Yoga for Seniors: Creating Community

wasn't sure what to expect when I started teaching senior yoga. I had my concerns. Would I know how to teach this audience? Could I handle the physical limitations of the students? Would I stay engaged in a softer practice? Turns out I love it, and the more mature group had plenty to teach me.

The most important thing this wonderful class has taught me is the importance of community. This support system—our little group that gets together twice a week—has built a safety net of love [post-img]and concern for each other that far surpasses the benefit of any physical improvement. While we’ve seen more than your usual share of hip and knee replacements, hospitalizations, open-heart surgery, death and illness, the most obvious transformation has come from a sense of belonging. You are welcomed, watched over and cared for in this community. And it is not me as the teacher “doing” it. The connection comes from the community itself.   
Rides are given to yoga class or to doctor’s appointment for those that can’t manage on their own. Questions are asked about family and health. Cards are sent when someone is sick, or a phone call made to make sure someone is okay if they haven't shown up for class in awhile. We pray for one another.

[tip-fact]This aspect of community has bonded me to the senior class. It also brings to the forefront how a sense of community can be lacking in a typical asana class.

[b-quote]Fostering community can be more challenging when students shoulder heavy responsibility and always feel pressured by time. If you are the one always providing for others—at work, at home, and in relationships—the last thing you want to do in yoga class is give more. Instead, students just want to replenish their inner well. For some, the idea of community seems like a burden. This is completely understandable.

Yet there are lessons to be learned and gifts to be received when a yoga class makes the shift from individual practitioners to a cohesive community. How do you create community with your yoga? Where do you find support? Or, in the Sanskrit language, where is your sangha?

Community supports. Community challenges. In community, we find laughter and lightheartedness.

Bottom-line: it’s more fun to practice together than alone.

In senior yoga, we laugh a lot. We talk a lot. Sometimes we hold a posture while someone tells a joke. We do breathing exercises in between our bouts of laughter or, best yet, sometimes the laughter is the pranayama practice. My oldest student, who is 93 years young, teaches line dancing once a week. Along with teaching me lessons in community, my beloved seniors teach me about a full life. More than that, they show me how to live.

Author: Megan Mcdonough

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