WHY PILATES, YOGA & TAI CHI ARE AMAZING FOR 50+ WOMEN

Back to  Mind  |  Body  |  Spirit

by | Oct 17, 2021 | Intentional Living

 

Hello Lovely Friend

 

We all know that exercise is particularly important as we age to maintain bone and muscle strength. In this post, let’s discuss the controlled movement exercises of Pilates, Yoga & Tai Chi, and why they can benefit you without the injury risk that other exercises may have.

 

Why Pilates, Yoga, & Tai Chi Are Amazing For 50+ Women

As we age, we need to take more care of our bones and muscles than when we were younger. This is particularly important during and after menopause.

Making an intentional choice to do gentle, controlled movements regularly will greatly reap great health rewards now and in the future (Intentional Living post you may also like)

This is because we are no longer producing estrogen and the downside of this is decreased bone density, increasing the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.

Along with this there is the risk of falls causing broken bones which don’t heal as well when we are older.

A good diet and Estrogen Therapy will help, but sometimes we fail to realize that certain exercises will strengthen and maintain muscles and bones without putting an unnecessary strain on them.

Such Exercises Are Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi

While some women can maintain a rigorous exercise routine, especially if they have always done it, most of us tend to slow down as we get older.

The idea of strenuous gym sessions, or 5-mile runs isn’t appealing and may not be physically possible.

However, sorry to tell you ladies…

But you must do something to keep your bones and muscles from slowly atrophying as we age. Also, this is a wonderful anti- aging practice for body and mind as a the slow movements are quite meditational. (Anti-Aging post you may also like)

I have always used a kettle bell for a regular inside routine, but at 64 I’ve noticed that I make excuses now for why I can’t be bothered doing it, so it’s great to have other options.

This is at a time when I need weight-bearing exercise to stay strong and prevent falls.

So, choosing any of these 3 movement exercises is a great alternative. Plus the only equipment needed is a yoga mat.

They can be done inside or outside in the fresh air, alone or in the company of others.

Let’s take a look at the benefits:

 

What Is Pilates?

Pilates was invented by a German physical trainer named Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century.

He called it ‘Contrology’ as it was a form of controlled movements designed to strengthen the body’s core, and to build coordination and balance.

The emphasis is on breathing, muscle tone and correct body alignment. He believed that the mental and physical health are interrelated which is a holistic approach.

Originally, Pilates developed a variety of machines designed to help his patients correctly perform the stretches, the most famous of which is now called The Reformer.

Woman using pilates reformer machine in a pilates room

Over the years, instructors have adapted pilates to be performed just with a mat, as not everyone has the budget or space for a Reformer machine.

Some other equipment such as balls, resistance bands and foam bolsters are also used in Pilates but not always necessary.

 

Most Versions Of Pilates Taught Today Are Based On 9 Principles:

Breathing – central to effective Pilates. When practicing the exercises, you are encouraged to breath in and out deeply in coordination with the movements.

Concentration – Pilates demands concentration and focus. The way an exercise is performed is more important than the exercise itself…in other words, form is everything.

Centering – this refers to the powerhouse muscles of abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, inner thighs and buttocks. Strengthening these muscles provides stability and coordination.

Flow – refers to the flow of energy from the powerhouse muscles to the outer extremities in a series of fluid movements.

Postural Alignment – using correct posture while performing the exercises optimizes coordination and corrects any muscle imbalances.

Precision – super important as the goal is to do each movement correctly, rather than many movements half-heartedly.

Relaxation – correct muscle usage and improved concentration are enhanced with relaxation.

Stamina – with practice and precision, the movements become more efficient so there is less stress to performing each exercise.

 

Why Pilates is Amazing For 50+ Women

Pilates doesn’t put undue strain on the heart because the movements are controlled and gentle and don’t take a heavy toll on your body.

It strengthens and elongates your muscles giving you a longer, leaner look, and is especially good at a time when you start to feel like you are shrinking slightly.

Do you notice that you appear to be shorter later in the day than in the morning? This is because the the discs between our vertebrae compress a little throughout the day.

I notice it the most in the car, as I need to adjust the rear vision mirror when driving home.

Woman practicing pilates outdoors on purple mat

It can improve your health like any form of exercise by improving your breathing, and it really assists with maintaining good posture and balance.

Improved balance can help to prevent falls which may lead to fractures…not a good thing to have as we age.

According to WHO, falls are something you really want to avoid, and decreased balance and mobility is the most common cause of this as we age.

It’s interesting to know that one of the most debilitating fall injuries is ‘hip fracture’, and sadly 50% of all adults treated for hip fracture never fully regain their previous level of function.

Improved balance will give you more confidence in your day-to-day movements.

