What makes yoga so good for you? When practiced regularly, the unique combination of yoga’s physical exercise and meditative practice seem to unlock a wealth of benefits to the body, brain, and mood. Below are just six of the major outcomes that yoga can lead to, each backed up by multiple scientific studies:
1. Lower blood pressure: Many, many studies have shown this to be true. In one recent example, people who practiced yoga for 11 weeks reduced their systolic blood pressure (the top number) by a whopping 33 points.
2. Less joint pain: Regular yoga practice has been proven to reduce the pain and stiffness caused by arthritis, as well as improve joint flexibility and strength. In a recent study, participants reported needing less pain medication after just four weeks of yoga classes.
3. Stronger bones: Yoga is a weight-bearing activity, and multiple studies have shown that it can help slow bone thinning, thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
4. Better sleep: Researchers compared an herbal sleep remedy to yoga, and concluded that yoga had the best effect on improving sleep duration and the speed at which participants fell asleep. Sleep specialists believe that yoga works because it addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of insomnia.
5. Healthier brain: A UCLA study of people with mild cognitive impairment showed that those who practiced yoga for 12 weeks significantly improved many cognitive skills, including ability to focus and multitask.
6. More positive mood: The same study mentioned above—bolstered by other research—showed those who practiced yoga improved their mood. It reduces stress and improves your sense of well-being.
Yoga Success Stories
At Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those age 55 and better located at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains, residents have discovered the pleasures and rewards of participating in a twice-a-week yoga class.
Jane Aslaksen, who regularly attended the class for about three years, says she started it because it was “kind of a challenge. It was out my experience; I’d never even thought of it before.” Jane says, “I’ve noticed better flexibility, balance, and I’m calmer. That’s the best part.”
Another Splendido resident, George Magee, says, “I was having lower back problems, and my doctor suggested yoga. It has helped—and I’m also more limber.”
Yoga offers a unique change of pace for those who typically work out in a fitness center, like Lois Hughet. Every morning, Lois visits Splendido’s fitness center to ride an exercise bike, use the treadmill, and lift weights. Sometimes she attends a weight class, but says, “mostly I do my own thing.” She enjoys the social aspect of the yoga class, saying, “It’s nice to be with other people who are exercising too.”
Lois says her favorite part about practicing yoga is “It’s a relaxing exercise. It’s a quiet and peaceful way of exercising and getting the body to move. And it gets me working some areas of my body I don’t normally work.”
A Knowledgeable Instructor Is Crucial
It’s important to note that taking a yoga class that’s too strenuous, or without the guidance of an expert teacher, can cause more harm than good. Those with old injuries such as back problems, or conditions like osteoporosis, should work with an instructor who has specialized training.
At Splendido, Jane explains, “The teacher who comes in is sensational. She knows how to work with older adults. We work on poses for balance, weakness, and the like.”
Whatever your age, it’s worth seeking out a yoga class that can offer some of the benefits listed here. George says, “I’d definitely recommend yoga for older adults. Getting up and down was getting harder and harder for me; for somebody our age, it’s really good.”