While yoga might have begun with the Indus-Sarasvati civilization 5,000 years ago, it is just as relevant to healthy living today as it was then. And yoga is not exclusively beneficial to younger generations; there are specific benefits for seniors. Read on to find out how you can profit from practicing yoga in your latter years.
Some of the Great Yoga Benefits for Seniors
- Better balance and stability: Perhaps the primary benefit we associate with yoga proves true for seniors, as well: it provides more stability and balance, which can lead to longer mobility and fewer fall-related injuries. If aging in place a goal of yours, these specific benefits can go a long way towards making that a reality.
- Increases respiratory function: Scientific studies have shown that breathing became more productive in senior adult women who practiced yoga for just twelve weeks. For these women, breathing capacity and strength increased, while breathing rate decreased, as did heart rate. Maintaining oxygenation of the blood increases energy level, mental acuity, and stamina.
- Benefit of movement without the strain: Because yoga involves a series of slow movements, it is less taxing on your muscles while still giving the benefits of physical activity, which helps maintain a full range of motion. This is as opposed to running, bike riding, and a number of other activities that can task aging muscles beyond what is healthy.
- Strengthens your bones: We associate yoga with muscle movement and range of motion, but it can also not only stave off osteoporosis; it can actually increase bone density, according to preliminary research studies. Simply put, because yoga lengthens muscles and tendons, bones do not shrink from lack of stretching, and bone density tests show an actual increase after yoga practice was added to the patient’s routine.
- Reduces blood pressure and minimizes hypertension: Yoga is good for heart health, a leading health concern among senior citizens. Increased oxygen in the bloodstream is good for the heart and yoga has been found to specifically protect the heart in this way.
- Lessens anxiety: As we age, our minds can find more and more to be anxious about. Yoga addresses not only the mind-body connection, which leads to lowered anxiety levels as a person seeks a sense of well-being; yoga also slows breathing, decreases heart rate, and lowers blood pressure. Studies have shown that all of these benefits of yoga result in a lowered anxiety level.
- Helps keep weight at a healthy level: Many senior citizens have found themselves with lowered activity level and may experience a decrease in mobility, which can lead to weight gain. The body movements involved in yoga, while low-impact, can still be an important part of maintaining a healthy weight and even reaching lower weight goals.
- Helps posture: Preserving good posture becomes more and more difficult as we age, and yoga can be an important component in reaching that goal. A few simple yoga exercises to improve/maintain posture can even be added to your daily routine, outside of longer yoga workouts.
- Improves flexibility: Yoga is commonly associated with increased physical flexibility, which is progressively important as you grow older, and it most definitely does yield that benefit; the more you stretch, the more you will be able to stretch. In addition, yoga can stretch your mind. When you stop to practice yoga and focus on your breathing and heart rate and body movements, you increase your mind’s openness to listening more carefully and truly hearing what others have to say and even hearing the thoughts that are running through your own mind.
- Supports joint health: Joint pain is among the most common complaints of growing older, and yet, yoga has been scientifically proven to increase flexibility and range of motion and decrease pain in patients who had experienced joint issues already. Possibly even more beneficial would be to start practicing yoga before joint issues present themselves.
- Stress relief: The stresses of the later years include health issues, financial balance, and potential loss, including just the thought of impending loss. Yoga can help reduce the impact of that stress by providing an area of control, accomplishment, and social connection, in addition to the previously mentioned lowered heart rate and blood pressure, which also reduce stress.
- For women, lessening of menopausal discomfort: Of concern to aging women, specifically, is the complications involved with menopause, which can range from uncomfortable to painful. These yoga poses address specific menopausal discomforts and can help to relieve them or prevent them before they start.
- Boosts your mood: Yoga can be a multifaceted mood-booster for senior citizens. The physical benefits of decreased pain, lowered heart rate, increased oxygen intake, etc., all lead to a more positive general feeling. In addition, trying something new, accomplishing a difficult pose, and making connections with new people (or even with established friends and acquaintances) can all also boost your mood.
- Adaptable to physical capability: Yoga does not discriminate. Whether you have preexisting health challenges or are in the peak of health, you can find yoga classes, and specific yoga poses that will benefit your health and are within your capabilities.
- Modifiable to any location: If you do not have access to classes or don’t have the time or transportation to attend, you can practice yoga in the comfort of your own home (just know your limitations and attend to safety concerns). Gym space isn’t necessary for group classes, either; they can take place in a park, someone’s yard, or classroom space in a church or community center.
By far, not just a young people’s activity, senior citizens can find many specific benefits to practicing yoga, whether that be for the first time or a continued practice from years of experience. Why not start now?
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