 

Benefits Of Pilates:

1. Pilates involves an invigorating mind-body workout

Pilates places a heavy emphasis on using proper breathing techniques, aligning your spine correctly, and keeping your pelvic aligned.

It involves concentrating on flowing, smooth movements that help you become more in tune to your mind and body.

When you do Pilates, you learn to control your movements by practicing quality exercises that focus on the core.

There is also a focus on breathing to the tune of your movements so that you can use your power to efficiently move your body.

By being a mind-body workout, Pilates teaches you how to breathe better, which can be great for women who are experiencing stress.

2. Pilates Helps You Develop Strong Core Muscles

Much of the focus in Pilates is the strengthening of the core of your body. The core of your body is the central part of your body, both the abdominal muscles and the back muscles.

Pilates helps you strengthen these muscles so that you can move with ease as you go about your day with complete control over these essential core muscles.

Pilates can help you find integration between your pelvis, trunk, and shoulder muscles so that they function as a strong unit.

3. Pilates Increases Flexibility & Lengthens Your Muscles

Many anaerobic workouts, such as weightlifting or using weight machines will only lead to muscles that are bulky and short. These muscles tend to be more likely to be injured and aren’t the kind of muscles you want to have.

Instead of bulky ‘body-building’ muscles, Pilates helps you elongate your muscles, strengthening them at the same time. Your muscles will become more elastic, and you will have increased flexibility of your joints.

When you achieve these kinds of muscles, you are less likely to become injured.

4. Pilates Can Help Prevent Muscle Injuries

Most other anaerobic workouts work the same muscles over and over again, such as the biceps muscles or quadriceps muscles.

Sometimes these muscles are exercised to the exclusion of other muscles. You can easily over-strengthen certain muscles, while other muscles are under-strengthened. This leads to weaknesses.

In Pilates, all the core muscles are strengthened at the same time so that you have a decreased chance of becoming injured while working out or by doing your ordinary activities of daily living.

5. Pilates Conditions Your Entire Body

In doing Pilates, you strengthen not only your core muscles but also the muscles of your extremities. Pilates doesn’t emphasize one set of muscles to the exclusion of other muscles.

6. Pilates Helps You Move With Better Efficiency

Pilates involves doing smooth and continuous motions so that you can train your body to move with more safety, decreasing your risk of falls and the fractures that can come with falling.

You can practice pilates every day with a low risk of suffering from any kind of overuse injury to your muscles.

After a while you will notice that you look taller, slimmer and leaner. This is due to the lengthening of your muscles and improved posture. What a win-win!

I recommend finding a pilates class near you or watch this instructional pilates video for the convenience of exercising in your home. Also, here’s a 60+ pilates video if you need to take extra care due to your age or physical issues.

 

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient practice, first developed in India 5000 years ago. The word Yoga is Sanskrit for ‘Union’.

It was originally intended as a spiritual practice and is still seen as this in India.

However, today in modern society it is seen as a practice to strengthen your body, provide agility, flexibility, stress relief and good breathing.

Mature woman in Yoga meditation pose

If you’ve never done yoga before, the thought of starting over age 50 may seem daunting.

However, yoga is far from being a ‘one size fits all’ type of activity, as you can modify it to fit your needs without hassle.

In fact, we should be performing yoga, especially as we age, because it can play an important role in helping us maintain flexibility and strength through a range of low impact movements.

Note: there are many similarities between Yoga and Pilates. This video helps to explain the differences.

Strengthening the bones, muscles and increasing your flexibility skills improves mobility in aging, one of the key considerations for all adults heading into their senior years.

 

Why Yoga Is Amazing For 50+ Women

Yoga is also an excellent mind-body exercise that greatly lowers stress.

Make no mistake, stress is a culprit in numerous chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, obesity and even dementia conditions like Alzheimer’s.

Better yet, yoga is free. You won’t need expensive equipment, just a yoga mat. Plus, it can be done in the comfort of your home, garden, or park.

There are various types of Yoga and many different disciplines but, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can choose which type of yoga you practice depending on what you want to achieve.

BTW, don’t be put off by photos of super-flexible young women bent into all sorts of shapes! You don’t need this level of flexibility to enjoy the benefits, but you may achieve much more than you expect with regular practice.

For example:

Ashtanga – focusses on a series of movements that are linked to your breathing.

Bikram – also known as ‘hot yoga’ due to the practice of heating a room to 105 degrees F and a humidity of 40%. It consists of 26 poses and 2 breathing sequences.

Hatha – (my favorite and a good beginner yoga). Hatha is a generic term for yoga that teaches specific poses or Asanas.

Iyengar – this style of yoga uses props like chairs, blocks, straps or blankets to promote a correct alignment in each pose.

Kripalu – exercises, gentle stretching, followed by a series of poses and leading to relaxation. This is encouraging the student to look inwards, learning from the body.

