According to Yoga Journal, 2.9 million Americans age 55 years or older regularly practice yoga for its health benefits. In a culture that worships youth and frames aging as a process of loss, yoga honors the aging process. Poses can be modified to every body type and level of ability, making classes accessible to anyone willing to step onto the mat.
On a physical level, a consistent yoga practice can give you a strength and suppleness, maintaining flexibility, lowering blood pressure, easing chronic conditions such as back pain and arthritis, and potentially helping to prevent major health crises like heart disease and strokes.
On a less tangible and deeper level, yoga sharpens the mind, helps cultivate acceptance, hones discipline and can provide a sense of self-acceptance and gratitude.
An increasing body of research is showing how yoga can benefit aging adults. In a study at Indiana University, for example, older Veterans who had suffered strokes improved their balance and endurance after participating in twice-weekly yoga classes taught by a yoga therapist. An earlier study at the same university reported that older adults averaging 78 years of age improved muscle strength in the lower extremities and reduced their fear of falling after participating in twice-weekly hatha yoga classes during a 12-week period.
If you or your loved one want to find out more about yoga, the Yoga Journal website offers examples of therapeutic poses for elderly adults with conditions ranging from anxiety and back pain to fatigue, high blood pressure, mild depression and stress.
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