In today’s busy society, yoga provides an escape from the chaos and allows you to reconnect with yourself. Yoga is a great way to exercise and stay healthy and is available for anyone whatever your capability and mobility. Yoga is especially important as our bodies age, helping maintain flexibility and muscle strength, as well as keeping our minds focused and sharp. If you’re interested in yoga for those aged over 50, and are wondering about the health benefits of yoga, we’ve put together a guide to the 10 health benefits of yoga for the over 50s.
Yoga for over 50 improves flexibility
Yoga is an excellent way to keep flexible, as it stretches and loosens your muscles. This can help you feel less stiff and tired – especially yoga for over 50 – and is very popular with people with arthritis. Inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue may cause poor posture and tension. Tight hips can strain knee joints and tight hamstrings can cause back pain. Regular yoga works all your muscles and may ease pain from tight muscles, as it takes your joints through their full range of motion. Keep at it and you’ll notice a gradual increase in your flexibility, with difficult poses soon becoming easy.
Yoga builds muscle strength
While not as strenuous as heavy weight-lifting, yoga builds muscle strength and targets all the muscles, without placing too much stress on specific muscles. Yoga combines both cardio and strength training, but at a slower pace and in a calmer setting than working out at a gym. Yoga poses like downward and upward dog will strengthen your upper body and nearly all yoga poses build core strength, particularly the plank. Standing poses will strengthen your upper leg, back and hamstrings, especially if you hold them for several long breaths. Yoga can also improve balance by strengthening your lower legs and improve chronic pain.
If you’re searching for a gym for cardio or strength exercise read our guide to gyms near me – how to find the best gym.
Yoga for over 50 may reduce chronic pain
Yoga has been linked to reducing many types of chronic pain, including age-related complaints such as arthritis through to sports injuries. Yoga may help improve the function of many aspects of the body involving joints, which can suffer from wear-and-tear as we age, for example, those with osteoarthritis of the knees. Strengthened muscles may help protect you from arthritis, muscle pains, and reduce the impact of future falls and other injuries.
Yoga improves posture
As we age, good posture is important to avoid back, neck and other muscle problems. By slumping, your body flattens the normal inward curves in your back which causes pain and may contribute to arthritis of the spine. Yoga poses – especially yoga for the over 50s – are designed to strengthen muscles around the spine and in your core, and when the centre of your body is reinforced, your posture will be improved. This may help alleviate back and neck pain. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand with correct posture. Yoga also helps body awareness, so you will become more aware of when you are slumped. Yoga also helps improve balance and mobility.
Yoga may actually make you smarter
According to a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 20 minutes of yoga improves the brain’s ability to process information quickly. Yoga encourages you to pay attention to the present, and this awareness has been linked to memory and attention improvements, which is important as we age. By lowering stress and tension, yoga can help you have more organised thoughts and may improve cognitive function. Meditating as part of yoga – for even just a few minutes in the morning – can result in improved concentration for the rest of the day. When you are mentally relaxed, studies show that the brain works more efficiently.
Keeping your brain in tip-top condition can help stave off a range of later life brain illnesses. Learn more with our guide Brain health: 12 ways to boost your brain.
Yoga can help reduce stress and make you feel happier
Many people over 50 use yoga to help manage stress and as an aid to keeping calm. The practice promotes relaxation and yoga can lower anxiety and fatigue. Focusing your mind on breathing and meditation relaxes you and allows your mind to rid all unnecessary and unwanted thoughts. Breathing techniques can also boost oxygen levels in the body and to the brain. The result is the stimulated production of oxytocin, the hormone linked to bonding, which can make you feel happier. Yoga and mindfulness have also been linked to higher serotonin levels – linked to happiness – encouraging contentment. Yoga has also been found to improve social functioning and daily energy levels, useful for the over 50s. The relaxation of the muscles during yoga and stress relief will also help you sleep better and can improve insomnia.
Yoga for over 50 improves heart health
Yoga has been found to both slow and regulate the heart rate, which can help reduce high blood pressure and maybe especially beneficial for those who have had a stroke. A slower pace of breathing has been linked to a longer lifespan. Yoga has been linked to reducing high blood pressure and bad cholesterol – both risk factors of heart disease. While yoga does not increase your heart rate in the same way of running or cycling, it can still improve your cardiovascular function and leads to a lower resting heart rate while improving oxygen intake during exercise.
Yoga for over 50 increases blood flow
Linked to heart health is the fact that yoga can help your circulation by increasing blood flow, improving the amount of oxygen that gets to your cells, particularly to your hands and feet. This, in turn, helps your body function better. Yoga boosts the levels of haemoglobin and red blood cells, and also thins the blood, reducing the risk of blood clots. Poses that involves twists wring out venous blood from organs, allowing oxygenated blood to flow in.
Yoga can improve breathing
Yoga focuses on controlling breathing through exercises and certain techniques, breathing from the pit of the stomach to your lungs. It improves vital capacity, which is the measure of air that can be expelled from your lungs. This is particularly beneficial for people with lung disease and asthma. Yoga helps you become more aware of your breathing, and improved breathing and lung capacity will improve the functioning of the body. It can also help build endurance and keep your lungs and heart healthy. Poses that open the chest such as the cobra pose encourage larger breaths and may boost greater lung capacity. Better breathing may help you feel more relaxed and happier.
Yoga for the over 50s can promote healthy eating
Yoga encourages mindful eating. Being aware of the food you eat and being present in the moment when you eat it. This practice helps control blood sugar and may help you lose weight as part of a balanced diet. There is also evidence that chronic stress leads to overeating and weight gain, which can be counteracted with yoga as an effective stress relief. Yoga reduces the levels of cortisol in the body, the hormone released with stress and low blood-glucose, which leads to less overeating. As a form of exercise, practising yoga a couple of times a week will keep you fit and healthy, and increase metabolism, helping you feel healthier than ever.