helpful for 61-year-old Jerry Bailey of Jackson, who had back surgery in 2005. Bailey says he has lost weight and the stretching helped with his back pain.

John Oehl, 28, foreground, and Jim Main, 56, background, practice yoga at HealthPoint Fitness in Jackson on March 6, 2010. (KRISTIN EBERTS)

"After the first class, I felt loose. Before, I even had difficulty getting out of bed. I need to stay committed to this," says Bailey, who has been in the program about six weeks.

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