How Yoga Helps You Lives Longer
From chronic pain relief to easing the symptoms of asthma, the health benefits of a regular yoga practice are well documented. There is no doubt that yoga is improving health in a number of ways, but is it possible that our yoga practice could help us live longer as well.
According to Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, professor of medicine and psychiatry at Duke University, indeed, yoga can do just that. A recently published study that followed people with high blood pressure for 20 years found that those who practiced yoga were likely to live 25% longer than if they did practice yoga at all.
There are other ways to measure longevity other than counting years; doctors can also take a look at how your cells and tissues are aging. Your cells act like “biological clocks” that can be measured to determine your health span. Factors like stress literally age you on a cellular level. When we feel overwhelmed or angry, our brain tells our parasympathetic nervous system to release hormones to communicate that stress with our body. High levels of those hormones, especially chronic stress, can damage our nerve cells, causing us to age.
Dr. Doraiswamy has found the relaxing effects of deep breathing and meditation in yoga to have more than 200 beneficial effects for the brain and nervous system, including the lowering of stress hormone production, the slowing of the aging process in our cells, and more. So the message to you? If you want to stay young, grab a yoga mat and chill out!
Another way to measure longevity is by taking a look at how stress has affected your mind and relationships. The term Dr. Doraiswamy uses is “emotional aging”—how well someone copes with the stresses of life. He gives the example of people who act with anger in their day-to-day lives. They bring anger with them everywhere they go, and as a result, are more likely to be stressed out, subsequently bringing down both the health and life span in addition to the emotional aging .
So to say “anger kills” is not so much of an exaggeration after all. According to Dr. Doraiswamy, people with aggressive personalities are twice as likely to die from the result of a heart attack.
The beauty of yoga is its simplicity. By shifting our focus from outward to inward, we can live longer and better by pursuing a peaceful outlook. Yoga allows us to stop carrying stress with us as baggage, and instead leaves space to cultivate loving relationships with others. Strong bonds with partners, friends, and family give us peace of mind, reduce stress, and ultimately help us live longer.