The Benefits of Yoga are Helpful for All Ages

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If you’re tired of inactivity during this “stay at home” situation and want to ease into an exercise option that is good for all ages, then consider yoga. Many people turn to yoga because they recognize the value of strength training but are uncomfortable or nervous about lifting weights. The various poses performed in yoga can increase muscle strength and tone, providing similar benefits to weightlifting without forcing women to spend time among men in the weight room. 

Yoga does more than improve strength and muscle tone. The following are a few additional benefits of yoga, some of which may surprise even the most devoted of practitioners.

Improved flexibility: Some people are intimidated by yoga because they feel their bodies simply aren’t flexible enough to perform many of the poses typical of the average yoga class. While beginners may find the poses difficult, they are designed to safely stretch muscles. Over time, like many physical activities, yoga poses become easier to perform as practitioners’ bodies become more accustomed to them.

Increased range of motion: Yoga can improve lubrication in the joints, increasing one’s range of motion as a result. That makes it easier for some people to live with joint pain, which may even subside among practitioners who fully commit to yoga.

Improved posture: The stronger, more flexible body core that yoga often creates also contributes to better posture. 

Reduced stress levels: Certain styles of yoga employ deep breathing techniques that force the mind to focus on breathing, and that focus has a calming effect, reducing stress as a result. Other yoga styles may employ meditative practices that aim to clear the mind of distractions that contribute to stress. 

Heart health: People with a personal or family history of heart disease may be surprised to learn that yoga has been shown to have a positive effect on those dealing with heart disease. Yoga slows the rate at which the heart beats, which helps alleviate high blood pressure and helps those people with heart disease and lowers their risk of stroke. Yoga also has been linked to lower cholesterol and a healthier immune system. 

Though yoga might not have been popular when today’s men and women over 50 were in their 20s and 30s, that does not mean such men and women cannot take advantage of the numerous physical and mental benefits yoga has to offer.

While some men and women over 50 may feel their time to take up yoga has passed, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, yoga can pay numerous dividends for the over 50 crowd.

• Yoga can help alleviate hypertension (high blood pressure). Studies have shown that yoga can reduce the top number, which is referred to as the systolic blood pressure. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension, researchers found that men and women who practiced yoga for six hours a week for 11 weeks reduced their systolic blood pressure by 33 points. The study’s authors feel that the slow, controlled breathing that’s essential to practicing yoga decreases nervous system activity, helping the body manage its blood pressure levels.

• Yoga helps practitioners maintain healthy weights. While yoga may not help men and women shed weight as effectively as more vigorous activities, it can help them maintain healthy weights. Many men and women over 50 find vigorous or strenuous physical activity too demanding and might not be able to perform such activities with the frequency necessary to prevent weight gain. But while yoga is physically demanding, those who practice yoga often find it takes a smaller toll on their bodies than more traditional strength training. Another way yoga can help to maintain a healthy weight is through its relation to stress. Yoga can help to relieve stress, and lower stress levels reduce the likelihood that men and women will overeat, which is a common response to elevated stress levels.

• Yoga promotes strong bones. Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which tissue loss leads to brittle and fragile bones. Aging is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis, and women are at even greater risk than men. The nature of yoga makes it an ideal activity to promote healthy bones. Because it is a weight-bearing exercise, yoga forces practitioners to hold the weight of their bodies up against gravity. This resistance to gravity puts mild stress on the bones, which respond by laying down new bone growth. But unlike other weight-bearing activities, such as jogging or walking, yoga does not damage cartilage or put stress on the joints. 

While yoga is beneficial in many ways, it’s important that men and women not mistake yoga for medical treatment. Though yoga may be part of an individual’s treatment plan, it’s still necessary that men and women with medical conditions rely on their health care providers for treatment. For example, doctors may recommend yoga to individuals dealing with elevated stress levels, but doctors also may want their patients to take certain medications in order to lower those stress levels. Yoga on its own may be effective, but men and women should still seek professional medical treatment when dealing with health problems.

It’s also important that men and women beginning a yoga regimen not take it lightly. Though the atmosphere in a typical yoga studio tends to be serene, yoga is a physically demanding discipline, and those unprepared to deal with such demands often find themselves suffering from injuries. 

Beginners should heed the following warnings when beginning a yoga regimen:

• Work with a professional. No matter how long your neighbor insists he or she has practiced yoga, it’s still best that you learn the discipline from a certified instructor. Your neighbor might know all of the poses, but an instructor with credentials can help men and women with preexisting medical conditions avoid poses that can exacerbate such conditions. Novices might not know that certain poses can increase injury risk for sufferers of osteoporosis, spinal problems and high or low blood pressure. When trying yoga for the first time, always work with a professional, making sure to discuss any preexisting medical conditions before your initial session.

• Take things slowly. 

• Warm up before each session. 

• Dress appropriately. Flexibility is essential when practicing yoga, so make sure your clothing is not restrictive. 

• Stop if you feel any physical problems. Physical problems during yoga may be a byproduct of dehydration, so be sure to begin your session fully hydrated and remain so throughout your workout. – Nutrition/Exercising/Yoga


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