Yoga Classes for Seniors

Is Age Nothing but a Number?

Who is teaching yoga for students who are 50+ and what are you calling it? A general “All Levels” or “Gentle Yoga” are not what we are looking for. Instead, something new and fun. Also, to clarify — I am looking for a name that isn’t offensive (such as yoga for seniors would be).

Shannon was asking on behalf of a client who had been approached by a group of 50+ women who requested their own yoga class without mentioning the term “senior”. It was certainly a hot button issue with words like “ageist” and “offensive” being scattered throughout the responses. A very interesting conversation developed and many asked if a class geared toward seniors was even necessary. A significant number of responses were something like “just call it yoga.” Many important points were discussed, bringing in a wealth of insight. Through this thread I was able to compile a list of possible class names that were shared with great humour and wisdom. I was also able to put together a list of other considerations, if you do intend to teach a class geared towards older adults, pulling from the multitude of responses.

The Results:

Collective Brainstorm for Yoga Classes Geared Towards Seniors:

♦  Yoga for Vitality

♦ Active Living Yoga

♦ Yoga for Longevity

♦ Wisdom Warriors

♦ Vintage Yoga

♦ Sensational 60s and Beyond

♦ Silver Wisdom

♦ Wise moves

♦ Ageless Yoga

♦ Tranquil Yoga

♦  “No Plans to Grow Up” Yoga

♦  Mindful Movement

♦ Flex-ability

♦ Fearless after Fifty

♦ Yoga Silver or Silver Yoga

♦ Silver Fox Yoga

♦ Yoga for the Second Half of Life

♦ The Third Stage of Life

♦ Healthy Aging

♦ Lifelong Yoga

♦ Gentle Years

♦ Young at Heart

♦ Bones and Balance

♦ Follow Your Path

♦ Older Adults Yoga

♦ Club 55+

♦ Yoga for Aging Bodies

♦ Yoga for Life

♦ Everlasting Yoga

♦ Yoga for Golden Agers

♦  Golden Yogis

♦ Yoga for Goldeners

♦ Accessible Slow Flow

♦ Slow Flow

♦ Chair Yoga

♦ Flowing Chair Yoga

♦ Yoga Wellness

♦ Baby Boomers Yoga

♦ Yoga for Rotary Phone Users

♦ Yoga for Non-Millennials

♦ YOGA = Yoga Of The Gently Age

♦ Alignment-based

♦ 65 & Better

♦ SNR (Senior) Power Yoga

The outpouring of names for classes geared toward older adults was impressive. I was struck by the humour, sensitivity, and experience behind the suggestions. It can be quite a challenge to come up with a name that will avoid offending while being clear. Michelle Marchildon describes her learning experience with the class name “Wise Warriors”:

The term Wise Warriors was confusing. The active and strong “seniors” felt it would be too easy, and the frightened “seniors” felt it would be too hard. I call it “Align Level 2-3” now. And we are usually very full every week with older and younger.

Age is Nothing But a Number?

Though Shannon’s question didn’t mention the word “senior” many felt that 50+ implied this, which brought into question: How do we, as a society, define senior? As many pointed out, 50 is not a generally thought of as the age of a senior. I googled this question and this was the top answer:

“Some dictionaries define “senior citizen” as a person over the age of 65. In everyday speech, the term is often shortened to “senior.” In legislation, the term applies to the age at which pensions, social security or medical benefits for the elderly become available.”

65 years old certainly seems more reasonable than 50 to be labelled “senior” but many asked why label at all?  Several of the yoga teachers made the point that they would never teach a class geared toward a certain age group:

“There is nothing senior about over 50. Teach the person not the demographic. I have students from teenagers to over 70 in the same class.”

Austin Ince

Many pointed out that ability should be a priority over age:

“Since when are 50+ yogi’s seniors? I’m a teacher 56 years old and I have lots of students in my classes that are 50+ and nowhere near ‘senior’. All in regular classes. Even one lady 72! I think the division should not be age based but ability based. There are young people with chronic diseases or injuries or whatever that need a different class as well and they blend perfectly with older people needing special attention …”  

Monique van Leeuwen

Unfortunately, ageism is alive and well as experienced by Flame Joyce Simcosby:

I did my yoga teacher training at 62 and did not appreciate the ageism remarks that occasionally popped up. I’ve been doing yoga most of my life. My age had nothing to do with anything.

The Special Needs of Aging Bodies

There are some students who simply want to be grouped by age and feel more comfortable in a class with their peers. A comment made by a student requesting the 50+ class and mentioned she didn’t want to attend one with “bendy 20-year-olds”. An interesting point made by Louise Bloom regarding the changes aging brings to the body regardless how fit we are for our age:

BUT there is an underlying elephant in the room here getting stirred up. Physiologically speaking there *is* a difference between a 20-year-old body and a 50+ one. While yoga itself may assist individuals in counteracting the effects of aging; tissue repair, proprioception, joint fusion etc can all be affected by the aging process. I’m not suggesting that we should see these factors as barriers to participation AT ALL but it is negligent of us as a community to pretend that youthful bodies have the same challenges as mature ones. Personally as I get older (I am 40) I find my attention shifting toward circulatory issues, hip joint health and core strength. In my twenties my yoga practice was more geared toward mental positivity, spinal flexibility and relaxation techniques. I imagine as I progress along my own timeline issues such as proprioception, range of motion and hormone regulation (eek! menopause!) will surface for me.

Menopause, which most women reach between the ages of 45 and 55 (though not strictly,) was cited in Dianna Stratton’s idea for a class:

It should be called Yoga with Air Conditioning, because yoga after menopause is unbearable. 😉

Rosemary Thomas chimed in:

OH MY GOSH YES. I used to lay claim to the “menopause corner” where the air conditioner vent blew the strongest. Hot flashes during yoga made me wanna puke

The Beauty of Teaching Older Adults

I found a couple of teachers who felt especially honoured to teach older adults:

I‘ve had the absolute privilege of teaching folks older than me for a funded project, they called it Golden Yogis… I don’t really care what it’s called, they’re the most relaxed, playful and funny group I have the honour to spend time with.

– Mark Russell

Autumn Anderson shared that her class with an older demographic are:

..up for trying new and challenging things but have no problem letting me know when something is too much for them personally. They opt to use walls when needed and often have their own modifications for things.

Teaching older bodies is one of my favourite things to do! They are typically more in tune with what works/what doesn’t and it honestly helped my awareness as a teacher for all classes.

Marketing Considerations

Marketing was a factor brought up my several respondents and included the theory that classifying classes by age might be more of a marketing strategy than a useful division. Concerned with offending with the term “senior”? Many suggested that naming the class in a way that attracts seniors but isn’t explicitly in the title could be a good strategy such as Gentle, Restorative, Yoga Basics, Intro to Yoga, Slow Flow, etc. Also, promoting or teaching your class in a senior-specific place such as a nursing home eliminates the need to label. Your time slot alone can attract seniors. As Teresa Whitely noted that holding weekday morning classes is a “great time slot for retired folks.”

Sometimes all you can do is try a name and see if it works for the demographic you are seeking in your area. The input is certainly appreciated and highlights the desire for sensitivity and critical thinking around the topic of aging. Please feel free to share your own insight or ideas to add to our yoga class names list.