Starting Yoga at 40 or Later: Everything You Need to Know

I looked into learning yoga when I was around 18 years old. Back then, people didn’t have access to all the information in the world online. I got a book, read it, and tried some poses but I felt it was way too complicated (breathing, keeping the right alignment, etc.). In my thirties, during my pregnancies, in particular, I looked into yoga again but my training morphed into bodyweight exercises. All that to say, it was not until last year (at age 44) that I took up yoga for real using Alo Moves. I loved it so much, I decided to get certified as a yoga teacher (even though I am already a NASM fitness trainer). I have completed the course and I am working on my certification assignement.

Difference Between Yoga and Pilates

I decided to write up this section because when I was telling a friend about my yoga practice, she asked me this question and I had no idea! After researching it, I can tell you the difference isn’t clear cut. Some articles say that pilates engages the core more. I don’t agree, the yoga workouts I have been following engage the core constantly. Then, of course, there is the spiritual aspect of yoga but many North American teachers teach yoga as a way to move your body without any spiritual references. It seem like the line between yoga and pilates has been blurred over time.

My opinion after doing workouts labelled as pilates and workouts labelled as yoga, is that yoga requires more mind control. You will recruit your breath as you move through your routine and focus on sending energy through your limbs as you ensure you learn proper alignment for each pose.

Morever, here are some other key differences:

  • Breath: In Pilates you breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. In yoga, in through the nose, out through the nose.
  • Props: In Pilates, you will use props to add resistance to your workouts In yoga, props are used to support proper alignment in your poses.
  • Experience: Pilates is meant to be a workout that builds strenght. Although many types of yoga workouts aim to build strengh and endurance, at its core, yoga is more restorative in nature.

Types of Yoga

As we try to understand yoga better, looking at the types of yoga is helpful. There are various approaches to yoga. Here are the most common types of yoga practice:

  • Hatha: Hatha yoga tends to be slower and gentle. You will be holding some basic yoga poses in sequence.
  • Ashtanga: With ashtanga yoga, you will follow specific sequences to challenge your strenght, endurance, and flexibility. It will also require more focus as you practice following your breath.
  • Vinyasa: Vinyasa yoga is similar to Hatha yoga in that it strings different poses together. However, the pace of Vinyasa yoga is faster and it puts a greater emphasis on connecting your breath to your movements. Vinyasa yoga is less intense than Ashtanga yoga as it typically doesn’t challenge your endurance as much.

There are many other types of yoga and classifications depending on what source you consult. For example, you may hear terms like hot yoga, power yoga, Bikram yoga, and Yin yoga.

Health Benefits of Practicing Yoga

Of course, there are some very commonly mentioned yoga benefits that I will mention here. However, what I discovered is that yoga is beneficial in many more ways than what it will do for your health. It is an extremely efficient way to work out because most poses will engage your whole body. You will find yourself building strength, flexibility, and doing cardio all at once!

It’s never to late to try yoga and starting yoga at 40 will help:

  • Improving your posture.
  • Increasing your mindfulness.
  • Discoverinng your breath.
  • Improving your cardiovascular fitness.
  • Increasing your flexibility.
  • Strenghthening your whole body.
  • Improving your endurance.
  • Boosting your mood.
  • Improving your sleep.
  • Decreasing stress.

These are the yoga benefits I could think of off the top of my head because I have experienced them myself. However, there are even studies that document benefits like easing arthritis symptoms and boosting immunity.

Starting Yoga at 40: How Is It Different?

The two obvious ways that starting yoga at 40 is different are that learning skills later in life can take longer and your body needs more recovery time as you age. The same applies to any physical activity you may want to take on in your forties. However, yoga is an excellent practice that you can learn later in life because many forms are gentle and it’s easy enough to adapt it to your fitness level.

Special Considerations When Starting Yoga at 40

Let’s talk about some practical considerations to ensure that you start yoga in a safe and effective way.

Keep It Interesting

Hey, listen! Forty years old is not that old! You don’t need to treat yourself like an old lady. It’s ok to push your limits! In fact, that’s one of the main ways I keep my yoga practice interesting. I like to challenge myself to learn new skills and new poses. One fun thing about yoga is that you can always advance and get better at it. You can see your progress and it can be extremely motivating! There is no reason to settle in a boring workout routine just to check exercise off your list. Instead, watch your favorite yoga instructors and pick some more advanced poses that they teach to include in your daily drills.

Listen to Your Body

Depending on your personality, you may find it more difficult to push yourself or more difficult to pace yourself. You want to be somewhere in the middle. Depending on the day, you may need to adjust your practice to push yourself or pace yourself. That’s where learning to listen to your body is important. Pay attention to signs like feeling tighter, less strong, or less persistent. Honor these cues from our body to pace yourself for a few days. They will most likely go away and you can pick up where you left off. If the situation doesn’t resolve on its own, then push yourself a bit. Push through the discomfort and see what happens. You may find that it was mostly a mental block. It truly depends!

Pick Your Type of Yoga

The best tip I can give you to pick your type of yoga is to try different ones. Check out various teachers and their classes (whether online or in person). You will discover which ones you enjoy most and keep practicing your favorites until you feel you are ready to advance to the next level.

Set a Goal

What I love about my yoga practice is that there is always a new goal to pick. I started yoga with wanting to achieve the splits. Then, I wanted to learn the King Pigeon Pose and the Wheel Pose. I decided to learn to headstand and handstand as well as the Crow Pose. Then, I wanted to learn some cool transitions. Working towards a goal can be invigorating.

Sample Yoga Routine Over 40 (for Beginners and Intermediate)

This post would not be complete without a sample yoga routine, right? I would consider myself at an intermediate fitness level but I have been doing yoga for only a year. That’s why I think you will enjoy this sample yoga routine. It is not a gentle routine designed for mindfulness and meditation. Instead, I designed it to take advantage of bodyweight exercises that will increase your strength and tone your body. It will make the most of your time by challenging your endurance while allowing for beginner modifications. That is how I like to practice yoga!