Whether you want to improve your flexibility, control your weight, or increase your sense of well-being, yoga may be a great option for you. Many people find that practicing yoga helps with balance, strength, and lowering stress.  This ancient tradition blends exercise with mindfulness techniques, which can be important components in improving and maintaining your health. Before starting any new exercise routine, including yoga, talk to your doctor. Your physician can help you determine if you should follow any specific precautions due to a medical condition, or if you should avoid certain movements. Find out more about yoga and any Medicare options you may have to help cover the costs of your fitness program.

Styles of Yoga

As a combination of techniques that focus on both the mind and the body, yoga can be practiced via many different styles. Some may be part of original traditions while others take a more modern interpretation of the classic sets of poses and postures.

These are the four most recognizable names for styles of yoga:

  • Hatha. Because this style encompasses any pose or technique that falls under the term of yoga, it’s the most frequently used name to describe a loosely-organized class. Most beginners will feel comfortable with a Hatha yoga class.
  • Kundalini. Breathwork and repetitive, rapid pose transitions are the hallmarks of this style of traditional yoga. Because the poses rarely change, it can be easy to learn, though the hard work comes in learning the breathing measures that go with them.
  • Ashtanga. This style of yoga is preferred by those who want a highly structured and challenging style of yoga. Six different sequences that are made up of 75 poses can be completed at an individual’s own pace once learned, but they do require an intense time commitment.
  • Bikram. Also known as Hot Yoga, this style of yoga is performed in a heated room and is made up of 26 poses. The room is also kept humid, so attendees should be prepared to sweat even while standing still.

There are many other styles of yoga that may go by different names. It’s also possible to find hybrid styles of yoga that blend simple stretches with more formal poses to help those with limited mobility or other needs.

Benefits of Yoga

As described by the Mayo Clinic, practicing certain styles of yoga can help you improve flexibility, strength and balance. It may also help alleviate the symptoms of certain medical conditions for some people, such as high blood pressure or inflammation.

Your doctor may also recommend trying yoga to help with any chronic neck or back pain and arthritis. Because of the meditative techniques and the focus of whole-body well-being associated with yoga, they may suggest certain kinds of yoga to help manage anxiety or depression.

Risks of Yoga

Medicare recipients with certain mobility issues, chronic illness, or recovering from some injuries should seek the advice of their physician before practicing yoga. Your doctor may approve of some styles but not others depending on the intensity of the workout or the environment in which it takes place.

If you’ve never tried yoga before, it’s best to start with a gentle style like a beginner’s Hatha or less formal yoga classes that may focus on slow, restorative postures. Adaptive styles of yoga classes may also be available for anyone who is recovering from an injury or living with a permanent disability.

Ask any class’s teacher or review materials available to see if any of the twisting, bending, stretching and reaching associated with any given pose could prove a risk for your current level of fitness.

Medicare Coverage for Yoga

Though yoga classes might be considered medically beneficial by your doctor, they are not categorized as a necessary medical service, which means they are not covered by Medicare benefits. Original Medicare Part A and Part B benefits do not cover gym memberships, where yoga classes may be hosted at no additional cost to fitness club members.

Expanded benefits may be available through Medicare Advantage plans or Medigap supplement policies that offer gym membership as part of their coverage package. Medicare Advantage plans are required to provide at least the same coverage as Original Medicare Part A and Part B, but many offer additional coverage including SilverSneakers. SilverSneakers is a fitness program for seniors offered by many Medicare Advantage plans across the country. It provides Medicare recipients with access to over 16,000 gym and fitness centers. Many of these fitness centers offer a full array of exercise classes, including yoga.  These benefits and costs can vary from plan to plan.

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