I read recently that nearly 10% of Americans aged 45-64 do yoga, which is up from just over 10% a few years ago. And that’s not even counting those 65 and older. I happen to know several yogis in that category where I am. Having a yoga practice is yet another example of a healthy lifestyle choice that many people could benefit from, along with good nutrition, adequate rest, fulfilling relationships, and other forms of exercise.
I practiced yoga on and off through my child-bearing and rearing years, and eventually made it a regular part of my fitness routine. I practiced it alone in my home for many years, and noticed a big difference in my enthusiasm for it as well as an increase in its many benefits after I started attending classes in 2004.
According to the Yoga Journal, the top five reasons why so many people try yoga are
1. To gain flexibility. Muscle and join stiffness are viewed by many as a natural part of aging This process can be slowed immensely, if not halted entirely, by a good plant-based diet accompanied by regular yoga. I hear some people say, “Oh, I can’t do yoga. I’m too inflexible.” The way to more flexibility IS yoga, done regularly.
2. To be better conditioned, generally. Yoga builds strength and balance. Both of these keep us strong as we age, making off-balance falls far less likely.
3. To provide stress relief. I wish I could explain how this phenomenon works, but I can’t. I can tell you that in the last decade of my life, I have become more relaxed, less hurried, more peaceful, less anxious. I am more willing to take life on life’s terms, rather than to push rivers, move mountains, and expect the world to run on my schedule and at my pace. I attribute much of that change to my yoga practice.
4. To gain better overall health. On of the beautiful things about yoga is that it meets us where we are. People that try yoga, and try it again a few more times, begin to learn that where we are is not a bad place to be. We start paying more attention to the actual state of our being in an up-close and personal way, breath by breath, move by move, pose by pose. We become more completely whole in body mind, and spirit.
5. To become physically fit. Yoga has a wonderful way of not only honoring the state of our body on any given day, but also of inviting us to push ourselves just a little to gradually become stronger, more flexible, more invigorated and energized without exhausting us.
Yoga originated in ancient Indian philosophy, and is sometimes referred to as a form of meditative movement. In addition to offering physical benefits like improved flexibility, core strength, and balance, it also helps with relaxation, breathing, and mental well-being. Part of what makes yoga so beneficial is that it offers simultaneous benefits to both mind and body.
Research suggests that Yoga can have a similar effect on your mind as antidepressants and psychotherapy by influencing neurotransmitters and boosting serotonin. It has also been found to reduce levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, blood lipids, and growth factors, as well as have a positive effect on mild depression, sleep problems, chronic low back pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, and improved motor function.
As yoga continues to gain popularity in this country, it is becoming easier and easier to find a class for any age and any stage. If you are not already a yoga practitioner, become one today.