Even the fittest senior experiences some physical and mental deterioration due to the aging process. It’s unavoidable. However, no one needs to surrender to this. Every senior can fight back. Yoga for seniors is, hands down, the best defense against the ravages of age. It is an exercise that even “old” people can engage in — and certainly an activity that everyone can benefit from.
As we age, we lose flexibility, strength and muscle tone. We become less steady on our feet. Additionally, pesky problems with digestion, poor circulation and circulation crop up. These symptoms are part and parcel of aging, but you don’t have to stand there and take it. Resist!
Seniors, and near-seniors, can not take their health for granted. They must find physical activities that build body strength without causing injury, explore fitness products and nutritional supplements that improve their day-to-day health, and focus on staying mentally active.
Age is not your friend, but it doesn’t have to be a triumphant enemy. As individuals get up in years, they are more susceptible to degenerative disorders of the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease; joint disorders (arthritis); deterioration of lung capacity and elasticity; and, loss of bone density and muscle tone and mass. As we get older, we often have less energy, sleep issues, cognitive and sensory impairment, slower recovery from disease or injury, obesity and diabetes. Taking medication for various ailments further complicates what is going on in the aging body.
Yoga for seniors – along with eating right and getting enough rest – is the best defense against all the above. Some consider yoga a “personal unfoldment,” or process of discovering oneself from the inside out. This is even more crucial for a person of “a certain age.”
How yoga for seniors can help with age-related problems
Age can bring with it an intense dose of stress – over your health issues or those of a loved one, precarious finances, loss of or limited income, caretaking responsibilities, caring for grandchildren – and this leads to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
When a person’s cortisol levels are too high for too long, he or she develops, among other negative outcomes, increased abdominal fat. This is called visceral fat and it is treacherous.
Post-menopausal women in particular must be cognizant of visceral fat because it’s a dilemma they are very likely to experience. Women often gain weight after menopause, particularly in the mid-section or, medically-speaking, in the intra-abdominal region. Visceral fat, stored in and around internal organs, is buried under muscles and metabolized by the liver. It becomes blood cholesterol. Diet, of course, is a large determinant in the amount of visceral fat present, as is lack of physical exercise. Genetics also play a role in how much visceral fat a person acquires.
Yoga helps seniors lower stress because the body’s cortisol returns to normal levels in the process of doing yoga postures. Practicing senior yoga teaches us to relax and ultimately become healthier and calmer.
Because yoga has a restorative effect on stress levels, it even plays a part in fat distribution in the body. Visceral fat is reduced when a senior regularly practices yoga. Specific yoga postures that work the core (mid-section) of the belly effectively counteract visceral fat.
Melatonin is the hormone responsible for keeping the body youthful. Melatonin enables a person to get a good night sleep. Melatonin also plays a part in the body’s ability to ward off depression. It is also beneficial to the immune system and is believed to possess anti-carcinogen properties. Melatonin is produced when a person sleeps. The higher the levels of melatonin, the better a person feels.
Some seniors may find that they suffer from SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, during the winter when there is a shortage of natural daylight. SAD is often linked to low melatonin levels.
It is believed yoga positively effects the psycho-neuro-physiological processes in the body, keeping the pineal gland, from which melatonin originates, active and doing its job. Doing yoga for seniors has a soothing effect on individuals suffering from SAD, and other issues related to low melatonin production.
Learning to breathe fully and properly, as is taught in yoga class, increases the production of melatonin. Breathing correctly sends electrical impulses to the brain which enhances the physiological processes. Many seniors who practice yoga notice that this is one of the first and most noticeable benefits of applying yoga to all parts of their lives.
A 70-year-old is not going to have the body of a 20-year-old. Everyone recognizes that. But a 70-year-old should not have a 100-year-old body or brain.
Seniors can defy the aging process by learning and practicing yoga regularly. Yoga will ease joint issues, reduce chronic pain, improve flexibility and posture, enhance balance, strengthen muscles, reduce insomnia, better circulation and help regulate blood pressure. When a senior embraces yoga, he or she is getting a lot of ‘bang for the buck’ in safeguarding health and increasing longevity.