Age bestows numerous gifts upon us —maturity, wisdom, grace, experience, and perspective, to name a few. But growing old also comes with challenges. For example, it becomes more difficult to keep extra weight off, and the risk of developing life-threatening conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease increases.
On the psychological level, seniors are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Memory and balance can deteriorate, which can lead to losing some of their independence.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve your general health and well-being. You can reduce your risk of injury and disease by eating right and execising. To stay mentally sharp, you can also perform brain training exercises and practice meditation.
Yoga, particularly restorative yoga, can provide a wide range of health benefits, both physically and psychologically. Studies found that seniors who suffer from pain, joint stress, problems with balance, osteoarthritis, and other physical limitations can benefit from making yoga part of their daily routine.
As we grow older, it becomes increasingly important to incorporate physical activity into our daily routines in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. An active lifestyle can help seniors maintain their energy levels as well as manage the aches and pains that come with getting older.
Yoga is widely regarded as the best form of exercise for older adults. It can help them improve their flexibility, strength, balance, and mood. In fact, people of all ages can benefit from yoga, though if you are new to the practice, you may need to adjust the poses to fit your current level of ability.
Sadly, as we age, we also become more fearful of injuries, which sometimes makes us avoid healthy habits like exercising. People who have practiced yoga for many years can perform challenging poses and inversions, which can seem very intimidating for someone above the age of 65 who has never gone to a yoga class. Their fear of getting injured far outweighs any interest they might have in trying it.
But if you’re able to overcome this initial intimidation usually created by how yoga is portrayed in the media, you will see that it can be adjusted to any individual, and you will be able to enjoy the benefits without the risk of injury.
If you’re interested in yoga, we recommend starting with a personalized, one-on-one session with an experienced instructor. This eliminates the intimidation factor associated with going into a packed class of practitioners of all levels and makes yoga feel much more approachable.
To further motivate you, here is our list of top benefits of yoga for seniors.
Better Bone Health through Yoga
Osteoporosis patients can benefit from adding yoga to their treatment regimen. It can help to alleviate symptoms, promote bone health, and reduce the risk of developing complications.
Yoga can also help women maintain their bone density after menopause. According to the findings of a small study conducted in 2016, practicing yoga has a beneficial effect on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women who have osteoporosis. There were no reports of pain or discomfort during the 6-month study, indicating that yoga is a good approach to improving bone mineral density without risking harm.
As part of the yoga program, participants practiced pranayama – breathing exercises that promote relaxation of the body and mind, relieving anxiety and reducing stress.
In another study published in 2016, the researchers discovered that doing yoga for 12 minutes every day is a safe and effective strategy to reverse bone loss. They chose 12 yoga positions that can help increase bone mineral density in the spine, hips, and femur and had very promising results.
Yoga can help people with osteoporosis in a variety of ways. It will help increase your muscular and bone strength, and in turn, this will give you better posture, balance, and stability. Maintaining a healthy level of activity can help relieve pain and lower the chance of bone fractures. In addition, as noted by Space Coast Daily, you can use your yoga practice to become more mindful of your body and its movements.
Certain forms of yoga are better for treating osteoporosis than others. We recommend gentle, low-impact yoga such as hatha, yin, or restorative yoga. Strenuous yoga forms, including ashtanga, vinyasa, and power yoga, should be avoided.
In the beginning, it’s better to do a little yoga every day than a few lengthier sessions per week. Try to do around 15 minutes of yoga per day and build up to longer sessions between 30 and 60 minutes.
Yoga for Pain Relief
Yoga is a mind-body practice that can help people suffering from chronic pain by increasing flexibility, decreasing inflammation, and assisting them in mentally coping with their pain. It has been shown to be beneficial for those who have fibromyalgia, back pain, neck discomfort, and headaches.
Inflammation is linked to many chronic pain conditions, particularly autoimmune disorders, and yoga has been shown to reduce inflammation by lowering the body’s stress response. Moreover, the anti-inflammatory benefits extend to both experienced and new practitioners. In other words, yoga has the potential to help people with chronic pain of all ages and levels of experience.
One study involved combat veterans doing yoga nidra, which is a type of mindfulness meditation. The participants reported a statistically significant reduction in pain perception and improvement in quality of life.
A meta-analysis found that those who practiced yoga on a regular basis for at least six weeks experienced less pain and improved mobility. The advantages of yoga were shown to be consistent across several styles, including but not limited to Iyengar, hatha, and viniyoga.
