(image courtesy of @LadyDork)
Feel younger with yoga
As more and more studies show, regular exercise is the single-most important way of retaining one’s health and youth. Gentle and effective, yoga is a great form of exercise for any stage of life. It boosts the immune system, releases chronic pain and tension, and improves mental clarity, strength, posture, flexibility, and balance. By calming the nervous system, yoga also promotes relaxation, restful sleep, and a sense of peace and well-being. A regular yoga practice improves the quality of life and increases youthfulness at any age.
Suza Francina, author of The New Yoga for Healthy Aging, challenges the conventional wisdom that aging is an unavoidable process of “stiffening, rigidity, and closing down.” To the contrary, much of the disability associated with age actually comes from not using the body enough to keep it strong and healthy. Many senior citizens become institutionalized not because of disease or dementia, but because they need help with performing daily tasks due to a lack of muscle strength.
In fact, when moderate exercise such as yoga is practiced regularly, symptoms from many age-related diseases are lessened. Relief from arthritis, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and asthma are notable effects of regular movement. Such activity also helps bone retention and muscular strength, allowing the elderly to maintain their independence much longer. Yoga is also renowned for providing increased flexibility.
It is well-known that many older people suffer from chronic depression. A study by physician David Shapiro has shown that yoga is an effective means of mood-elevation. Regular yoga increases the level of serotonin, a pleasure-inducing hormone, and decreases the level of cortisol, a stress-related hormone.
Not Overdoing It
Of course, it is important not to overdo it when it comes to yoga. Listen to your body to know your limits, and resist the urge to compare yourself to others. If you feel worse two hours after stretching, you’ve probably overdone it, so be easier on yourself next time. If you are a beginner, it is wise to attend a yoga class taught by a compassionate and qualified instructor who can help you modify each pose to reach your highest potential without straining the body.
Because hip and knee injuries or replacements are common as we age, it is important not to overstrain your joints. The use of props such as pillows, chairs, bolsters, straps, and balance supports can help immensely to take the pressure off of joints. As Suza Francina points out, spending a little money to purchase such equipment, or to attend a class or gym that owns the equipment, is a great investment in your own health. While some may argue that this makes yoga too expensive, one year of yoga costs less than a single day in the hospital. And on top of that, yoga is a lot more enjoyable!