The average lifespan of a Yogi is around a 100 years old. Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar (helped to introduce the practice of Yoga to the Western world) lived to be 95 and at 80 years old was still in better shape than a lot of 40 year olds. There are some fairly obvious physical benefits to practicing the yogic lifestyle that influences health and aging.
Yoga helps to slow down the aging process by gradually improving key factors in your physical health. Here are five reasons you should keep up your practice for optimal health, and get on it if you aren’t practicing already.
High levels of stress leads to increased cortisol levels, which is associated with higher levels of abdominal fat. Yoga helps with relaxation and stress reduction, which results in a healthier distribution of body fat. A study published in Behavioral Cognitive Psychotherapy showed that yoga increased mindfulness, which the authors define as attention to the present moment, having an accepting and open attitude toward experiences, and insightful understanding. This indicates that yoga may help prevent negative emotional states of anxiety and depression. How can that not decrease the stress in your life?
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying,” If you don’t use it you’ll lose it”. Balance is one of those things and a key component in the practice of Yoga. I’m not referring to holding balancing poses like the classic Tree Pose, but instead lifting from a Crescent Warrior into a Warrior Three. That is balance in action. The ability to balance involves both our body and our brain; when not practiced one or both facilities diminish. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons estimates One out of every Two women and One out of Four men over 50 will suffer a fracture related to a fall. The balancing poses we use in our practice are very important to keep the communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain in sync, improving our agility.
So many people tell me they don’t do Yoga because they aren’t flexible. A big part of practicing Yoga is to increase your flexibility. Working the asanas in your practice brings about a lot of physical rewards. It decreases stiffness by creating greater spinal flexibility. Scientists have found that yoga helps straighten a hunched over back we can get from age, called kyphosis. Kyphosis makes doing everything harder because it puts a lot of unneeded stress on the body we aren’t designed for. Leading to more injuries and disabilities. A regular Yoga practice reduces low back pain and can increase the functionality for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Yoga builds strength slowly and safely. It is the perfect exercise for total body resistance which slows the loss of muscle that we all experience as we age. Yoga works both small and large muscles against gravity with your own body weight in postures like Down dog to Plank to Up dog. Yoga is a much safer option than high impact or high intensity exercises that can put stress on your cartilage and joints.
In every class and in every article I am always going over the importance of breathing; not only in our practice but in everyday life. The connection to our breath allows us to be in the present moment and improves our ability to take in more air and increase the energy flow to all our cells. It also helps to lower our blood pressure and improve digestion.
Yoga is an ancient practice that has stood the test of time. Practicing Yoga will keep you feeling youthful and help to combat the effects of aging along with the overall mind/body benefits.