If you think you have to be young and flexible to take a yoga class, think again.

More and more studios are filling up with baby boomers and kupuna.

For years, yoga enthusiasts have preached its many benefits. Yoga can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and relieve anxiety, stress, and depression.

Now, seniors are learning that yoga can help with balance.

“Balance is something you have to practice too,” said instructor Li Si Yang. “It’s not just something you just learn once, and you have to practice in different ways, because you never know how you’re going to fall.”

Balance issues can be frustrating and life-changing for seniors. Each year, over 50 percent of people over the age of 80 suffer a fall. Injuries from these falls are the number-one cause of disabilities and, in some cases, can lead to death.

Yang says it’s important that seniors stay active, and yoga can help.

“If you don’t use it, you lose it, and more seniors are very inactive. Just walking alone everyday is so important, but less and less people walk,” she said. “The biggest thing is to get your body to be in an unstable environment that you’re not used to, and that you’re calm.”

Yang often has her class close their eyes when doing some movements.

“Your inner ear and your eyesight is a huge part of your balance, so you never know, because a lot of times in the dark, seniors fall too,” she said.

Yoga is a great way to increase your activity level, tone muscles, and ease aching joints, while working on your balance and building up self-confidence.

“If you’re holding your breath, that is not good,” Yang said. “You want to practice more until you’re able to smile and giggle, like little kids. Ever see little kids? They lose their balance, they just laugh about it. But older people, they get so serious and tense, but that’s when we fall fast and hard.”

Instead, when you’re calm, you fall slow and soft.

“Practice being uncomfortable. If there’s no struggle, there’s no strain,” Yang said.

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