I’m happy to say that I just started yoga and am loving it! I tried yoga many years ago at Bally’s Health Club and knew it was NOT for me. The class was packed liked sardines, the poses went fast – I had zero clue if I was doing anything correctly and I certainly could not keep up with those around me.
Thankfully, I have given yoga another shot, this time with a smaller class and a teacher who focuses on breathing and correct alignment. Now I can reap ALL those anti-aging benefits of yoga I’m about to tell you about!
Most people think that yoga is just for flexible people and those “California” types. That statement could not be farther from the truth. In fact, yoga CREATES flexibility and is for EVERYBODY, dude. Starting yoga now can help you as you grow older, not only with increased flexibility, but with all sorts of benefits as you continue practicing.
Strengthening and Lengthening of Muscles While Being Easy On The Joints
When you practice yoga, you work your entire body, using your body weight as resistance. Many of the poses are to be done slowly, while breathing, sometimes while taking many inhale and exhale breaths, so the results are different than you would get in weight training, which isolates specific muscles to tighten them. Since you are not overworking any specific muscle group, you are less likely to get injured. Yoga is also easier on the joints than high impact exercises or running, which we are warned to stay away from as we age.
Does yoga make you stronger? There was one study performed at University of California, Davis, where ten college students did a short yoga routine for eight weeks. Each week, they attended 2-4 classes, focusing 10 minutes on breath control, 15 minutes on warm up exercises, 50 minutes doing yoga poses, and then 10 minutes of relaxation/mediation. At the end of the eight-week period, the researchers measured the students’ fitness.
They discovered their muscular strength had increased by up to 31%, and their muscular endurance in knee flexion improved by 57%. All flexibility measurements increased significantly — ankle flexibility, shoulder elevation, trunk extension, and trunk flexion increased by 13%, 155%, 188%, and 14%, respectively. Cardio respiratory fitness improved by 7%. Yep, all in 8 weeks.
Resetting Muscle Alignment
Interestingly, I’ve learned that the body creates “holding patterns” to protect muscles from tiring out. Sometimes, muscles become ‘stuck’ in shortened positions due to habitual, imbalanced postures/stances. For example, people who carry stress in their shoulders/neck, will end up scrunching up their upper bodies, bringing their shoulders into their neck/ears. And if this improper alignment continues, other health issues will manifest.
Did you know that these types of improper patterns can often be reset with awareness and repetition of correct movements through yoga? With proper alignment during yoga poses, you show a muscle its full range of motion. With practice, the muscle can eventually reset itself to its proper length. Not only that, but poses like tucking your chin to your chest (squat and curl and shoulderstand) stretches your neck and upper back, and also stimulates and balances your thyroid.
Increased balance and Blood Flow
When starting out with yoga poses, you might feel a little wobbly. Don’t worry, over time, your balance will improve as you become stronger. This will be a key in preventing falls when you are older. For me, I like to make sure I have someone in front of me that is more seasoned than I am, so I can follow their lead when it comes to poses – and so less people see me falling on my face! Increased blood flow that you get from doing yoga heats and loosens connective tissues. The way the bodies connective tissue and fascia are throughout the body, yoga can work one area of the body while positively affecting another. Some yoga poses can help with getting toxins out of your lymph nodes.
Lowered Blood Pressure and Skillful Energy Management
If you’ve got high blood pressure, yoga might be the calming activity for you (combined with a healthy diet). Los Angeles Yogini Randi Evette says, “Using your breath to calm the mind (or assist in relaxing into poses) will in turn, calm the body. Our breath, or prana/vital energy is the most functional way of working with our own energy. If you were to hold your breath for 60 seconds, you may feel panicked or agitated. If you mindfully slowed down your exhales so that they’re twice as long as your inhales, you’ll notice that you will have calmed your self down. By manipulating our breath, we can teach ourselves to manage our energy with more skill.”
Getting In Tune With Your Body And Inner Self
Good yoga centers around proper breathing, proper alignment and turning inward. Some people even experience emotional breakthroughs during yoga, as some specific poses can bring up different things in different people. Relaxation poses done at the end of class, like “Corpse Pose” are a time when you can meditate, and meditation is becoming key in antiaging – researchers are now calling meditation a “powerful tool in brain protection.”
So strike that Warrior Pose and be fierce — there’s no time like the present to start incorporating yoga into your daily exercise routine!
The Anti-Aging Analyst