Can a 94 Year Old Learn Yoga?



My unequivocal answer to that is, Yes! I currently have a 94 year old attending my Yoga classes for senior citizens, which has people in the age group 60 to 94 years. In fact, anyone can learn Yoga irrespective of their age, gender, current physical condition and handicap (real or perceived).

Yoga is often confused with impossible looking contortions by beautiful looking models as usually seen in magazines or on TV. These physical exercises or Asanas as they are called in Yoga, are are just one part of Yoga. You can compare it with one of the subjects you studied in School as part of the curriculum but does not constitute your whole education. Some people don’t get Maths quickly, some are not comfortable with drawing or with a particular subject but still manage a good education. Yoga is a complete system of which Asanas are just a part, an important one but by no means the most important.

Yoga has eight limbs, akin to having eight subjects in school. The most powerful of these are breathing techniques or Pranayama, hand gestures or Mudras and Meditation or Dhyana and they can be done by anyone with a little bit of practice. That said, Asanas do play an important role in providing us the base on which we can build our meditation practice but can be modified to suit your particular physical situation.

Over the last few months, I have been teaching Yoga to senior citizens residing in my apartment complex as part of community service. They are in the age groups 60 years to 94 years and when they started a few months ago, had typical problems faced by people in their age group. Some had difficulty squatting, problems with balance, shortness of breath and some had variants of physical constraint. Considering their age and capacity, I have chosen to teach them a modified version which I call ‘Chair Yoga’ . We do not use yoga mats on the floor, but instead use chairs which the senior citizens can use both as props for their asanas as well as for sitting during their breathing, mudra and meditation practice. They go through an hour of chair and standing asanas (chosen appropriate for their age), processes to improve balance and posture, pranyamas, Mudras and concluded by meditation. After the initial few sessions (where they were hesitant and doubted their own capability to learn Yoga) they have now embraced it enthusiastically. All of them have improved their health significantly, are more flexible, have increased their lung capacity, improved posture and balance and developed a more positive attitude to life. Their aching joints may still be as painful (as of now), but they are more accepting of this pain.

Here is a whatsapp message from one of them:

“Today’s Yoga session proves unique in elevating trainees to the state where Heart opens out & Mind turns thoughtless”

I believe he has captured in a simple way the true meaning of Yoga !

If senior citizens can learn Yoga and derive its myriad benefits, why not you ?

The first step for you to start is to drop your preconceived notions of what constitutes Yoga and make a resolution to learn it. Find a Guru who will teach you all aspects of Yoga and not simply Asanas (Asanas alone are a great exercise, same as doing pilates or spinning but do not bring all the benefits of Yoga). Remember that Yoga is not a competitive sport where you have to do better than the next person! A good Guru will allow you to proceed at your own pace, will see if you have a medical condition which requires modification of what is taught to you (for example people with backaches should not do any Asanas with forward bends and must do the asanas which can first remove the backpain). This reminds me of the time when I developed severe back pain after the birth of my first son. I struggled for many years with this, taking pain killers and a diagnosis from a top orthopedic doctor that I have scoliosis and I have to simply live with it all my life. After I learnt Yoga and specially after my teacher training courses, the pain simply disappeared! Perhaps the scoliosis was because of the pain rather than the other way round!

So stop giving excuses to yourself and start yourself on an exciting Yogic journey.

God speed,

Ritu Baveja