Yoga has been shown to help alleviate or reduce many health challenges, making it an increasingly popular exercise choice for our older adult population. Senior Yoga classes are popping up everywhere – health clubs, senior centers, assisted living residences, and even church basements. The many benefits of yoga have long been said to slow – or even slowly reverse – the aging process. This is undoubtedly a good part of the reason that this 4000+ year-old practice has survived and flourishes today. It’s also a primary reason that yoga, according to the 7th Annual IDEA Fitness Programs Report, has experienced the most growth of any fitness program over the past seven years.
UNION OF MIND, BODY, AND SPIRIT:
Those who practice yoga in its purest form view it as much more than just a form of exercise. It is considered a holistic experience which rejuvenates the mind, body and spirit. Even among those who practice “Westernized” (i.e., more fitness-focused) yoga, the experience is generally felt to be more than strictly physically beneficial. The practice is calming and provides a rare opportunity in our chaotic lives to leave the outside world behind and be at peace, with a focus only on our physical, mental, and spiritual selves.
As we age, we stop breathing fully. Yoga reminds us that it is important to exhale as fully as we inhale. As we grow older, we lose flexibility in our ribcage, and sometimes suffer from spinal deformities, creating less room for lung expansion. Mindful breathing takes into consideration the three purposes of breathing: replenishing, warming, and cleansing. Focusing on full inhalations and exhalations serves to slow down the heart rate which, in turn, improves focus and increases concentration.