Kundalini – involves chanting and singing, designed to release pent-up energy, and is considered a form of meditation.

Sivananda – uses a 5-point philosophy that includes correct breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise, and positive thinking. This is a holistic approach.

Yin – focusses on holding poses for long periods of time, targeting deep tissues, joints, ligaments and bones.

Prenatal – a series of gentle exercises designed to prepare the body for a healthy pregnancy and getting back into shape after pregnancy.

Restorative – a very popular form of yoga, designed to assist relaxation, using props like blankets and bolsters to perform 4-5 different poses.

 

What Are Asanas?

Asanas are the different poses used in Hatha yoga…they are used to free blocked energy and imbalances in the Chakras.

Chakras are center points throughout the body and relate to the flow of ‘life energy’, thoughts, feelings, and physical reactions. In Sanskrit, chakra means ‘disk or wheel’ and to function well, they need to stay open or ‘balanced’.

This flow of energy is known as Prana or Qi, and it’s believed that blockages in this energy may manifest as indigestion, fear, or anxiety, or more serious health issues.

Unblocking chakras is achieved by correct yoga postures, breathing practices and meditation.

Woman practicing meditation with chakras marked

7 Major Chakras:

Sahasrara the Crown Chakra – located in the center of the crown and symbolizes your spiritual connection.

Ajna the ‘third eye’. Located between the eyebrows symbolizing intuition.

Vishuddha the Throat Chakra symbolizing verbal communication and immunity.

Anahata The Heart Chakra, the center of the chest symbolizing personal and professional relationships.

Manipura The Solar Plexis Chakra/stomach area symbolizing wisdom, self-confidence and self-discipline.

Swadhishthana the sacral Chakra located below the belly button. Symbolizes the pleasure and vitality.

Muladhara The Root Chakra located at the base of the spine. This is the ‘grounding’ chakra, connecting the mind and body to the earth, related to the parasympathetic nervous system.

 

The Benefits Of Yoga:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Improved breathing
  • Support heart health
  • Ease arthritis symptoms
  • Relief from chronic pain
  • Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Treating insomnia to promote better sleep
  • Promote inner peace
  • Enhance overall quality of life.

Not sure where to start? Join a yoga class, hire a personal yoga trainer, or follow along to this Yoga video at home.

 

Why Tai Chi Is Amazing For 50+ Women

This is an ancient form of martial art, dating back 2500 years and is based on Qigong which has its roots in Chinese medicine.

Tai chi consists of gentle, non-competitive exercises focusing on slow, controlled, movements flowing from one into the next without pausing.

Woman practicing Tai Chi exercises in the park

Each movement is graceful, fluid and ensures your body is in a state of constant movement accompanied by deep breathing.

There are various types of tai chi, some are based on the original martial art, while others are specifically designed for health and promoting calmness and peace.

 

The 3 Most Common Styles Of Tai Chi

Yang styleinvolves 24 movements and can be challenging as you need to keep your knees bent and a wide stance. This isn’t best for beginners or anyone with joint issues.

Wu style 24-36 movements. This is gentler than Yang as your knees aren’t so bent and the stance is less wide.

Chih styleThis is the most widely practiced in outside of China. It uses a higher and narrower stance, with much less transfer of weight from one leg to the other. This makes it a great choice for beginners and for improving your balance.

Once again, you can practice tai chi anywhere, home, garden, park, alone or in a group. No equipment is needed.

If you find tai chi to be a little slow, just think of it as a form of meditation.

Making the slow, deliberate movements, without stopping when changing from one to another can be quite cathartic, and it’s especially enjoyable when performed outside in nature listening to birds or the ocean where possible.

These slow, deliberate movements are low impact making it especially suitable for older people. Here’s a Tai Chi video to help you learn the moves.

The Benefits Of Tai Chi:

  • Improved flexibility, balance, and agility
  • Better sleep & relief from insomnia
  • Increased energy
  • Improved muscle strength and definition
  • Lower stress levels
  • Reduced risk of falls
  • Improved aerobic capacity
  • Increased feeling of wellbeing.

 

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this post.

I know many people of all ages who regularly practice one of these 3 exercise choices.

I have tried all 3 and my personal choice is yoga. But, they are all great for de-stressing, balance, muscle strengthening and flexibility.

With Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi, you will gain the most benefit from having some lessons from trained instructors who will show you correct form and breathing techniques, and also from practicing the moves regularly.

However, so long as you warm up first, take things easy and don’t overdo it, you will benefit greatly from any of these 3 wonderful, controlled movement disciplines even if you are following along to videos.

As always, I would love your feedback. I would love to hear which you prefer. Please leave me a comment below.

 

 

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Hi, I'm Amanda

My passion is helping 50+ women live their best life possible and follow their dreams.

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