6 great benefits of yoga for seniors

28th Aug 2018 | LIFESTYLE | ENRICH LIVING

Stiffness, soreness, a loss of mobility: they’re familiar frustrations for many seniors. Why not explore yoga for seniors?

It’s tempting to think of these aches, pains and inconveniences as an inevitable part of ageing. But luckily, there are activities that are perfect for helping us loosen up those stiff joints and regain some mobility.

One of those activities is yoga.

Now, when you think of yoga you might imagine super-bendy people contorting their bodies into seemingly impossible shapes. Yoga can be like that, but it doesn’t have to be! The reason yoga for seniors is so great is that it is all about using movement to keep your body strong and functioning well – right into old age. According to fitness blogger Alan Watts, it doesn’t matter what your age, size or ability is, yoga can help.

Here are Alan’s six reasons why yoga is great for seniors.

Yoga is good for your blood pressure

Australian Heart Foundation figures show 41.5 per cent of people over age 65 and 46.9 per cent of people over age 75 have high blood pressure. It’s something that becomes more of a problem as we get older, especially if we have a poor diet, high cholesterol, or an inactive lifestyle, or are overweight or smoke. Ageing itself can cause blood pressure to creep up.

“Yoga has been proven to help lower blood pressure, even with the simplest of yoga positions,” Alan said. “These moves are all very doable for most people of any age, including seniors.

“These positions help the body to relax, bring stress levels down, and gently stretch the muscles.”

Yoga also helps lower cholesterol

Yoga helps the body to reduce stress hormones, promotes better organ function and helps to fight weight issues. When you combine those benefits, Alan says yoga is a recipe for lower cholesterol and a healthier heart.

“While the connection between yoga and cholesterol isn’t very well understood yet, there have been numerous studies which prove that yoga can help to lower bad cholesterol,” Alan said. “High levels of bad cholesterol become more common in seniors and increase the risk of heart disease.”

Yoga is good for your bones and joints

Yoga strengthens your bones and lengthens your muscles, while being a gentle and low-impact exercise (and therefore unlikely to inflame any joint problems).

“As we get older, our bone density drops by a significant amount,” Alan said. “If we don’t eat a healthy diet or keep up regular exercise, we can run into serious issues such as osteoporosis.

“The trick is to keep moving so that the muscles remain strong and the bones always have gentle pressure to encourage them to become more compact and dense.”

The catch here is to choose exercises that don’t stress or damage the joints at the same time. Alan recommends trying these simple yoga poses, which can do your joints a world of good.

“Just try them out and keep practicing for best results!” he said.

Yoga will boost your confidence and help keep you independent

If you don’t feel as mobile as you once did, it can really knock your confidence. If you’ve had a few falls or you can’t stand up for as long as you used to, you can start to feel very reluctant about (and even fear) getting out and about. That’s not a great place to be, emotionally.

“Yoga is the kind of exercise that makes you feel as though you’ve really accomplished something,” Alan said. “Reaching further than before, maintaining the pose for each allocated breath and feeling your body move in unexpected ways makes us feel capable and strong.

“Yoga gently eases the body into balancing, stretching and moving in a strong, flowing fashion. By doing so, seniors can gain the confidence to be mobile and gain back some of their independence.”

Yoga is fantastic for your balance

As we age, balancing becomes trickier, making falls more likely. Almost a third of people over age 65 have an average of one fall a year. “Under the guidance of a teacher, yoga can help elderly people to ‘retrain’ their body to balance and move steadily,” Alan said.

“Some people may like to use stabilizers (like a chair or wall) to support them until they’re ready to balance on their own. This is a great way to progress and gently coax the body and mind into better balance and mobility.”

Yoga is a great aid in pain management

Finally, people who suffer from arthritis, osteoporosis and other types of bodily pain can experience great benefits from regular yoga practice.

“The gentle stretching of the muscles, strengthening of the bones and increased blood flow can help to relieve pain,” Alan said. “The great thing is that yoga is very versatile and can be modified to suit different abilities, so everyone can reap the pain-relieving benefits.”

Alan says the mental and emotional benefits of yoga can also have a positive effect on pain.

“Deep, controlled breathing, quietness, a clear mind and a sense of tranquillity can really help to reduce stress and anxiety,” he said. “When stress and anxiety dissipate, tension in the body can be released, sometimes with pain along with it.

“What’s more, yoga can help to encourage better-quality sleep, promoting a greater sense of restfulness and calm. Proper sleep, correct breathing and a sense of relaxation can really help toward managing pain in elderly people.”

Staying active and getting out of the house are really great things to help stay healthy and happy as we age. Explore some more great activity ideas here.

ABOUT ALAN WATTS

Alan is a fitness fanatic and believes in healthy living. He writes for his health and fitness blog, UltraCrown.com. In his spare time, he loves trying out new healthy recipes for his family and hiking with his dog, Dozer. Alan is also a contributing writer for BookYogaRetreats.com.

You should consult your doctor or healthcare professional before embarking on a new exercise regime. It’s also a great idea to start yoga with a professional instructor who is well-versed in yoga for seniors.

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