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The Health Benefits of Yoga

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Research into the health benefits of yoga, especially its effect on adults 50-plus, has exploded. Here, a brief guide to the benefits of yoga.

 Minimize hypertension

Yoga has a powerful effect on stress and hypertension and can help people reduce the amount of medication needed. Researchers speculate that the slow, controlled breathing inherent in yoga practice decreases nervous system activity, which helps manage blood pressure levels.

Strengthen bones

The over 50 club often develop the beginning stages of osteoporosis and low bone density. Studies consistently show that the weight-bearing activity of yoga helps slow bone thinning, reducing the risks of osteoporosis, particularly among postmenopausal women.

Reduce anxiety

Yoga induces the relaxation response, an alpha state between awake and asleep that helps modulate the way the body responds to stress. When faced with a potential threat (or ongoing stress), your heart beats faster, your muscles tense and you start to sweat. Yoga stops this process in its tracks, reducing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure and easing respiration.

Protect your joints

During your late 50s and early 60s, you may begin to notice that your joints aren’t as fluid as they used to be. Practicing yoga regularly can help lubricate joints, staving off debilitating disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis.

Build strength and balance

Yoga’s slow, measured movements and strengthening poses can help you achieve better balance and prevent falls as you age. Falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults; every year, one in three adults 65 or older falls. Yoga gives you the tools now to prevent a bad fall so you can still move around in your 80sYoga tones muscles and works on your proprioception — your sense of position in space. Practicing postures that emphasize standing and balance can help build strength and confidence, too.

Sharpens your mind

Unfortunately, as we age, our thought processes aren’t as sharp as they once were. Focusing on the breath and synchronizing it with movement helps keep the mind clear and engaged. Breathing exercises such as alternate-nostril breathing help harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of the personality.

Boosts mood

Yoga’s combination of breathing, meditation and movement creates an overall sense of well-being. In fact, studies show yoga has a greater impact on enhancing mood and reducing anxiety than other forms of exercise. The reason? Yoga boosts levels of the brain chemical GABA, which helps calm nerves.