How Yoga Can Benefit You At Any Age

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It's no secret that yoga is a healthful pursuit for people of all ages and fitness levels. But what makes yoga unique is that it's a physical, mental and spiritual exercise all in one.

"The one thing to remember about yoga is it's not about being perfect," says Ryan Gauthier, DAOM, RAc, LMT, a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and registered yoga teacher with Henry Ford’s Center for Integrative Medicine. "It's about respecting where your body is at, not getting into an impressive pose."

Yoga For Longevity

Studies show practicing yoga can help lower blood pressure, slow down heart rate, reduce stress and trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain. So it's no surprise that taking time out for yoga during every phase of life can help maximize your health and longevity.

"Doing yoga can help you move through stages in your health journey through increasing mobility and flexibility, reducing anxiety and inflammation, or boosting strength and immunity," Gauthier says.

Here's how yoga impacts well-being during different life stages.

Yoga For Children

Health professionals and educators are recognizing that yoga can be a powerful tool for school-age children. "It helps expose them to mindfulness practices and teaches them how to connect with their breath," Gauthier says. Other benefits of yoga for children include:

  • Reducing anxiety. Taking just three deep breaths can help calm both mind and body when nerves are frazzled. And since developing a yoga practice can help build strength and resilience, children develop greater self-esteem.
  • Quieting symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). "Practicing yoga teaches children to focus and can improve learning and concentration," Gauthier says.
  • Encouraging children to focus inward — and taking them off screens. Yoga teaches children to connect mind and body and encourages them to look inward for guidance rather than seeking approval from outside sources. This can be especially helpful during puberty.

Yoga During Your 20s And 30s

During your 20s and 30s, you're in the prime of your life. Maybe you're working a demanding job or facing the responsibilities of raising family. In either case, the most pressing issues facing many people in this age bracket are stress and sleep deprivation.

"Practicing yoga not only helps reduce circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol, but it can also help improve sleep quality," Gauthier says. And since your body is more forgiving during these years, it's a great time to practice poses that are a little more challenging and help build strength, balance and flexibility.

Yoga In Middle Age

Chronic diseases often begin to set in during middle age. Whether you're concerned about osteoporosis or hypertension, practicing yoga is one way to keep diseases at bay. "Weight-bearing exercise helps strengthen bones," Gauthier says, "and there's plenty of evidence to show that practicing yoga helps lower blood pressure and improve circulation." It's good for your lungs and for aches and pains. A bonus: Yoga is a proven mood booster.

Yoga In Your Golden Years

Since yoga helps increase flexibility, balance, and range of motion, it's an ideal exercise for seniors. In fact, yoga not only helps strengthen bones and prevent falls, it also helps seniors stay independent longer — and it’s one of only a few exercises that people can do while sitting in a chair.

So even if you're in your 90s and largely immobile, you can benefit from adopting a daily yoga practice. And if you start practicing before you hit your golden years, you may be able to continue doing challenging poses well into your 90s. "If we keep working our bodies, anything is possible," Gauthier says.

Yoga Safety For All Ages

Our bodies change and adapt throughout life, so it's important to listen to your body and respond accordingly. You might be doing hot yoga or power yoga in your 20s and shift to yin yoga and restorative postures in your 60s. And even within those categories, there's always room for modifications.

"If you can't get into a pose, choose an alternate pose, or sit and breathe until another pose comes around," Gauthier says. "You can also use a variety of tools, such as blankets, bolsters, blocks and straps to support your body and make the pose more comfortable."

In fact, yoga can be as simple as lifting your arms above your head and taking a deep breath. The key to a successful practice: Accepting your body where it's at and making sure to include poses that incorporate mind, body and spirit.

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To find a doctor or acupuncturist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Ryan Gauthier, D.A.O.M., R.A.c., L.M.T., specializes in acupuncture and oriental medicine, practicing at Henry Ford Medical Center – Novi, Henry Ford Medical Center – Cottage (in Grosse Pointe) and the Henry Ford QuickCare Clinic on Woodward in Detroit.

 

Categories: MoveWell