Yoga and special populations. Ive just realised, Im a Special Population! Did you know that those of us over 50 have special needs when it comes to exercise? The modern Western science of exercise considers that some categories of people need special consideration when it comes to fitness. We cannot all exercise in the same way. The special populations are:
- Older People
- Younger People
- Ante and Post Natal
- The Disabled
I’m mentioning those outside of the over 50’s category here so you can think about your nearest and dearest too. Of course, exercise benefits these special populations just as it does everyone else. We need to take care that they exercise safely. Like everyone else, these populations have a huge range of individual needs and differences.
Yoga and Special Populations
Eeek, older people include me. In general, it is those over 50. We need longer warm-ups and longer cooldowns. I’ve noticed myself that I can work a lot harder if I have a 15 minute warm up. I even warm up before going to classes sometimes. Special adaptations can be made such as using a chair for balance or simply a whole chair yoga class. We have a 30% reduction in our cardio vascular systems efficiency between the ages of 30 and 70.
Motor skills gradually reduce as we age, we take longer to learn and concentration can be lower than when we are young. we need time and patience to learn complex routines. Balance and co-ordination reduce so training these will help prevent falls.
Muscles become stiff and out connective tissue is less able to stretch. Older people are like children in that they overheat rapidly and lose heat quicker than the general adult population. Our muscles also tolerate lactic acid less well and recovery time is longer too.
Our breathing rate is increased and is more shallow as there is less flexibility in the rib cage. Breathlessness can be caused by a reduced ability to exchange oxygen and co2 in our lungs.
Blood pressure increases for many adults during ageing. This may mean taking longer to move from one position to another eg lying to standing and back. Our joints and bones are less able to tolerate high impact and so it should be avoided.
Did you know that metabolic rate decreases as well? It is because of the loss of muscle tissue which of course we can slow down with exercise. This has the double benefit of helping to slow weight gain.
Exercises to include: Back extensions ( for posture), interval training, multi-joint with everyday tasks, balance and core stability.
Exercises to exclude: High impact, prone/ flexion, complex choreography.
Unless we are specialist trained we are advised not to teach yoga to the under 18’s. This is because they have not finished growing and their bones and joints could be damaged with the wrong type of exercise. As their muscles growth is slower than bone growth children can be awkward and lack coordination. Excercise is very important for them though as it will affect their health in later life. There are many specialist training courses available which will enable us o teach children safely.
Specific types of exercise and children:
CV, Their hearts, lungs and circulatory systems are not as developed as adults. They have a lower tolerance to anaerobic exercise and so interval or fartlek training is more suitable. Like older people, they heat up and cool down relatively quickly. They have lower levels of water in their bodies so they can dehydrate more quickly. It is also difficult to monitor and train children’s heart rates using a visual scale and observation is best.
Strength and Endurance, We must take care not to do high resistance training with children as their bone development is not yet complete. Low to medium resistance with high repetitions is more suitable. Care also needs to be taken with stretching and it can adversely affect joints at this age stretching them beyond the normal range of movement.
Motor skills are developed as the child grows, they have growth spurts which leave them un-coordinated sometimes.
Please remember that those working with children there are laws which cover them. These include the Child Protection Act (2004 ) which includes CRB checks, become registered with local child protection. Please check these carefully before you set up a yoga class for the under 18’s
Ante and Post Natal Students
All sorts of changes happen to a pregnant body, We need to be very aware of these before sharing yoga with an ante or postnatal student. Exercise is very important for pregnant ladies as it helps with their health before, during and after labour. Apparently, weight is better maintained and those who have exercised have an easier labour. Also, the right sort of exercise improved blood flow to the baby.
It is relaxin, a hormone, that makes joints more flexible especially those around the hips. It is this flexibility we have to be aware of during yoga and other training sessions. Too much stretching can permanently damage the joints. Also after the first trimester, we need to avoid a supine lying position as that can restrict blood flow.
The other thing that happens is that as baby grows and the lady gets larger then her centre of gravity changes and balance, speed and coordination can be affected.
Most of these changes are still there for 4-6 weeks after birth. The best exercise is interval type, maintenance stretches only and core and stability exercises. Avoid supine positions, developmental stretching, high impact exercise and anything which risks falling.
Exercise is as important for the disabled as it is for everyone else. The best thing is to ask about their special and individual needs and then tailor a program around those.