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Yoga slows the aging process by gradually improving key factors in your physical health. Here are five reasons why you should consider not only practicing yoga now, but continuing your practice as you age for optimal health.

1. Balance

Remember the old adage, "If you don't use it you'll lose it"? Balance is a component of many yoga poses, think Warrior, Triangle and of course, Tree Pose. The ability to balance involves both our body and our brain; when not practiced one or both faculties will begin to diminish.

Envision yourself one day, taking walks along the shore in a retirement dream vacation. Are you sure-footedly making your way from rock to rock or are you watching the scene from a car, too afraid of a fall to enjoy nature?

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates 1 out of every 2 women and 1 out of every 4 men over 50 will suffer a fracture related to a fall. The balancing poses we practice in yoga help us to sync communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, improving our agility.

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2. Flexibility

For most people, increased aches, pains and stiffness come with age. Unfortunately, some people think Yoga is only for the flexible —but they couldn't be more wrong! Yoga creates flexibility.

In yoga lies the path to greater comfort in your body as you age. Your willingness to work through asanas in your practice will only continue to bring you rewards. Soon, that stiffness you felt whenever you got up out of a chair will be a thing of the past!

Spinal flexibility is not just about comfort. If unchecked, spines will shorten and round. Creating space between the vertebrae with a regular yoga practice helps lengthen the spine, improving nerve conduction to all the organs.

3. Strength

Yoga builds strength slowly and safely. Strong muscles increase our protection from the conditions of aging and increase bone density. Weight bearing poses like Downward Dog, Cobra and Plank, dramatically reduce the chance of fractures as you age.

Yoga provides a safer option then other high impact or high intensity exercises that stress your cartilage and joints.

4. Breathing

Breath = Life. A simple equation, yet one we don't take full advantage of.

Yoga increases our lung's capacity to bring in life force or Qi, as we tune our attention into our breath. Improving our ability to take in more air increases energy to all of our cells and helps us "get up and go" as we age.

Another distinct advantage of proper breathing is lower blood pressure. In a recent study at the University of Pennsylvania, a team of researchers evaluated the effects yoga had on blood pressure.

The team found that patients who did yoga in a studio 2-to-3 times per week for 24 weeks, experienced a statistically significant drop in their blood pressure, greater than the diet-only group.

And as a bonus, proper breathing also improves digestion. Learning to take a full breath gives the digestive organs an encouraging massage. Poor digestion is one of the main reasons people visit their doctor. Bad digestion may not kill you, but it can sure make you miserable.

To improve digestion with yoga poses, focus on the twists. Think Seated Twist, Supine Twist and Side Bends. These poses encourage waste materials to move and stimulate circulation to the digestive organs.

5. Body awareness

Invaluable at any stage of life, body awareness is crucial as we age. Consider the benefits of greater awareness to the messages our body sends us in any given moment. Yoga teaches us to be more mindful so that we pay attention to warning signs, offering us the opportunity to correct our course.

Sure, this has enormous benefits for our mental, emotional and spiritual health, but also for our physical bodies. Yoga trains us to notice when we're slouching, alerts us to the onset of stress, and lets us know when a much loved food is no longer serving our body.

So if you want to put a glow in your golden years, start a regular yoga practice now!

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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