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Anyone can try yoga, regardless of age, fitness level

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    Saba Polakovic teaches a yoga class at Iyengar Yoga Honolulu in 2015. Yoga postures can be adapted to the condition and skill of participants.

Yoga has come a long way since the practice was first brought from India to this country in the 1930s.

It has moved from small yoga studios to mainstream outlets with classes being offered everywhere from the YMCA to upscale resorts.

Full disclosure: I have practiced yoga for more than 25 years as part of my daily routine.

But is it for everyone? What about older folks who may not be in the best of shape?

Ray Madigan, who founded Iyengar Yoga Honolulu with Shelley Choy at Manoa Marketplace, answers this and other questions about yoga.

Question: Is yoga something that everyone can practice?

Answer: First, we need to define yoga. Yoga is presented nowadays as “postures.” This is a very small part of yoga practice. Yoga addresses the suffering of the human condition, not just the body.

Ideally yoga should be applied in all facets of life. If you’re asking, can everyone do postures, which is what most people think yoga is, the answer is yes.

Q: If individuals have physical limitations, should they be doing yoga?

A: Yes, you can do postures. Postures can be adapted to your condition by a skillful teacher, so the student will get benefits. However, the question should be asked benefit for what? The benefit must be for the entire being.

Q: What should an older person be concerned about when choosing a yoga class?

A: Most older people who want to take a yoga class want to be around their peers. … If you’re in your 70s or 80s and have never done anything like yoga before, you’re going to need to be in a class specifically designed for your cohort. You shouldn’t be in a general class unless the teacher is very skilled and has time to deal with you.

Q: By practicing yoga, can one expect to improve conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, etc.?

A: Yes, yoga can improve most physical conditions. It depends on the skill of the teacher and how the practice is adapted to the conditions.

Of course, the student must apply themselves correctly with practice and dedication. Physical problems can be improved but not necessarily cured.

Q: There are many videos and apps out there that offer yoga instruction. Do I really need a yoga teacher?

A: I would only use a book or app in the absence of a good teacher. I am biased towards our system of practice which is popularly known as Iyengar Yoga and I would seek out a teacher certified in that system.

Rob Kay writes about travel and healthy aging. He can be reached at

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