This shows that no matter what form of yoga you do, you will reap the benefits, and that yoga, since it combines strength, flexibility, and breathwork, can be more successful at relieving pain than standard workouts.
Unfortunately, doctors rarely recommend yoga as a form of therapy to their patients with chronic pain because they are unfamiliar with it and are therefore not sure how safe it is, especially for older adults.
However, you should know that many Medicare Advantage plans offer free gym memberships, including Silver Sneakers. Silver Sneakers offers a variety of fitness classes for seniors, including yoga instruction.
We recommend adaptive yoga, a style that incorporates meditation, is suitable for all ages and abilities, and can help you learn how to apply the principles of yoga to other aspects of your life.
The potential risks of practicing yoga are usually linked to participants becoming competitive and not listening to their bodies anymore. Forcing their bodies to perform challenging postures and movements does not only increase the risk of injury, but it misses the point of the practice.
The goal of these movements is to help you find harmony between your body, mind, and spirit. It’s not about dominating your body but about forming a partnership with it.
Yoga for Better Sleep
Physiological changes that occur as a result of the aging process have an impact on sleep quality. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, insomnia in older persons can lead to impaired function and have a significant negative impact on their quality of life. Because of the effect of sleep deprivation on cognitive function, sleep disorders like insomnia increase the risk of falls and other accidents leading to injuries.
Poor sleep quality also affects mood and emotional regulation, increasing the likelihood of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Various medications, such as benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines, are available to treat sleep-related issues pharmacologically, but they come with unwanted side effects, especially in older patients.
As a result, any non-pharmacological form of therapy that can reduce sleep disturbances and their effects is seen as a valuable tool. Yoga is regarded as one such non-pharmacological form of therapy.
Research indicates that older adults who practice yoga on a regular basis have better overall sleep quality, fewer episodes of disrupted sleep, take less time to fall asleep, have less daytime dysfunction, use fewer sleep medications, and feel more refreshed and energized in the morning.
One study from 2005 with 120 participants found that practicing yoga reduced the time it took for participants to fall asleep by an average of 10 minutes and extended the duration of their sleep by an average of one hour.
In another study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in 2014, participants over the age of 60 who had symptoms of insomnia took part in yoga classes twice a week and had daily sessions at home. After three months, they reported significant improvements in terms of sleep duration and quality.
Yoga for Cardiovascular Health
Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, and the older you are, the more prone you are to developing it. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), hypertension affects 70% of those over the age of 65.
Blood pressure or BP refers to the force the blood exerts on the walls of arteries as the heart alternately pumps and relaxes. This force is represented by a combination of two numbers: your systolic and diastolic scores. The systolic score is written above the diastolic score and represents your blood pressure when your heart is pumping, while the diastolic score represents blood pressure between beats when the heart muscle relaxes.
What’s considered normal blood pressure varies slightly between individuals, but it has to be regulated for the different systems in your body to work properly. According to the American Heart Association, the standard blood pressure limit is 120/80. Pre-hypertension is defined as a blood pressure score between 120/80 and 130/90, while hypertension is considered anything above 130/90.
The vascular system changes as you get older, including the structure of your heart and blood vessels. For example, your arteries lose elastic tissue and become stiffer, which raises your blood pressure.
Other factors that influence this process are genes, lifestyle, comorbidities, and medications.
Sleep apnea and kidney disease are two common medical conditions that are known to cause high blood pressure.
Lifestyle factors include smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, physical activity, weight, and sleep deprivation.
High blood pressure dramatically raises your risk of heart disease and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States.
Apart from taking the medication prescribed by your doctor, there are a few more things you can do to lower your blood pressure:
- Follow a healthy diet
- Maintain optimal body weight
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Get the recommended 7 to 8 of sleep per night.
Yoga can help you with three of these changes: maintain optimal weight, exercise regularly, and, as we’ve seen in the benefits listed above, improve sleep quality. Blood pressure control is actually among the most researched benefits associated with the practice of yoga.
For instance, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a study on Iyengar yoga’s impact on high blood pressure in 2011. Participants practiced Iyengar yoga for 12 weeks, and results showed clinically relevant improvements in 24-hour systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.
Another 2016 study titled Lifestyle Modification and Blood Pressure Study examined the effects of hatha yoga on blood pressure. After 12 weeks of practice, researchers from this study also found clinically relevant improvements in blood pressure.