Yoga is beneficial regardless of your age and fitness level
Staying active is important at any age, as a means of boosting physical and mental health. It may become more difficult to do as you get older, but staying physically active helps to prevent chronic illness, maintain agility and balance and keep stress at bay.
Yoga — which involves a series of postures, breathing exercises and meditation — is one popular form of physical activity that can be managed at any fitness level. There are more than 100 types of yoga, ranging from gentle to power and hot yoga, which will leave you dripping with sweat. There’s even a special type of yoga for seniors, geared toward restoring flexibility, strength and agility. Consult with your healthcare provider to find one that best suits your fitness level and goals.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, the physical benefits of yoga include improvements to flexibility, muscle strength and tone; respiration, energy and vitality; metabolism; athletic performance; weight reduction; cardiovascular and circulatory health; and protection from injury.
In addition to the mood-boosting benefits of any physical activity, yoga incorporates breathing exercises and meditation, which have been shown to reduce stress and increase relaxation.
MANAGING MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS
Research shows that yoga therapy can help reduce menopausal symptoms for women. A 2010 review of research on this topic, published in the Journal of Midlife Health, noted that because women are living longer, roughly one-third of their lives are now post-menopausal.
The authors concluded that there is sufficient evidence showing that yoga can help reduce or manage menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, and cognitive functions such as memory, attention and concentration, along with reducing stress and anxiety and improving sleep. They strongly recommended yoga for all post-menopausal women.
The study’s authors also noted that yoga may reduce the symptoms and complications of cardiovascular disease.
BEGINNERS, BALANCE & RESTORATIVE POSES
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) website offers advice on beginner yoga poses for people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. Several restorative yoga poses, such as the tree pose, are illustrated in a video for people age 70 or above narrated by AARP Features Director Lorrie Lynch, a certified yoga instructor. Restorative yoga uses props to support the body in gentle poses that are held for an extended time.
Lynch explains that the tree pose promotes balance and can help prevent falls. To perform the tree pose, she advises that you stand with your legs together and your hands on your hips. Shift your weight into your left leg, bringing your right heel to your left ankle. Then draw the right foot slowly upward to rest the sole of the foot on the inside of your lower leg. Hold on to a wall or a chair placed in front of you for balance, if need be. If you can hold the pose without any props, raise your hands upward as if they were tree branches and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Then lower your arms and come down onto your two feet, before repeating with the opposite leg.