Yoga for Healthy Aging: How Yoga Affects the Way We Age

Yoga promotes a healthy spine, healthy brain and improved muscle strength and overall physical and mental wellbeing.

Article At A Glance

As we grow older, our bodies slowly but surely start to degenerate. Our tissues begin to dehydrate, our joints become stiffer, and our precious organs start to slow their vital processes. This is all part of the normal aging process that goes along with wrinkles and gray hair. But it isn’t all doom and gloom! As we age, we also gain wisdom and knowledge that we didn’t previously hold, and we gain maturity and grace that only the aged can possess. And numerous studies show that yoga for healthy aging can decrease the inflammatory response; and supports brain function, mobility and functional independence.

Most of us are desperately searching for the fountain of youth. And while we cannot stop Father Time from ticking away, we can actually follow specific practices and techniques to age in a more healthy and functional way. We can specifically use yoga for healthy aging.

As we grow older, our bodies slowly but surely start to degenerate. Our tissues begin to dehydrate, our joints become stiffer, and our precious organs start to slow their vital processes. 

This is all part of the normal aging process that goes along with wrinkles and gray hair. But it isn’t all doom and gloom! As we age, we also gain wisdom and knowledge that we didn’t previously hold, and we gain maturity and grace that only the aged can possess.

Senior yogis and concept of yoga to help build bone mass and supports many facets of yoga for healthy aging

But even though our bodies will eventually degenerate, we can affect these processes through several media. Of course, our genetics play a key role in all of this, but our diet, exercise routines, stress management techniques, and more can alter how our bodies age. And luckily, yoga can be a really powerful tool when we want to slow the aging process.

The Research on Yoga and Healthy Aging

As you probably already know, yoga has many positive effects on our bodies and minds. And this directly translates to healthy aging in our bodies and minds. But beyond all this, research suggests that yoga can actually help to counteract aging processes.

One study found that a 12-week intervention that included classic yoga poses, pranayama exercises, and meditation practices was associated with positive changes in biomarker levels of cellular aging. These biomarkers included 8-OH2dG (a product of DNA damage), oxidative stress markers, and telomeres (essentially cellular clocks that shorten with each cell replication).

Another study looked at the impact of long-term yoga practice on brain function and found that older women who had been practicing yoga for at least eight years had better functional brain connectivity than the control group.

Another study found a 90-day yoga and meditation retreat was associated with a lower overall inflammatory activity that has been associated with premature aging.

Chronic Inflammation can be reduced in part with the benefits of yoga for healthy aging.

A systematic review and meta-analysis found that regular yoga practice was associated with anatomical changes in brain regions implicated in aging-related cognitive decline.

And unsurprisingly, a feasibility trial study found yoga useful in maintaining physical mobility and functional independence in elderly practitioners.

There are many, many more evidence-based benefits that yoga for healthy aging can offer, but, of course, this list is not exhaustive.

How Yoga Promotes Healthy Aging

yoga and meditation promotes yoga for healthy aging

Taking on a new activity always seems intimidating or daunting, but the beauty of yoga is that it truly meets you where you are. Of course, consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise regime, but once you have the go-ahead, you can try a wide range of yoga for healthy aging practices.

Chair yoga is a great place to start if you lack mobility or are concerned about balance and stability. An entire chair yoga class is practiced utilizing a chair as a seat and/or perch for balance assistance.

If you can take on a more vigorous style, you can give hatha yoga a try to work with classical standing and seated yoga poses.

But don’t underestimate the power of yoga’s more subtle practices, either. Pranayama, mindfulness, and meditation are key tenets of the yoga practice that offer a plethora of benefits, particularly for healthy aging.

The Takeaway on Yoga and How We Age

Yoga Somatic instructor with senior woman, doing yoga. Somatics & Interoception concept and healing concept.

Yoga is a powerful tool for stress management, cognitive function, strength, mobility training, and much more. And because of all this, yoga is an incredibly powerful tool for healthy aging. 

So if you’re looking for the fountain of youth, try yoga. You may be surprised by the results—in more ways than one.

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP, yoga writer

Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.

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