3 Top Health Benefits of Yoga for Seniors
Seniors, take note—a yoga mat might become your next best friend. While yoga is a wonderful practice for people of all ages and abilities, there are certain health benefits that are especially important for the quality-of-life of older adults. Here are 3 ways that consistent yoga practice can slow down the aches, pains, and other problems associated with aging.
Yoga helps you manage and reduce stress.
The kind of complete breathing that yoga teaches can lower your heart rate, which reduces stress in many forms, and can even lower blood pressure over time. Practicing yoga also can lead to better sleep, which is crucial for mental and physical well-being. What’s more, taking a yoga class can be a great way to find a supportive community of peers. The social interactions that are nurtured during regular yoga practice can combat loneliness and depression—and, who doesn’t want to meet a fun new friend?
Yoga can improve your balance.
When you walk, dance, or climb, many different muscles and parts of the body work to ensure you don’t fall down. Since seniors are more susceptible to falls, reinforcing balance and core strength are very important. Yoga helps keep the body’s skeletal system in alignment, beginning at the center of the body with the spine and working outward. Studies have also shown that yoga can reduce back pain, particularly troublesome lower back pain, possibly as well as conventional medicine can.
Yoga can increase your flexibility.
Children can touch their toes with no problem, but you lose this innate flexibility over time. As you reach an older age, you might not be able to reach much lower than your knees—unless you keep at it. The core movements of a yoga class can give you the flexibility that came so easy during childhood. And, older adults are often surprised to discover that their youthful flexibility can be reclaimed. Renewed flexibility has implications for all kinds of daily task-oriented (functional) movements, especially the ones you rely on for independence. This includes bathing and getting dressed, carrying groceries and bringing them inside, or staying on your feet in icy or rainy conditions.
Think you can’t do yoga? You’re probably wrong.
One last note about getting started—many yoga moves can be done using a chair. So, if you’re worried that you can’t stand or hold poses for long, ask the instructor for a chair. You can incorporate chairs into a standard yoga class, or look for a specific “chair yoga” class. It’s a great way to start, and you can still reap many of yoga’s benefits this way.
Updated January 4, 2017