As many women age they may feel resigned to the telltale signs of the aging process and how they manifest in the body– decreased endurance, flexibility, bone density, muscle mass and general fitness level.
Although there’s no way to turn back the clock, numerous studies have shown that being active at every stage of life has positive benefits to your health– exercise is an effective tool to counteract the signs of aging, as well as increase longevity.
We’ve previously written about the numerous health benefits of regular exercise, but we believe that yoga is special in its ability to transform the ways in which women age.
Yoga features low-impact forms of exercise, which are great for women of all ages and ability levels, because most of the poses can be adjusted to suit your ability level. Yoga can help slow down the signs of aging and keep your body in its best possible shape – and keep your mind sharp, too.
Yoga is a broad term used to identify many diverse systems of mental and physical exercises stemming from ancient Indian practices. Hatha Yoga is perhaps the style most widely known style in the Western world, with its emphasis on moving between a series of physical postures (or asanas), as well as emphasis on breathing and meditation. (Descriptions of some popular forms of yoga are available here.)
Yoga promotes flexibility and strength building, ease joint and muscular pain, as well as helping to cultivate a peaceful state of mind. While some yoga styles seek to quiet the mind and prepare the body for meditation, others are more vigorous and energizing. We offer several types of yoga classes at Womens Fitness Clubs of Canada; try a few and see which you like best!
Here is a brief overview of 3 benefits of yoga for women as they age:
1. Improved Flexibility & Strength
Building and maintaining flexibility and strength is crucial as you age. Yoga exercises have been proven to be extremely beneficial for improving flexibility and overall strength.
Yoga has been noted to safely stretch muscles and improve joint range of motion. One study found that after just 8 weeks of Hatha yoga training participants had significantly improved flexibility, balance and muscular endurance.
Many yoga exercises also emphasize the development of your muscles. Postures from nearly all forms of yoga will help you to build strength and/or endurance, depending on the vigour of the style of yoga being practiced. Asanas such as Downward Dog and help to develop upper body strength, while standing poses work the abdominal muscles, quads and hamstrings.
2. Easing of Joint, Back and Muscular Pain
Yoga can be of tremendous benefit to anyone suffering from soft tissue or skeletal pain – both of which often come with aging.
Practicing yoga has been shown to reduce inflammation markers throughout the body, which is a common cause of joint and muscle pain. Inflammation is known to be a contributing factor to almost every chronic disease that many women encounter later in life including arthritis, diabetes, depression as well as acute illness such as heart attacks and stroke.
Yoga is also credited with helping to improve blood circulation, which also plays a role in reducing aches and pains.
3. Peaceful, Balanced, State of Mind
Focusing on the breath, being aware of sensations in the body as well as emotions and letting them pass are intrinsic to yoga practice. The process of becoming aware of your breath helps to reduce stress and leads to a more balanced emotional state.
There’s some evidence to suggest that yoga may be of benefit to perimenopausal women as it can relieve symptoms such as anxiety, irritability and insomnia.
Yoga is a great stress reliever and most people report feeling relaxed after their yoga practice. Yogic breathing techniques calm the nervous system and also help reduce stress.
Yoga is often said to be beneficial to improving general mood and feelings of well-being and for this reason yoga is often used as a complimentary therapy in treatment of depression and other forms of mental illness.
Not surprisingly, women who practice yoga and who have done so for years have been found to be healthier and happier than non-practitioners. Practicing yoga transforms both your body and mind for the better and overall, yoga is perhaps one of the most powerful forms of exercise to help women age with grace and poise.
And if after all of this you still don’t believe us? Check out this amazing video of Ida Herbert, a vibrant and inspiring 96-year-old yoga teacher!