In the old days, only young, fit people used to practice yoga. But now, increasingly more of seniors are turning to the practice as well. With benefits that include better flexibility, a stronger core, and healthier bones, yoga is a great activity for you to explore if you’re 65 and older.
As we grow older, our body becomes weaker. This means we become more susceptible to life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis, anxiety, certain types of cancer, to mention a few. The good news is that there are many things that seniors can do to improve their health. One of them is a regular yoga practice.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years. It’s become one of the most popular forms of exercise and self-care in the world. But yoga can be especially helpful to seniors, who have a whole slew of benefits to reap from it. From improved circulation to better sleep, here’s why yoga is such an important part of life for seniors. It’s not as strenuous as jogging or other intense types of exercises, while at the same time providing many similar benefits. It can be performed anywhere, including the home or residential care living centers as part of the group activities.
As a senior citizen, you are likely thinking about how to stay physically active, and keep your brain healthy. Yoga is a great way to help you do both. As you’ll learn, yoga is a physical activity that uses poses and breathing techniques to increase balance and flexibility. It can also strengthen muscles and improve coordination. Benefits include increased energy and improved sleep.
Below are seven health benefits of yoga for seniors.
1. It helps to manage type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin. According to experts, insulin insufficiency is mainly caused by high-stress levels and poor habits. One significant benefit of yoga is that it helps to reduce stress levels. Additionally, yoga also helps to massage crucial internal organs like the pancreas, thus enabling it to produce more insulin. A yoga instructor can help a diabetic patient learn specific moves that can directly benefit the pancreas. Yoga also allows seniors to eliminate tension and anxiety, which often leads to poor habits such as excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, and eating unhealthy foods.
2. It helps to improve balance and flexibility
Jayne Byrne, Project Coordinator at a nursing home in Kildare comments that “one major challenge that seniors face is poor balance and inflexibility. Multiple studies have shown that yoga helps to improve balance and flexibility among seniors. Certain yoga moves can help strengthen your muscles, thus improving your balance. Seniors who practice yoga are four times more flexible than their counterparts who don’t. A 2018 study revealed that practicing yoga for just 15-30 minutes can significantly improve balance and flexibility in older adults.
3. It decreases joint pain
Research has shown that certain yoga poses can help to reduce joint pain, which is common among older people. Targeted yoga poses can help strengthen your joints, thus lowering the chances of suffering from arthritis and other joint-related problems. Yoga also helps to reduce high levels of uric acid, which causes gout- a sophisticated form of arthritis that is common in older people.
4. Helps with weight maintenance
Many older people struggle to maintain their weight. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination revealed that more than a third of older adults aged 65 and above in the US are obese. It is quite challenging for seniors to hit the gym five days a week. The best option for them is practicing yoga. A research conducted by Harvard health revealed that practicing yoga for just 30 minutes a day for a week can significantly lower your body mass index. Yoga also promotes mindful eating, a concept that pays attention to the smell, taste, and texture of the food. Mindful eating has been proven to help curb poor eating habits.
5. It promotes quality sleep
Lack of enough sleep is a significant challenge the many seniors face. Studies have shown that practicing yoga can help promote better sleep. Yoga can help you fall asleep faster and for longer. Research has shown that certain yoga moves help to boost the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that promotes quality sleep. Yoga also helps to reduce depression, stress, anxiety, and chronic pain, which are major contributors to sleep problems in older people.
6. Yoga encourages social interactions
Attending yoga classes can help older people build social interaction. Loneliness is common among seniors. Statistics show that about one-fifth of older Americans are suffering from loneliness. Research has linked isolation and lack of social interaction to a higher risk of mental and physical conditions such as heart disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, weak immune system, among many others. Yoga helps to boost social interaction. If you attend yoga classes, you will get to interact with other seniors and make friends. Older pole who engage in meaningful activities such as yoga tend to live longer and have a sense of purpose.
7. It improves breathing
Yogic or pranayama is a yoga breathing practice that helps to control one’s breathing through exercises. Performing yogic exercise regularly can help improve your breathing, thus lowering the chances of suffering respiratory conditions such as asthma. It also helps to keep your heart healthy.
As a senior, incorporating yoga in your daily routine can help to increase your flexibility, strength, and endurance. It can also reduce the stress of depression, anxiety, and stress. We recommend that you practice yoga at least thrice a week.
More Yoga Benefits for the Elderly:
- Improved blood flow to the peripheral blood vessels, leading to improved cardiovascular function.
- Exercises of abdominal muscles improve digestion and help to remove body fat.
- As yoga is aimed at relaxation of the mind, long-term benefits are reduced stress and anxiety, increased stamina and maintenance of composure.
- Yoga also improves mental health, and is of great benefit to people with sleeping problems and anxiety disorders. Regular Yoga practice increases mental and physical awareness and promotes spiritual wellbeing.
- Regular practice of yoga asanas (poses) and meditation can reduce this stress in your life, as well as help to lower blood pressure and relieve anxiety in stressful situations.
- The relaxation techniques in Yoga can lessen chronic pain in diseases such as lower back pain, arthritis and headaches.
- Recent studies have shown that yoga is better for pain management as compared to conventional therapies. Yoga and meditation primarily reduce stress, thereby releasing the tension in the muscles. Muscles assume their normal tone and flexibility, hence significantly reducing pressure on your lower back.
- Yoga also enhances the function of neurologic and endocrine organs, helping you regulate your metabolic rates. This is a key factor in keeping your blood sugars and diabetes in check.
- Yoga also promotes lengthening of the spine, as it indirectly reduces tension on the strap muscles of the back. By stretching and through asanas, yoga allows the vertebral bones to loosen up, reducing back pain and aligning your posture.
- When performed in winters, Yoga serves the first and foremost purpose in winters: keeping warm! Start with Surya Namaskar asana, followed by warm-up exercises. These exercises not only keep you warm but also prevent joint stiffness and body aches.
Additional Yoga Resources for Elderly
- Yoga for Seniors – Restoring Flexibility, Strength and Stability – DoYogaWithMe.com
- 7 Yoga Poses for Seniors – Do You Yoga
- Am I Too Old for Yoga? 6 Yoga Poses That Age Well – WebMD
- Yoga for Seniors – Gentle Exercises – Art of Living