Yoga combines poses, breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation to improve physical health and mindfulness. Studies have shown that benefits people of all ages by reducing stress, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, relieving anxiety and depression and improving overall fitness, flexibility and strength.
Benefits to seniors
As you age, muscles stiffen, joints lose range of motion, and chronic issues like osteoporosis and arthritis become more prevalent. Yoga won’t stop the aging process in its tracks, but it slows its effects while helping you to keep your body, mind and spirit healthier and stronger.
Practicing yoga in your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond
Yoga reduces hypertension caused by stress. It can even eliminate your dependency on medication for high blood pressure. Experts theorize that yoga’s slow, controlled breathing decreases your nervous system’s activity.
Our bodies begin to show signs of osteoporosis and low bone density in our 50s. Yoga’s weight-bearing activity slows bone thinning and reduces the risks of osteoporosis especially in postmenopausal women.
Perceived threats activate your body’s sympathetic nervous system. Your heart rate increases, muscles tense, and you start to sweat—a lot. Yoga activates your parasympathetic nervous system, slowing and stopping the release of adrenaline and cortisol by inducing the relaxation response, which helps regulate your body’s response to stress.
When you hit your late 50s and early 60s, you might notice a few more creaks in your joints, but regular yoga practice keeps them lubricated and nourished thus holding back carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults. Yoga’s poses and slow, measured movements increase balance and stability. It tones muscles and exercises your proprioception—or sense of position in space. Postures that emphasize standing and balance keep your proprioception from atrophying.
A 2017 study on the use of yoga for preventing and treating medical conditions also indicated that medical yoga’s incorporation of breathing techniques, mindfulness and meditation positively impact the body in many ways. Psychological benefits include increasing mental energy and positive feelings whilst decreasing aggression, depression and anxiety.
Meditation and deep breathing
Another important component of yoga, meditation, and breathing help to keep your mind sharp, boost your mood and increase concentration by stimulating the brain and nervous system. Meditation allows you to keep distractions away and focus on the here and now.
Pranayama, or controlled breathing, stills the mind and coaxes the nervous system into a relaxed state. Deep, controlled breathing also increases lung capacity, improves posture and eases insomnia.
Types of yoga to try
Whether you’ve got limited mobility, are trying yoga for the first time or returning to the practice, your age, fitness level and physical ability will determine the best yoga for you.
Hatha yoga is gentle and perfect for beginners, those returning after a long break, or people with limited flexibility and low muscle tone. It encourages you to stretch, unwind and release tension and for some, may be physically (or mentally) challenging.
Iyengar yoga uses props to make postures more easily attainable. This style uses blankets, blocks, straps, pillows, chairs, and bolsters to help align your body properly while you learn and hold each pose.
Viniyoga yoga (which is different from vinyasa yoga) uses a holistic, therapeutic approach designed to improve each student’s well-being and health. It’s a one-on-one experience that allows the teacher to customize and adapt each pose specifically to you and your needs.
Kripalu is similar to hatha in that it emphasizes meditation, physical healing and spiritual transformation. Beginners hold poses for short times that gradually increase as they become more comfortable. It’s a popular style for people experiencing life struggles, healing from physical injuries or illnesses, or recovering from addiction.
Yoga and meditation for addiction recovery
For many people in recovery, cultivating and maintaining a healthy relationship with their physical selves is as important as healing their spiritual self. Yoga’s blend of physical, spiritual, and mental disciplines facilitates that healing. Significant research notes that when used in conjunction with traditional treatments, yoga and meditation can help people manage co-occurring disorders that include substance abuse and mental health disorders.
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