Aging with Yoga: How Yoga Supports a Healthy Body and Mind

Aging is tough. Even when you feel young, your body doesn't seem to keep up quite like it used to.

But there are solutions, and yoga offers a uniquely effective way to keep our bodies healthy. In fact, by adding a regular yoga routine to your schedule, you can extend your life and improve quality of life while you're at it. Time and time again, yoga has proven to be beneficial for body and mind, helping to both prevent and combat common ailments of older age.

Stretching Improves Strength and Flexibility

The regular stretching and activating of one's body with yoga is a key way it improves health. During yoga, your ligaments, tendons, and joints are manipulated in new ways. Over time, they become both stronger and more flexible, improving mobility. With better control of ones body, you're more likely to reduce the risk of injury.

Because yoga also involves many poses where you must balance and support your body weight, yoga provides a light but challenging strength exercise for key muscle groups. (Tree Pose and Downward Facing Dog are two simple but noticeably challenging poses, especially for beginners.) In addition to the improved strength, yoga also targets the long, lean muscles, meaning improved muscle tone.

Yoga can Win Over Your Genes. Seriously.

Interestingly, yoga as part of an overall health routine was also shown to extend your life by actually manipulating your chromosomes. By engaging in a regular exercise along with yoga, and improving one's diet, reducing stress, and having a strong social support system, researchers found that it's possible to extend telomeres, the part of chromosomes that affect aging. As Dean Ornish, lead author of the study, put it, “Our genes, and our telomeres, are not necessarily our fate.”

You may say, "Well, just about any form of exercise and stress relief could do then, right?" While may be true, the holistic character of yoga as a lifestyle uniquely adds to each of the other groups required to extend telomeres. In addition to  being physical demanding itself, yoga has been found to reduce stress, and by engaging in your yoga class and community, you have access to a strong support community of loving fellow yogis (like Yogi Surprise!). Similarly, practicing yoga also tends to lead one to explore more alternative, whole food choices for their diets. This often means less processed food and overall cleaner eating.

Yoga, Acceptance and Positivity

Yoga is also a means to different planes of enlightenment. By teaching, learning, and practicing acceptance and gratitude, vital lessons in yoga, you're more likely to side-step the mental anguish behind worry and anxiety. Readings like the Bhagavad Gita highlight core beliefs behind the practice, namely that death is not the end of the being, but rather the conclusion to one stage of the being's existence.

What's more, mantra yoga – the of use words and phrases to direct the mind to meditation and balance – carries many powerful messages. Consider this mantra:

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

(Translation: May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.)

In that simple phrasing, one remembers a valuable lesson and when said in devotion, can experience significant mental and spiritual energy. By leading a positively-reinforced lifestyle, you're much more likely to derive quality from your time and practice.

Use Yoga to Your Advantage

The best way to learn if yoga can help with your aging process is to simply sign up and begin practicing. We recommend committing to at least a 30-day regimen, perhaps going a few times a week or more, based on your level of comfortability and physical health. When you start, take notes on what you're feeling, how your posture evolves, and if you notice any breakthroughs. And remember, whenever you feel stuck or confused, you can always reach out to a fellow yogi!

We want to hear from you! Has your yoga practice helped with aging? Tell us in the comments below!