Benefits of Yoga at Any Age
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, people of all ages make it their New Year’s resolution to get de-stressed – and quite often they choose to do so through yoga, for both its physical and mental benefits. Doing yoga regularly, even if it’s only a few poses a day, can contribute to a more mindful and calm way of thinking, and a yoga tush to boot.
Think you’re too old for yoga? Banish that thought immediately. A 2012 Yoga Journal study found that, while the majority of America’s 15.8 million practitioners fall between the ages of 18 and 44, a whopping 2.9 million are 55 or older.
Part of this popularity is due to yoga’s ability to be modified for most any age and skill level, which means even if you can’t find a class to suit your needs, you’re bound to find a video. Before you know it, you’ll be showing off your downward dog pose and enjoying the long list of benefits yoga has to offer, no matter what your age:
Increased Strength and Flexibility
Yoga helps keep our bodies flexible, which is something we start to lose as we grow older. After just a few classes, I’ve seen students finally touch their toes or feel their shoulders come down from their ears for the first time in years. Yoga poses also build strength. Just check out a yoga fanatic’s arms for biceps that would make Michelle Obama envious.
Much has been made of the relation between yoga and stress reduction – and now there’s scientific proof. Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn found that as little as 12 minutes of yoga meditation a day can greatly reduce stress-induced aging. Many of my own students have claimed that yoga got them through stressful periods, such as a divorce or the loss of a job. In fact, ours was one of the few businesses that prospered during the recession, with many students citing yoga as their way of staying grounded during this worrying time.
Better Overall Health
Improved bone health, reduced back pain, increased immunity — these are just some of the benefits that have been attributed to following a regular yoga regimen. The Mayo Clinic’s website also lists several articles detailing how yoga poses and breath work can help manage chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
Research has shown that yoga can play a role in our sleep patterns and relieve sleep disorders, such as insomnia. In one study on yoga and sleep, participants practiced a 45-minute Kundalini yoga sequence before bedtime that included long, slow breathing and meditation. The results showed statistically significant improvements in sleep efficiency, total sleep time, and how long it took to fall asleep. Who would say no to a better experience in Slumberland?
Compared to aerobic exercise, yoga rocks when it comes to enhancing brain power. A Wayne State University study showed that just a single session of Hatha yoga increased both speed and accuracy in regards to memory and concentration.
Some of my students report feeling the benefits of yoga after just a couple of classes, and almost all of those who stick with it say they feel their stress slowly disappear when they sit down on the yoga mat. Take the time to check out a class or two and you’ll be spending the better part of 2014 feeling more relaxed, flexible, and fit.
Written by: Patrice Simon, Author
About the Author
Patrice Simon is the owner of Bikram Yoga / The Camp in Costa Mesa, Calif., which has enjoyed a wildly loyal following since its opening in 2002. Simon’s focus on helping her students become grounded and find their true life’s purpose has made her a star of the Orange County yoga scene. Her upcoming yoga-centric book, Take Up Your Mat and Walk, is due out in 2014.