7 Important Health Benefits of Yoga for People Over 50
I have received many emails or had conversations with potential yoga clients that started out along the lines of, “I’m (insert age that the person views as old). And I am a yoga beginner.” If we were speaking in person, they would often pause to wait for my gasp.
When it never came, I would let them know that some of my friends teach beginners in their 90s. There is no “you are too old” age for yoga, but I also understand the reticence: Yoga models skew to the 30s, but are mostly younger. Although yoga is starting to have different shapes, sizes and ages, popular media still seems to display one age and one body type.
Don’t listen to any of it. If you are over 50 (or over 90), it is the perfect time to start a yoga practice. Now. In fact, the Yoga Sutras, a text with 196 aphorisms compiled around 400 CE begins, “Now, the teachings of yoga.” The word “now” is so imperative. There is no sense of regret, no “Why didn’t I start sooner?” Now is the time you practice. Now is the perfect time.
In fact, if you find yourself in some age you might classify as chronologically enriched, you have even more reason to practice. Here are some of the many benefits, right now:
1) Your balance will improve. Balance is all good and well when you are 20 and can show off your arm balance skills as your party trick. However, yoga works your proprioception, or your sense of your body in space. Without regular attention, this can diminish with age, but it doesn’t have to. With much of proprioception in your ankles, standing yoga poses ensure that you maintain your sense of balance. This may help you to walk gracefully for years to come.
2) Yoga strengthens bones. Bones are not really something young people think about, yet men and women have their maximum bone density at the age of 30. After that, it is all about maintenance, and some studies have suggested that yoga can help with gaining bone in the spine and the hip. Strength building yoga is an important part of this equation.
3) Your memory will stay sharp. No one wants to become the person who can’t remember where their keys are on a regular basis. Yoga provides added benefits in visual-spatial memory, with one study claiming that it fared better than crossword puzzles. Consider it fitness for your brain.
4) Yoga can protect your joints. As with any exercise, it can also harm your joints, so moderation and a qualified teacher are key. Keeping the fluidity of your joints may feel like a bonus when you are young, but as you get older you will notice it more palpably, especially in the morning. Not only will yoga boost the synovial fluid to your joints, but it will also train surrounding tiny muscles to help stabilize the load.
5) Yoga can provide weight loss benefits. Yoga has a host of benefits, such as normalizing digestion, boosting the metabolism and toning muscles. All of these things can help with weight loss and yoga’s mindful training may help you to recognize when you are eating straight out of the bag of chips. Midlife weight gain has causes, and by dealing with some of them head-on you will be less likely to carry excess weight.
6) Yoga can aid with menopausal discomfort. Regular yoga practice is not going to cure all that ails you, but according to some studies, yoga may relieve some symptoms of menopause, including fewer hot flashes. (I think most women would sign up at the words “fewer hot flashes.”)
7) Yoga can moderate chronic pain. Chronic pain does become more common as we age, but this does not mean you are doomed to suffer. A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that for people with chronic lower back pain, yoga increased mobility more than standard medical care. The less pain you are in, the more you will be likely to move. And the more you move, the less pain you are likely to be in. You see where I am going with this.
As much as popular culture glorifies youth, yoga is for everyone—really and truly. Yoga can be the way to an awakened heart, as alive today as it was thirty years ago.
What’s the best health benefit you receive from your yoga practice? Any age, any level! Let us know in the comments.