Do you think you are too old to begin a yoga practice if you are over 50? The good news is that you are not! You are never too old to begin yoga! In fact, yoga just may be the key to an active lifestyle as we age. Here are 5 great reasons to begin practicing yoga if you are over 50.
1. Greater strength and flexibility
Loss of muscle and bone strength is a natural result of aging. A sedentary lifestyle can accelerate these changes. Gentle weight-bearing yoga poses can slow the loss of muscle tone. Yoga teaches correct postural alignment, reducing the stress on muscles, bones and joints. Gentle stretches aid in flexibility and reduce joint pain and stiffness. Yoga can help reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis and aid in increasing range of motion of the joints, decreasing the likelihood of injury.
2. Improved balance
Falling is an increasing concern as we age. A fall can have devastating consequences, even leading to a complete loss of independence. Many factors can affect our balance as we get older: medications, some of which can cause dizziness; inner-ear disturbances; weakened muscles, bones and joints; vision loss; and even our glasses! We must be especially mindful of our surroundings and be careful not to slip or trip. By working on balancing poses, in addition to strengthening poses, we are better able to prevent a serious fall.
3. Better breathing
Breathing is such a basic function that we often take it for granted. Without breath, there is no life! Yoga teaches us to take slower, deeper breaths to improve our lung capacity and to better oxygenate our cells. This helps to improve our circulation, improving blood flow to our muscles and bones. Our breath is our most accessible tool in times of stress. When we begin to breathe calmly, we can help ourselves to remain calm in anxiety-provoking situations.
4. Reduced stress and greater relaxation
We live in very uncertain and stressful times. It seems as though there are always work, relationship or financial stressors. Yoga teaches us to be in the present moment, breathe and quiet our minds from distracting thoughts. Yoga reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol lowering the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. By reducing the stress on the body, yoga can aid in digestion, immune response, insomnia, depression and anxiety. Through meditation and visualization, yoga can take us to our “peaceful place”. The ability to relax whenever we feel ourselves becoming anxious is one of yoga’s most important benefits.
5. More opportunities for socialization
Unfortunately, aging may also lead to loss of family members and friends, leading to loneliness and depression, both of which can have a detrimental effect on our health. Joining a yoga class offers the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, who are interested in a healthy lifestyle. Lasting friendships can be made in yoga class!
Yoga has been called the “fitness fountain of youth.” A yoga practice can benefit anyone, but for those of us over 50, it offers special benefits to help us age well and maintain our active lifestyle for as long as possible. Some recommended yoga styles for seniors include Viniyoga, Iyengar Yoga, Chair Yoga, Restorative Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. With so many choices, a yoga practice will be accessible to everyone. As an added precaution, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise program.