Why I Teach Senior Yoga

Sixteen years ago, I went round the world on a pushbike. In September 2000, I flew to Australia for the Australia leg and after finishing Asia came back to Australia and have been here ever since. The terms of my visa did not allow me to work (that has changed in the intervening years), so I started to explore different things to do that I hadn’t had time to do before I took early retirement. One of those areas was yoga. I really enjoyed it and found that it, as I explain it, “got into your bones”; it just became an integral part of me. I was volunteering as I had significant experience in developing policy and sat on several boards helping them develop policy manuals etc. But it was yoga that I found the most fascinating.

One day I literally woke up and decided to become a yoga teacher so that I could teach seniors. I’m truly not sure how I came to that decision but it felt very right. In my volunteer positions, I met many people that had injuries or were older and from my experience taking yoga, I knew that yoga could be very beneficial for them if it was presented in a way that was sensitive to their needs and abilities. I completed basic teacher training.

A few weeks later I visited my mother at the assisted living apartment where she lives. My mom is a little firecracker and we spent many years just trying to keep up with her – in fact, I still walk very fast today because that’s how we walked when I was a child. But I noticed that she was walking very slowly and appeared to be in pain. I asked her what was wrong and she said she had arthritis in her back and it was painful. I asked if she would like to try some gentle yoga stretches to see if that would help and she agreed to try them. We did the yoga stretches and then went to the store. All of a sudden, I’m hurrying to keep up with her again and asked how her back was feeling. She looked a bit surprised and said it really felt much better. So I knew that yoga has the capacity to help older people with their pain.

After taking specific training in yoga for seniors, I taught at community organisations, retirement villages and started my own classes. I have been teaching yoga for over 9 years and I continue to teach it because I love the interaction with my students. I particularly like when students take something they learned in class and use it to help themselves at home. I’ve had older students tell me they use the neck asana taught in class when their neck feels stiff and they do yoga nidra and breathing to help with insomnia. I’ve had some students report they felt that yoga had significantly contributed to their mobility after surgery or injuries.

I also enjoy the social interaction. For example, some of my older students explained what it was like to be in Australia during World War II. They were all young children attending school in Sydney and then when they were sent inland because of the fear that the Japanese would bomb Sydney harbor. We had a whole conversation about how Australia felt about the war and how people were hiding all of their valuables in the backyard because they were concerned that the Japanese would invade

Older people don’t have much ego over yoga; they do it because they enjoy it. So there is much laughter in class and no competition between students. They feel better after class and continue to come to class to share conversation over tea and to stretch muscles and open joints for a more pain-free existence. I provide a service that improves their quality of life but I receive more than I give. I am very glad I woke up that morning years ago and decided to teach yoga to seniors; it’s been a very exciting and rewarding time in my life.