Yoga for the Rest of Us

Is it possible that there is an underserved yoga population?  It seems impossible that with celebrity yoga teachers, a gazillion dollar retail business and increasing stable of teachers, there‘s a portion of the population missing out. There is.  This ignored group is between 40-something and 70-something years of age. It’s the largest part of the population and their yoga needs are not being met.

This left-out set  is more active and adventurous than ever.  However, that fact that the body is changing cannot be ignored.  Many people in this age range are finding yoga for the first time and some have been practicing for decades.  Although this group is more active, many are more sedentary. Just like the “weekend warriors” that sit all week then play touch football on the weekends, yoga is being used as a “work-out”.  I’m not saying this is bad, but for the 40+ population, this can lead to problems.  The entire “yoga injury” topic is big and I won’t go into it. With 80% of the yoga classes being “flow”– often hot and fast, with mirrors and music and flexible young students–folks are getting injured.  

 

Studios and teachers are often pressured in offering the fast-paced aerobic yoga, because that’s what is filling classes. Take a look at the students and most of them are young. If you are 40-something and older, you will be intimidated or discouraged or injured especially if that’s your first yoga class.  Where is the yoga for the largest (and growing) part of the populations?

I recently listened to a podcast, Spirit Matters, which interviewed Larry Payne, PhD, yoga therapist, author, and co-founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapist.  Dr. Payne feels that yoga has become a “gymnastic-thing” with most of the classes being for what he calls, “the young and restless”.  He wonders so where are the classes for this 40-something to 70-something group?  He says you shouldn’t have to go from “flow yoga” to “chair yoga”.  

Mr. Payne has developed and is offering a Prime of Life program which trains teachers to work with the over 40+ population and he says it doesn’t have to be wussie yoga. His website, http://www.samata.com/, has a listing of teachers who are certified by him to teach his program.  And, I’m happy to say that I’ll be one of them, as I’m attending his 50-hour training in San Francisco in January.  

As I become older and my friends and students age, this growing gap has become more obvious to me.  The older students I teach are strong, willing, plenty able and have excellent attitudes.  And, they show up.  It’s a joy to be able to offer yoga to them.  All they need is a slower pace, more attention to safely moving in and out of poses, and plenty of modifications.  Yoga is not a one-size fits all discipline.  Students’ ability, experience, health and bodies vary wildly.  With the aging of the population, I’m encouraged to see problems like Larry Payne’s cropping up to address this capable group.