Aging Gracefully Through Yoga: Why Seniors Should Join the Practice

by Marie Rodriguez

Regular yoga practice has proven beneficial for physical and mental health. Although spirituality is involved, it is still an activity stretching and strengthening the muscles. While it is considered low-impact and low-energy, it still can boost blood circulation and make you sweat.


Who Can Practice Yoga?

Yoga is the perfect workout for everyone. Pregnant women can safely practice prenatal yoga to remain active, reduce stress, gain relief from body pains and nausea, and manage shortness of breath during pregnancy and labor. Prenatal yoga can also help pregnant women sleep better throughout the night, a problem many experience due to hormonal changes and physical discomfort.

Patients with scoliosis may also get relief from back pains and improve their condition through yoga. One study found that doing a single pose of yoga for 90 seconds daily can reduce the curvature of the spine.

The autoimmune disease causes intense joint pain, especially in the limbs. Research suggests that patients can reduce pain and improve joint flexibility through yoga, aside from rheumatoid arthritis care, as a specialist prescribes. Those who have rheumatoid arthritis can also ease symptoms through yoga.

Everyone can benefit from the regular practice of yoga.

The Physical Health Benefits for Seniors

Seniors will also greatly benefit from doing yoga regularly. They can participate and learn the ancient practice despite age and physical limitations.

Previous research has proven that seniors can prevent and undo the consequences of aging on their body and mind when they practice yoga.

In a 10-year study, researchers followed the life and health of over 700 volunteers. They measured the bone mineral density of each participant before and after they did yoga.

The researchers found that subjects showed better posture, balance, and coordination. They also had a more comprehensive range of movements and were stronger than their peers who did not do yoga. They were also less stressed.

Moreover, the researchers reported that the seniors had better gait. Gait, in previous studies, has been linked to life expectancy. Those who walk slower have a higher risk of early death.

Yoga has also been proven to lower blood pressure, theoretically reducing a person’s heart disease and stroke risk.

The Brain Benefits for Seniors

Yoga is good for the mind. It sharpens the mind. It makes your brain more alert and improves focus without activating your fight-or-flight response.

For seniors, the positive effects of regular yoga practice on the brain are more significant.

A study from 2017 asked older adults (over 55), all of whom have mild cognitive decline, to undergo 12 weeks of either yoga or memory training. All participants showed improvement in executive functioning and emotional resilience. However, those who did yoga consistently for 12 weeks did better overall.

The researchers suggested that the chanting involved in Kundalini yoga improved their verbal and visual skills, which some study participants did.

Another study found that meditation and mindfulness change the structure of the brain. The hippocampus, which is involved in memory and learning, increased its volume and gained more gray matter density.

As a person grows older, the gray matter decreases. Scientists found a decline in gray matter volume in the brain after a person reaches middle age.

How to Start Yoga as an Older Adult

It is never too late to start practicing yoga. Even older adults who now have mobility limitations can learn and reap the benefits of physical activity.

Seniors can try easy poses to warm their bodies up and get their muscles and joints used to a broader range of motions. It may feel difficult and awkward initially, but seniors will eventually gain strength and flexibility to do more complex poses.

It is also better for seniors to join classes, especially under a yogi who has experience teaching older adults. This way, they can modify the routine and poses to consider the participant’s health and flexibility.

Yoga, although low-impact, can still lead to injuries. It is safer to practice with someone who knows what they are doing.

Yoga is excellent for everyone, but seniors specifically will reap significant benefits from it. The activity can positively impact the body and mind, preventing illnesses and decline usually associated with aging.

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