of Yoga for Seniors
There is a plethora of health benefits of yoga for seniors, from increased strength and flexibility, to better sleep and sharper thinking.
Most people think of yoga as an activity where you twist and stretch your body into impossible and painful positions, but it could not be farther from the truth. Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline that involves the mind, body and spirit. Practicing it regularly brings a host of surprising physical and mental health benefits for elders that can make mature living a lot more enjoyable.
Improved strength and balance
As an exercise, regular practice of yoga not only tones and strengthens muscles, it works on sharpening what is called proprioception. This is your sense of body position in space and is centered in the ankles. Because yoga's many standing poses help seniors strengthen their ankles, it can help them improve balance and become steadier on their feet. This is a huge benefit when you consider falls are the leading cause of injuries in advanced age.
Increased flexibility and mobility
Doing yoga helps lubricate joints by circulating synovial fluid. The main function is to nourish the cartilage and reduce friction between bones. Delivering more of this fluid to joints, knees, and hips makes it easier and less painful to accomplish everyday tasks and get around.
More effective diabetes management
As a form of resistance training that uses a person’s own body weight to strengthen and build muscles, yoga can help make it easier for seniors with Type 2 diabetes to manage their condition. This kind of exercise has been proven effective in regulating glucose levels by helping cells convert more sugars in the bloodstream into energy.
Yoga can slow osteoporosis. This condition develops with age when the creation of new bone can’t keep up with the removal of old bone. By putting gentle pressure on the bones, yoga stimulates the production of new bone matter which is less likely to fracture in a fall.
A majority of seniors are concerned about managing high cholesterol levels, and yoga can help them do it. Many studies have shown that practicing yoga can help lower the high levels of LDL/bad cholesterol that raise the risk of heart disease.
Doing gentle yoga has been proven to help seniors lose weight. Whereas typically pounds are shed by burning more calories than you ingest, other weight regulating factors are in play with yoga, including more mindful eating, reduced stress and muscle building. According to a study conducted on adults in their 50s by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, those who did yoga once a week for 4 or more years lost an average of 5 pounds.
In terms of mental benefits, yoga puts the body into a relaxed state somewhere between being asleep and being awake which helps ease stress that would otherwise worsen high blood pressure. It also helps lower your heart rate, decrease anxiety, and improve respiration.
By combining movement, controlled breathing, and meditation, yoga boosts levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA); a neuro-transmitting brain chemical with a calming effect on the nervous system. The boost in GABA promotes a deep sense of peace and well-being that can reduce the risk of depression.
Seniors often have trouble breathing because their respiratory systems have slowed down or because they have a lung condition. Yoga helps people become more mindful of every breath they take. By becoming more aware of breathing and practicing specific breathing exercises, seniors can increase their flow of oxygen throughout their bodies and improve respiratory functions.
The relaxation benefits of yoga often stay with seniors long after the class has ended. Many older adults say that after they started practicing yoga, they were able to fall asleep faster, sleep for longer, and feel more rested the next day.
A study conducted by the International Review of Psychiatry in 2016 found that people suffering from multiple sclerosis experienced immediate positive effects in brain function after just 30 minutes of practicing yoga. Breathing exercises that focus on harmonizing the logical left and emotional right hemispheres of the brain have been shown to help clarify thought. In fact, researchers have come to believe yoga may help slow a wide range of age-related mental declines, including Alzheimer’s.
While most every kind of exercise is good for older adults, the health benefits of yoga for seniors go far beyond the physical by harnessing the combined restorative powers of the mind, body and spirit.
MorningStar Senior Living
If your loved one lives far from family and friends, it could be time to move into a senior living community near their adult children where they’ll have the companionship of fellow seniors and a compassionate service team. At MorningStar Senior Living, a 24/7 team is dedicated to offer care and hospitality services that meet each resident’s social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.