Start Practicing Yoga Today And Take Advantage Of These Anti-Aging Benefits

Jun 08, 2018 by apost team

From wrinkles to grey hair, aging brings about many tangible changes, but it also brings about changes that cannot so much be seen as they are felt, such as those physiological changes associated with flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. There are also an array of health issues common to aging, such as heart diseases, arthritic conditions, back ailments, and lung diseases. Yoga is an excellent tool to combat the physical, health, and mental impacts of aging and relieve existing symptoms. Its methodology can be modified to accommodate most any starting point, making it accessible to almost anyone, at any time of life, and at any place in life. 

Physiological Changes Associated With Aging 

Unfortunately, the body loses muscle elasticity and density with age. Same with bones and osteopenia. The result can mean less flexibility, instability, fatigue, sluggishness, and weakness that leaves you more apt to suffer accidents. 

Fortunately, while the above are natural progressions of age, the body never loses its ability to rebuild muscle because of age. Yoga can help you to regain muscle mass and stability for a stronger and more agile body. 

Osteopenia is often as much about genetic predisposition as it is inactivity, but yoga can still help to extend the health and longevity of the bones. 

Exercise for the aging population is seldom about looking or being 20 again. Instead, it’s simply about combating age-related changes and staying as healthy, active, and mobile as possible for as long as possible. 

Yoga Health Benefits For Seniors:

1. Osteoporosis/Osteopenia

As bone density decreases and become more porous, it leaves you more prone to fractures. With severe declines, even the slightest bump or fall can result in hairline fractures that can immobilize. 
Yoga involves weight-bearing exercises that can slightly increase bone density. Every little bit helps, right? Plus, it helps to strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the bones. Balance and body awareness are improved with yoga, which can help prevent falls. 

  • Try weight-bearing lunge poses - side angle and warrior 1 and 2. 
  • Try balance poses - crane, tree, and warrior 3. 
  • If osteopenia is severe, limit folding forward poses and spine rotation poses; speak with your primary care provider about spine considerations. 

2. Arthritis

Hand, wrist, knee, and/or elbow joints are often stiff, swollen, and painful if you suffer from arthritis. Over time, range of motion declines and deformities can even result. 
Research has shown that routinely applying yoga can improve joint flexibility, reduce inflammation, and improve circulation, thereby reducing pain and increasing range of motion. 

  • Avoid yoga poses that require solitary or heavy weight-bearing on the affected arthritic joint(s.) 

3. Spinal Stenosis

Narrowing of vertebral openings and the spinal canal causes the spinal cord to get squeezed and pinched, resulting in numbness and radiating pain down the hips and legs or even up into the shoulders. 
Research has shown that certain stretching yoga poses can better posture and reduce spinal stenosis pain ... so long as it avoids extension of the back. Side bending poses are excellent. 

  • Avoid big and deep spine movements. 
  • Always discuss your condition with a professional yoga instructor to develop a yoga plan to improve, not worsen, your ailments with the right moves. 

4. Discs

Discs in the back are subject to bulging, hernias, and slips. These ailments can cause pinching of the surrounding nerves and segment of spinal cord. The result can be spasms, radiating pain, and range of motion limitations. The most common area of the back affected is the lumbar region. 
Yoga builds a strong core to help support and stabilize the lumbar spine. It also helps with spine flexibility. Both improvements go a long way in alleviating back pain. 

  • Avoid forward folds and any pose that twists the spine. 
  • Focus on backbending poses and poses that strengthen the hips and core to improve back pain.

5. Nerve Pain/ Neuropathy

Injured nerves, whether they stem from mechanical injury or as a side effect of various disease processes involving the circulatory system, can cause pain, numbness, weakness, cramping, and tingling. This can be localized to the injured nerve’s location or be peripheral, whereby the symptoms radiate into the extremities. 
Yoga improves circulation to help with the pain and numbness of neuropathy. 

  • Go slow! Explore which movements help to alleviate vs exacerbate the symptoms. • Body awareness is key. 
  • Consult a trained yoga instructor to ensure the wisest choices. 

6. Ligament Tears

Overused, aged, and stressed joints are prone to ligament injuries. Ligaments attached to heavy-load joints, such as the knees, hips, ankles, elbows, and shoulders are particularly at risk due to years of wear and tear and stress. 
Yoga strengthens the muscles surrounding the joint and it’s connective ligament tissues. So, if your knee joint is weak, strengthening the hamstrings, quad, and gluteals will help to take the stress and load off the weakened joint, thereby decreasing the chance of ligament injury. Even after a ligament injury occurs or a joint must be replaced, yoga can be a safe rehabilitation source. 

