When I think of “brain power,” in the context of Yoga for seniors, I think of people in my life who demonstrate having vibrant energy well through their elder years. They tend to be active, agile and lit up. They also seem to be doing things that bring them joy. By their example, I know it’s possible to stay spry as we age. But I’m curious about what makes them so!
Perhaps we notice our sense of balance starting to diminish as we get older. Certainly, loss of balance can be concerning due to the consequences of falling. This adds to the stress of having less control over how our bodies operate while moving through space. Balance is definitely a popular topic among elders who aim to stay fit and energized. Therefore, it’s worth understanding what happens in our brain when our balance is put to the test.
Louisa Sylvia, PhD from Massachusetts General Hospital explains the correlation between balance and brain function in this excerpt from her article:
“Maintaining balance and following through with smooth physical movement is a dynamic process that involves perceiving changes in the environment and initiating innumerable unconscious movements and shifts of position and posture in reaction to these changes.
However, as with many other mental abilities, these brain functions can deteriorate with age and physical inactivity, contributing not only to cognitive decline, but also to greater risk for falls. Fortunately, research suggests that both balance and coordination can improve with practice.”
In response to age-related changes to our balance, it’s common for people to spend more time being sedentary. Dr. Sylvia’s article builds a pretty strong case for balance and coordination exercises safeguarding both our mental acuity and our physical well-being.
Practice makes Better!
I especially appreciate how the brain functions responsible for balance and coordination tend to improve with practice. “Practice” is the aspect of Yoga that makes it accessible, even if we’ve lost our luster and agility. Yoga is not a performance. In fact, it’s a process that prepares us for real world situations we find ourselves in.
Here are some Gentle Yoga practices for you to explore, perhaps a few times per week, to boost your brain power, balance and coordination:
Balance and Coordination equal Brain Power with Sherry Zak Morris
The ability to balance takes brain processing. It helps our bodies react to shifts of position and posture in order to keep ourselves upright. But, as with many other mental abilities, these brain functions can deteriorate with age and physical inactivity. This can also result in an increased risk of falls. Fortunately, research suggests that both balance and coordination can improve with practice!
Around the Clock to Practice your Balance with Sherry Zak Morris
Moving and standing on one leg can be quite challenging. However, with the help of a chair, you can do it! This sequence uses a clock analogy to increase the flexibility in one leg while the other leg gets stronger. See if you can do the super duper version at the end!
Here are some helpful tips to get you started:
- Hold onto the back of a sturdy chair while you practice
- Start slow to help your body and brain move in unison
- If it feels right for you, try doing a round or two with your eyes closed
- Note subtle changes that come with continued practice
When you’re ready for more, try the full-length classes suggested below! May you feel more balanced and lively with each passing day!
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CREDITS: Author, Sherry Zak Morris, Certified Yoga Therapist
Co-Author, Susana Jones, Certified Yoga Therapist
Editor, Maria Perez, Certified Yoga & Group Fitness Instructor