Yoga is good for our health and in multiple ways, with age being no barrier to seeing wellbeing results on multiple fronts, according to multiple science research projects.
If you’re approaching midlife, or you’re right in the thick of it, you may well be aware there’s a whole host of physical, emotional and mental health issues that can accompany life now.
Not only is menopause taking us women through a physical, mental and emotional change process but our bodies can be showing a few wear and tear issues.
I had a hip replacement a few months before my 50th birthday. Now in hindsight maybe that kickboxing obsession in my early Thirties wasn’t my brightest idea, but I know yoga helped me in a huge way as I dealt with the 24-7 pain of the arthritis and a joint that needed constant mobilisation attention in the run up to surgery.
Yoga works for you on multiple levels, it’s not just about flexibility and strength. Yoga can help you breathe more effectively, better nourishing your body with the oxygen it needs. It can also support mindset, mental health – the original wellbeing hack!
My advice; I highly recommend going to a yoga class. Although the research projects mentioned here don’t refer to it, as a long-time practitioner (I went to my first class at 14) and now a yoga teacher, I can tell you that from both ends of the room, the class experience is special.
As a student, not only will you enjoy tuition and help in getting the most out of your time, but you’ll be surrounded by people doing the same thing. That collective experience is quite different from solo practice. Yoga friends are very special.
What do you think about the power of community in yoga? I’d love to know if your experience of class v personal practice. Do drop your thoughts in the comments below before you tuck into these science research findings.
Yogic breathing, pranayama, is a whole arm of yoga on its own. Yogic breathing seeks to improve lung function, improving oxygen intake and so better feeding the body’s cells. A 2009 study showed yoga improved the lung capacity of mild to moderate asthma.
Yoga can help reduce pain and improve mobility of joints affected by osteoarthritis and has been linked to improved strength and pain reduction for people with carpal tunnel.
Can cut your health bills
Yoga does so much for your health it cuts medical bills. In the United States, studies show people who do yoga use 43 per cent fewer medical services, and they save anywhere from $640 to more than $25,000, according to Harvard Medical School.
Improved flexibility and balance
Both these body assets are useful at any time of life, but especially as we age. A 2013 study found yoga helped improve the balance and mobility of older adults and another found yoga had lasting results for elderly people, four times more than calisthenics. And 15 to 30 minutes is enough, apparently.
Yoga may reduce inflammation.Researchers have looked at groups of yogis v non-yoga regulars and discovered that after strenuous exercise, the yogis had lower levels of inflammation markers. Inflammation is a normal immune response, but chronic inflammation is linked to diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
A 10-week long study of a 64 women with PTSD, who took part in one yoga session a week, discovered the group reported a drop in symptoms. More than 50 per cent no longer met the criteria for PTSD, their symptoms had so significantly reduced.
Stress, anxiety and depression
Several research studies have monitored groups undergoing 10-12 week yoga programmes and have seen significant reductions in the stress hormone cortisol for those test subjects. We all need cortisol in our lives, it’s an essential hormone, but when it’s too high it’s a health issue, impacting not only your mental state, but potentially your physical too. High cortisol is linked to low levels of serotonin, often linked to depression, but also osteoporosis and weight gain.
In one study, 79 people did 24 rounds of sun salutations six days a week for 24 weeks. Both men and women lost body fat and gained strength, endurance and weight loss. (FYI – 24 sun salutations is a lot! Yoga is impressive, but it’s not literally magic!!)