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8 Benefits of yoga for seniors

Retirement Living Staying at Home Community Positive Ageing
20 August 2021
yoga mat and block

As you age, keeping active and mobile can become somewhat challenging. Fortunately there are numerous ways to keep yourself in great shape, both physically and mentally.

Yoga is a great way to build strength, calm your mind, and improve your overall health and well-being. It’s also incredibly versatile, with a range of different styles to suit different needs, age groups, fitness levels and preferences.

Here are 8 benefits of yoga for seniors:

1. Improves balance

As you get older, balance issues can become more prevalent, leading to falls and other related injuries. A study commissioned by the Australian Government’s Institute for Health and Welfare found the rate of head injuries from falls by older Australians has nearly doubled over the past decade.

A simple way to prevent falls is to introduce yoga into your weekly routine. Many yoga poses and exercises can assist with improving your balance, focus, movement and coordination which helps strengthen your muscles and prevent the likelihood of falls occurring.

2. Meditation

Many of us know firsthand how rejuvenating yoga can be for the body, helping us to stretch and release tension after a stressful day. Contrary to popular belief though,  yoga is a lot more than physical exercise. It involves movement, but the true focus is on utilising the body and breath to calm the mind. Whether it’s sitting in silence at the beginning or end of class, or practising mindful movement, it’s a great way to incorporate some meditation.  

There are many benefits to regular meditation, but one emerging finding is improved brain health with the potential for regular meditation to actually change the structure of your brain. One study showed that over time, regular meditation can decrease the size of your amygdala, the part of the brain that signals our brain to turn on the stress response in the body. This means we can perceive situations differently and avoid becoming stressed in the first place!

3. Keeps your heart healthy

Improved circulation, lower blood pressure cholesterol levels – a yoga routine to start your day can be a great way to keep your heart healthy. Research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology  found yoga may lower various cardiovascular risk factors.

4. Make new friends

Maintaining social connections or making new ones can be difficult as we get older. Integrating yoga into your life can be a great way to try new things and build a whole new network of friends.

Whether it’s a class at your local studio, beach or park, attending a yoga class is an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people, be social and be part of your local community all whilst staying active. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or a yoga master, organised classes cater for different age groups, skills and fitness levels.

5. Natural mood booster

Not only does it give you time out to think, reflect and engage your mind and body, yoga provides countless mental health benefits. Studies have found implementing yoga practices can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression and enhance overall well-being.

Yoga can be an effective stress-buster because it combines movement with breathing exercises, which are both well-documented ways of calming the mind and body. Yoga encourages one to relax by slowing the breath and focusing on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response.

So next time you are feeling stressed, incorporating a downward facing dog or cobra pose into your daily routine may be just the thing to get you back on track.

6. Improved sleep

If we don’t take time to switch off at the end of each day it can sometimes wreak havoc on our sleeping patterns, leaving us tossing and turning throughout the night and waking up tired the next day.

A study of 120 people has found seniors who practiced specific yoga postures before bed time improved fall-asleep time, sleep duration and experienced a greater feeling of being rested in the morning.

7. Keeps your mind sharp

As time passes, changes may occur in your brain that might affect your memory and thinking.  A 2016 Australian Government study found dementia affected 1 in 10 people aged 65 and over. Regular exercise, whether it’s walking or yoga, goes a long way towards maintaining and improving your memory and cognitive skills.

One of the benefits of yoga is that it can give you the gift of training your brain to focus, instead of multi-tasking. A study at Stanford University found that chronic media multi-taskers have weaker cognitive abilities than those who are more likely to single-task. By focusing on your breath and staying present in poses, yoga can also help train your mind to be more focused and clear as well.

8. Stay fit and healthy

Getting fit and keeping your body in shape doesn’t have to always mean running laps of the park or sweating at the gym, a report published by the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology found yoga may provide the same aerobic and cardiovascular benefits as exercises such as brisk walking or biking.

Unlike other weight-bearing exercises like running or tennis, yoga is gentle on your muscles and joints making it an excellent choice for older adults looking to improve their physical health.

Note: Whenever you start any kind of new exercises, it is important to listen to your own body and speak to your local GP before undertaking a new exercise routine.

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