Yoga for Women over 40 – Stay Fit, Flexible and Full of Energy
by Helen Smeaton
I’ve been an addict for over four years, a yoga addict that is. And, I wish I had become an addict years ago, but after having tried yoga in my 30s, I honestly thought it was horrid, slow, dull…oh so dull…much worse than watching paint dry. For me, exercise had to be fun, and it had to give me a good workout, but yoga didn’t tick either of those boxes.
Hatha: A Different Type of Yoga
Then, four and a half years ago, a good friend introduced me to an amazing yoga teacher who was a Hatha yoga specialist. And, while her style of yoga was also slow, this new teacher taught me to breathe, yes…breathe. It sounds strange, but I found that proper, “deep” breathing was really, incredibly hard at first. Then, after a couple of weeks, something strange happened, and I started to breathe from deep down in my throat. And, when that happens, you can suck far more air into your lungs and get far deeper into each yoga pose.
Suddenly, a simple touch-your-toes-type stretch (called a forward bend in yoga) became a deep, energizing movement, and with ever-deepening breathing, I realized the power of yoga and its ability to stretch ligaments and muscles in a whole new way. Forget boredom; my passion was well and truly ignited.
Then I Lost My Yoga Teacher
Unfortunately, my yoga teacher decided to have a family and gave up teaching, but the fuse had been lit, so I started to self-practice yoga at home. It was the perfect fit with my mountain biking (yeah, I’m the mad woman you may have read about elsewhere on Booomerinas) because, although cycling keeps you fit and your abs nice and firm, it doesn’t work your hamstrings and hip flexor joints. But, I missed not having a weekly yoga class to inspire me and show me different stretches.
Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga
A year ago, I met a truly inspirational yoga teacher called Vanessa, and she introduced me to a whole new world of yoga. Her style is a mix of Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga, where you flow through each yoga pose (called an asana) generating intense heat and amazing energy.
Vinyasa Flow Yoga
The beauty of Vinyasa flow yoga is the graceful movement from pose to pose using your breath to guide you through the sequence. If you have never tried yoga, there are many classic poses like Downward Facing Dog and Chaturanga (also called plank position) which, when combined together in a Vinyasa flow, energize your whole body and, quite literally, set your muscles on fire.
I cannot believe the difference in my practice from four years ago. Back then, many classic poses like headstands scared the pants off me. I just couldn’t see how I would ever be able to balance in the middle of the room on my head.
Now, I believe anything is possible, given enough time and practice. I have learned how to listen to my body through my breath, and I now relish my weekly one-and-a-half hour class, which I mix with self-practice on most days. In between, Vanessa runs occasional workshops and a monthly, evening advanced class for yoga addicts like me.
Yoga Makes You Strong and Flexible
Even though I’m a mountain-biking jock, I’m not exactly the strongest woman out there. Jeez, even carrying a couple of shopping bags makes my arms ache. But, now I can do various arm balances like Crow and even Side Crow, where you support your whole body on just your arms, yes…really. It’s partly done through strength, but it has far more to do with technique and using your breath to focus your mind on the pose.
And, last year I set myself a goal to master a headstand in the middle of the room, without using a wall for support. What an amazing feeling it is when everything just clicks and you feel light and perfectly balanced upside down!
So, go find yourself an inspiring yoga teacher and stay fit, flexible and packed full of energy through practicing yoga. I know that I’m totally inspired every time I unroll my yoga mat. If you think you might be too old to stand on your head or even touch your toes, there are women in their 80s and 90s who stay fit and flexible through yoga. And, you can start doing yoga at any age. Live life, live yoga…it’s the perfect exercise for women over 40.
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