Image: Hamza Butt
Yoga, a practice that originated in ancient India, is one of the most popular forms of physical activity these days. Many people who have tried and kept on practicing yoga swear to the benefits of this physical activity.
Yoga enthusiasts claim that the practice doesn’t just help them relax/calm down but also provided them with multitude of health benefits.
Yoga As An Anti-Ager
The belief that yoga is a great anti-ager came from an observation in areas where yoga has tremendous influence like in India. Compared to more industrialized and developed nations like the United States, India has little to no affordable healthcare yet the average lifespan of people there is longer compared to more developed nations. Experts believe that when people don’t have access to certain resources, they resort to alternative ways of living healthier. Yoga is one of those alternatives.
There are several ways on how yoga helps in delaying the aging process. Here are some of them:
- Yoga helps in reducing stress level
In a study done in India, subjects who practiced yoga for a duration of 10 days have experienced a reduction of the stress level (they experienced 9% decrease). A similar study was done in Germany and yielded similar results.
Although stress is inevitable and is considered ‘normal’ in day-to-day life, too much “distress” or negative stress have unpleasant effects on health and overall life quality. It can lead to unhealthy habits like sleep deprivation and overeating which only speed up the aging process.
- Yoga reduces the risk of having cognitive disorders
Yoga is not just a good stress-reliever; it also does good for brain health.
A research team from Jefferson Medical College did a study on the effects of yoga on brain health. They found out that yoga plays an important role in setting the balance of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain. Elevated cortisol level in the brain is shown to increase the risk of developing cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Yoga improves sleep
Melatonin production declines as one ages. It’s a chemical released from the brain that tells the body when to sleep. A study done in India found out that those who practice yoga for a duration of 3 months experienced an increased level of the hormone melatonin.
- Yoga creates flexibility
One common misconception about the yoga practice is that it’s only for those who are flexible. This isn’t true as even if you consider yourself as the least flexible person, you can still do yoga as it helps improve your flexibility.
As we age, our spines tend to get shorter and more rounded. When left unchecked, they can create space between the vertebrae, causing a huge deal of discomfort. Yoga can avoid this from happening.
Regular yoga practice can help lengthen the spine and consequently, improves nerve conduction to all organs.
- Yoga improves balance
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men over the age of 50 will suffer from fracture as a result of falls. This is something yoga can prevent.
Balancing poses in yoga such as Tree, Warrior, and Triangle can help in improving the communication between the right and the left hemispheres and hence, improve one’s agility.
- Yoga builds muscle strength
Having strong muscles is a great asset to have. They provide protection from the changes brought about by aging such as loss of bone density.
Yoga is a good and safer option for building strong muscles. It uses gentle movements that don’t put too much stress on the cartilage or joints. It may be considered as a mild to moderate-intensity exercise but yoga does wonders when it comes to building/improving muscle strength and increasing bone density.
Weight-bearing yoga poses like the Cobra, Plank, and Downward Facing Dog are great for improving muscle strength.
Whether you’re in your 20s or 40s, yoga is a great option for exercise. It improves different areas of the body without putting too much stress on the joints. Try it and notice the difference it makes in your physical, mental, and emotional health. And with regular practice, it may even help you look younger!