  • Always speak with your healthcare professional before beginning yoga following a knee, hip, or other joint replacement. Same goes for rehabbing following a ligament tear. 

7. Tendons

Inflammation of tendons can cause joint pain and stiffness that limits mobility and can affect balance and posture from instability. This can occur from direct injury, chronic overuse during repetitive movements, acute stress events, or the natural wear and tear of age. 
Yoga can be used to establish new movement patterns for the tendons. It also strengthens the surrounding muscles to lessen the tendon’s load. 

  • Give acute tendinitis a couple days of rest for the inflammation to subside before engaging in yoga. 
  • As always, pay careful attention to the messages your body sends you; by a process of trial and elimination, you can find the right sequences and poses to best strengthen your muscles and improve circulation without aggravating existing inflammation. 

8. Myofascial tightening

The fascia is a thin web-like covering of connective tissue that surrounds, connects, lubricates, and supports the skin, nerves, arteries, organs, bones, and muscles. This is what basically holds and separates tissues into compartments so that movement doesn’t cause friction. Fascia surrounding muscle is called myofascia. As we age myofascia loses the ability to complete its jobs due to knotting, shortening or lengthening, thinning or thickening, and becoming more or less dense. The result we feel is loss of flexibility, stiffness, more movement friction, and imbalances in gait. 
Use it or lose it. The gentle stretching of yoga movements helps to rejuvenate and realign the facia. 

  • Remember that gentle is the name of the game. Stretching for one person may involve touching their toes... for another it may simply be getting to the shins. Know your body and its limitations. 

9. Menopause

From the dreaded hot flashes to mood destabilizing hormonal changes, menopause can be a trying time in life for women. Studies have shown that yoga can help lessen and stabilize the hormonal symptoms of menopause.

10. Blood pressure

With one in every three American adults suffering hypertension, it’s become a health issue that almost everyone has at least one risk factor in getting. 
Yoga improves circulation to help avoid and improve hypertension. A common side effect of taking high blood pressure medications is a feeling of dizziness, especially when going from sitting to standing; when combined with age-related muscle weakness and instabilities, this accounts for a lot of elderly falls. 

  • Avoid poses that place your head lower than your heart. 
  • Avoid sequences that require swift transitions. 
  • Always consult your primary care physician to ensure your general health is congruent with yoga exercise. 

11. Lungs

Age changes lung capacity and function tremendously, and these changes can impact asthma, COPD, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Episodes may increase in frequency, duration, and severity. You may be unable to complete typical cardiovascular exercises that either provoke or worsen respiratory symptoms. 
In yoga, your heart rate and respiratory rate both stay relatively low due to it being low-impact. Some yoga also practices pranayama, which is inhale and exhale breathing exercises that strengthen all the muscles necessary to respiration. 

  • Avoid classes where essential oil and/or incense may be used. 

12. Sleep Issues

Getting enough sleep is imperative to good health. Unfortunately, insomnia and restlessness is common in the elderly population due to pain, discomfort, anxiety, medication side effects, and so forth. 
Yoga teaches breathing exercises to calm and relax. Improved circulation and loosened muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments can help with nighttime aches, pains, and cramps. Studies have shown that a nightly ritual of stretching and slow yoga can help encourage the mindset and body-set for tranquility and rest. 

13. Chronic And Terminal Disease 

Those facing a lifetime of physical and mental pain and suffering from long-term and terminal illness may find yoga beneficial at managing the physical medical symptoms of disease and helping to provide a more peaceful mindset. 
In closing, yoga can be beneficial for almost any illness, acute or chronic. It, at some degree, can be practiced to improve health whether you’re mobility is high or low. By being highly adaptable, it can be practiced in almost any location, whether that be in a professional studio, private home, or even a long-term care or hospital room. Remember, always discuss your medical conditions and overall physical health with both your primary care physician and yoga instructor before practicing yoga. As a final tip, remember to find what works for you, not your neighbor; listen and focus on only your body. 

What yoga poses are you trying in relation to your specific health ailments? How are they working out? Tell us your story, concerns, and questions.