Yoga these days seems to conjure images of young, lithe, Spandex-clad people holding seemingly impossible poses—just Google “acroyoga.” And we get it; it’s easy to think “not for me.” But headstands and crazy poses aside, yoga, which combines physical movement with relaxation and breathing techniques, is proven to help boost overall health and well-being—at all ages and activity levels, maybe even especially for older adults. Seniors often suffer from multiple chronic conditions—high blood pressure, arthritis, poor sleep and more—and consistent but gentle yoga has long been shown to alleviate the symptoms of many such conditions. Start slow and easy, and if necessary, let your doctor know about your new plan. As the New York Times, says, “Yoga is for everyone.”
Improved Sleep Habits
If you suffer from lack of sleep, yoga may help you snooze better. A study that compared an herbal sleep remedy to yoga found that yoga improved sleep duration and decreased the time needed to fall asleep. The physical demands of yoga, along with its breathing and relaxation techniques, may be the reason for improved quality of zzz’s. And better sleep means you'll feel better during the day.
Relief From Aches and Pain
Many seniors suffer from chronic pain in joints and muscles — areas yoga is known to help. After only four weeks of yoga, participants in a Harbor-UCLA Medical Center study reported needing less pain medication. Seniors may find that participating in a physical activity reduces pain and may also see psychological benefits of the social interaction of a yoga class.
Reduced Blood Pressure
Yoga has been reported to reduce high blood pressure, often a serious health concern for seniors. Yoga incorporates calming techniques and physical activity, both of which help to lower blood pressure. Indeed, participants in a group of studies saw blood pressure decrease after a consistent yoga practice. A second study, cited by the Inner IDEA website, reported that yoga's breathing techniques reduced blood pressure better than a soothing activity such as listening to relaxing music.
Improved Flexibity and Range of Motion
There’s a chance that as you age, you’ve become less active and not as flexible as you once were. Yoga enhances flexibility and joint range of motion; the poses help stretch muscles and lubricate joints. Those suffering from arthritis and other stiff-joint conditions can also benefit from gentle yoga. Poses that involve smooth movements may be more beneficial than static poses. A few days of yoga classes or at-home yoga exercises may be all you need to start feeling more limber and mobile. Acroyoga, anyone?