Benefits of Yoga for Older Adults

Older-woman-practicing-yogaAs you get older, finding safe and effective ways to exercise can be difficult. You may no longer be physically capable of lifting weights. Running may be too stressful on your legs, or even your heart. Yoga, however, is a possible alternative for your fitness routine. Though going into an intensive class meant for younger participants isn’t ideal, doing a few gentle exercises for beginners has a number of benefits.

Provides movement and flexibility

First of all, you gain the benefits of movement without straining. Yoga is a great low-impact activity that’s easier on the body than weight-lifting and running.

“Yoga helps people integrate an exercise program into their routine without some of the downfalls that you can easily come across in different training systems,” says Yoga instructor Eva Norlyk Smith. “Unlike regular strength training, because you’re not adding any weight you’re less likely to get injured.”

A second advantage is increased flexibility achieved by the gentle stretches of yoga poses. These poses can help you maintain a significant range of movement as you grow older. For many older adults, a limited range of motion means you’re more likely to suffer a fall. Through yoga, the spine is exercised, keeping it pliable and ensuring circulation continues in the spinal cord.

Helps maintain bone density

Doctor-and-older-womanYoga is also good for achieving good bone health. According to Manhattan Physical Medicine Dr. Loren Fishman, yoga is safe for those who have osteoporosis and helps prevent bone density loss. In a study of adults averaging 68 years old, doctors performed a bone mineral density scan on the participants, then taught half of them yoga. After two years, they did another scan. The people who performed yoga not only did not lose bone density, they gained it. The ones who didn’t do yoga lost some bone density.

Relieves stress

Yoga also helps relieve stress. “When your body functions better, you’re going to feel better,” Norlyk Smith says. “You’ll have more energy, more vitality, and most yoga practitioners will say that regular yoga practice helps even out one’s moods.” In fact, a 2001 study done by the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center determined that, overall, yoga practitioners experience less anxiety and stress than non-practitioners.

Other benefits of yoga

Some yoga poses can also help alleviate hormonal fluctuations that come with menopause. Poses such as the Bridge, Plow and Seated Forward Bend help to ease symptoms like painful menstruation and hot flashes.

The Pranayama Breathing Exercises increase your lung capacity and help calm your body. These exercises involve different methods of breathing. The three-part breath teaches you how to completely inhale and exhale, while the equal breathing affects relaxation.

Finally, yoga keeps your mind sharp through Dharana, which requires you to focus your mind on something while pushing out all other distractions.

 

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