06 Jan Aging Gracefully: How Yoga Can Help
Originally posted on FH Match
January 6, 2017
For centuries, humans have searched for the magical cure to prolong our youth and defy the natural process of aging. We know that it doesn’t exist in a one-shot dose, but rather is a broad scope of the choices we make and the habits we choose.
Think about your current workout routine. Is it something that you are dedicated to or does it happen only on occasion or in spurts? Does this activity of choice focus more on weights, cardio, or stretching? While most of us can agree that any physical activity is one that is beneficial, consider that your current exercise is playing a part of the “you of the future.”
If I were to poll people in their 80’s, I think they might say that they have slowed down physically over the course of their lives. Of course, one won’t move as quick or carefree at 80 as they did at 20, 30, 40 or even 50. So what can we do to give our future self the best chance at being independent and mobile as we age?
As a yoga instructor, I express the value of building a sustainable practice in almost every class. If you build your practice with a solid foundation and move in a responsible way that benefits your body, I firmly believe that yoga can be a lifelong practice. What the practice looks like over time may change, but the benefits will still be there.
Here are a few ways in which yoga can help you age with grace:
1. Breath is essential to life and yoga cultivates a relationship with your breath. Through regular practice, you can increase the capacity of your lungs, which in turn benefits both the body and mind. A solid connection to your breath will help you to pause before reacting in stressful situations and making knee-jerk comments or taking actions that you may later regret. Deeper breaths means more oxygen to your brain, which also helps calm the nervous system and leads to less stress within the body.
2. Yoga helps to increase flexibility. While you might not care if you can contort your body into modern-day-yoga pretzel-like poses, think about the long-term effects of being flexible. As you age, do you want to maintain your independence (like being able to put your shoes on with ease, carry a bag of groceries or get in and out of a car)? Yoga helps stretch your muscles, which means they have a chance to remain strong and flexible enough to help you keep doing basic tasks on your own as you age.
3. You have to use your brain. The saying “you’ve got to use it or you’ll lose it” rings true as our bodies and brains age. When you practice yoga, whether it is in a group setting or on your own, you are exercising your brain. You hear words and then move your body into the pose, which is an outcome of your brain working to integrate the two together and/or use your memory. Like any other memory game, allowing yourself to remember poses and alignment for the poses helps keep your mind sharp.
If you’ve never tried yoga, consider giving it a try. You can download a copy of my FREE e-book, Yoga Essentials, which offers a foundational look at basic yoga poses. While we can’t control every aspect of our future, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you are choosing to set yourself up with the potential to glide a little more gracefully into those golden years?