One of the frustrating phases of getting older is losing the ability to maintain balance. A fall can lead to a trip to your doctor and sometimes need surgery, therefore, staying upright on your two feet becomes one of the significant issues. Several factors work against your balance. Everything takes a hit when you start ageing, from your vision to the muscles that support your body.
Let’s know more about balance.
Balancing is a complicated skill where several sensations, movements, and calculations are combined to make you walk and sit without falling. This critical feature of our daily lives needs careful orchestration of the sensory input like eyes, body and any special receptors present in the inner ear and the motor outputs that directs the muscles of the body and eyes in response to all data collected.
- Vestibular system: Deep inside your inner ear is your unique set of organs known as the vestibular system. There are three semi-circular canals along with two other structures that provide your brain with the required information about the position of your head. Together they can find out the direction of the motion even when your head is straight or tilted.
- Vision: Our eyes play an essential role in our ability to balance as 20% of the nerves that originate in our eyes interact with those present in the vestibular system.
- Proprioception: Within our muscles, skin, tendons and joints are present specialized sensors known as “proprioceptors”. They often respond to pressure and stretching, allowing your brain to see where the legs and the feet are positioned in a bond to the ground and your head relative to your shoulders. Your capability to track those subtle sensations lets you know where your body is in the whole space, even if blindfolded.
Why does your ability to balance decrease as you age?
Several factors contribute to the decrease in balance. Some of them are:
- Vision issues: Any visual system disturbances highly impact your ability to balance. Cataracts, muscular degeneration and glaucoma are some of the typical age-based vision issues. All of these result in complications in our eye’s ability to send perfect information to the brain about various positions, disorientation, and causes dizziness.
- Disorder in the inner ear: The sensitive nerve cells that make up the vestibular system start dropping in number after you reach the age of 55 and continue detreating the rest of your life. The flow of blood to that area also starts decreasing. Vertigo is often caused by the worsening of the vestibular system present in the inner ear. This can be both mild and severe, resulting in various sensations such as spinning and disorientation, where your brain struggles to make sense of all incomplete signals it receives.
- Muscle weakness: With age, your muscles also start losing their mass and function, affecting your ability to perform. Because muscles are an essential part of the whole balance system, perseverance of the muscle tone is crucial to maintaining a good balance. While some of the muscle loss is because of ageing, another significant contributor is the lack of required physical activity.
- Arthritis: More than 50% of the people who are more than 65 have some or the other form of arthritis, such as knee osteoarthritis. It accelerates the worsening of the balance system by reducing the leg muscle strength and damaging the proprioceptive receptors present in the knee joints.
How does Yoga help in enhancing your balance?
- Yoga is one of the best ways to enhance your activity level, easing your aching joints and toning your muscles. All of that works for maintaining balance. It is gentle and enjoyable, for which it has emerged as one of the activities of choice for several older adults.
- Yoga includes specific poses which are intended directly to target your body balance. Such postures train your body and brain and challenge your motor and sensory system to perform under specified conditions that can be applied later on to daily activities.
- Every year, more than 50% of people over the age of 80 fall and injuries resulting from these falls are the primary cause of disability and some death among this population. When you work on your balance in a very safe and controlled manner, you are rebuilding the skills required for maintaining perfect balance and building up confidence in yourself.
- Yoga helps in decreasing the probability and effect of falls by addressing various balancing functions such as:
- Fast reaction time: When you can respond fast while falling, it can mean the variance between crashing to the floor or holding to any surface to make yourself steady. Doing exercises that need coordination of breath with movement like in Yoga enhances reaction times, encouraging researchers to suggest practices for improving neuro-muscular activities. Yogic breathing exercises also enhance the response times by assisting in prohibiting your reactions to unrequired stimuli.
- Strong bones: Research has shown that doing only 12 minutes of Yoga daily is suitable for reversing osteoporotic bone loss.
- Increases mental function: By enhancing mental clarity, Yoga helps avoid situations that cause you to fall. In addition, meditation has been proved to help preserve cognitive function when you age.
Yoga poses that help in enhancing balance for seniors
- Mountain pose: This pose is one of the best ways to bring down your body into the best alignment, improving posture and balance.
- Balancing table pose: This pose helps strengthen one’s ability to balance oneself in some challenging poses.
- Tree pose: It enhances your posture by engaging your body, core, legs, and lower and upper back. It creates a feeling of groundedness, and it assists in cultivating confidence, self-esteem, focus and concentration.
- Warrior 1 pose: This is a pose that enhances balance as well as posture. It also helps strengthen feet, calves, ankles and thigh muscles.
- Side plank pose: This pose strengthens the core and your back and leg muscles, enhancing your body balance.
Things to keep in mind before practicing yoga poses
Like other physical activities, it is vital to ensure that you as well as your surroundings are well-prepared. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you get started:
- Assess your physical condition: You can surely start Yoga at any skill level and age, but there are a few poses that people with some medical issues should not practice. If you have doubt about your readiness to try Yoga but want to try it, then you can contact your primary care physician.
- Ensure you have the required gear: For beginners, you will require a yoga mat to ensure you are comfortable. If you are trying a modified kind of Yoga, you might also need a chair. In addition, ensure you are wearing clothing that is comfortable for you. Similarly, if you do not want to remain barefoot while practicing Yoga, you can wear non-slippy socks.
- Look for an instructor who is right for you: Whether online class or in-person, selecting a yoga class that matches well with your own skillset is vital. Best yoga schools in Rishikesh offer online and offline 200 hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh that you can choose to learn from the yoga capital of the world and become a certified instructor.
Yoga is a kind of practice that connects your mind and body through varied poses, meditation and breathing exercises. For those senior members who are searching for a safe and efficient way of enhancing their health, Yoga is one of the best options. The benefits of practicing Yoga go beyond recalibration of the whole balance system. Yoga is one of the relevant changes that seniors can make to enhance their overall fitness and health.