I believe yoga is a great form of exercise to fend off the loss of strength and flexibility we all experience with age.
When the muscles of our legs, arms and back are strong and flexible, our joints are stronger, too, and less prone to injury.
Related post: Yoga for knee injuries
I’ve tried different yoga classes and styles, but I’m not really interested in yoga fads (hot yoga, anyone?) or mastering a particular style. I just want the basics.
For the last few years I’ve relied on my DVD of Barbara Benagh’s Yoga For Beginners, and I love it.
Yoga classes can be expensive and time consuming. I much prefer using the DVD. My yoga routine fits my schedule and I can go at my own pace.
This DVD has 8 different routines from which to choose, so I never get bored. I can select a shorter, targeted routine, such as seated hip openers, or a more challenging extended routine.
The setting is a tropical beach and I can almost feel the sun and the breeze. I definitely hear the waves lapping, and I’m grateful there is no obnoxious background music.
Barbara’s voice is low-pitched and soothing. She gives lots of tips for adjusting poses to make sure they are done properly. She also suggests modifications to prevent stressing your joints, back or neck.
Some routines from this DVD and others are also available via YouTube:
Yoga for balance
That’s my ultimate goal, too.
Strength and flexibility improve balance; balance prevents falls.
Women (and men, too!) lose bone mass as they age, especially after menopause. Yes, there are drugs available to help build bone, but these are really not as useful or risk free as Big Pharma would like you to believe. And they’re expensive.
Studies have shown that preventing falls in the first place is the best way to prevent hip fractures as we age. In addition to adjusting medications that cause low blood pressure and correcting poor eyesight, strength and balance exercises are paramount to fracture prevention.
Both yoga and Tai Chi are recommended. Barbara Benagh has another DVD, Yoga over 50, that is aimed at those with physical limitations, such as arthritis, and osteoporosis. I think 50 is a bit young for this DVD; I would say it’s appropriate for over 65 or 70. It’s never too late to improve strength and balance!
I haven’t tried Tai Chi yet, but this studio, Body Wisdom, offers another DVD, Tai Chi for Beginners, that I’d like to get from my local library and try.
NOTE: Yoga is a low-impact exercise that improves strength and balance, but does not build bone tissue. Bones need more “stressful” exercise, too, such as walking, jogging, playing tennis or lifting weights.
And adequate calcium intake is important for bone health, as well!
Yoga for stress relief
Just as important to overall health as strength and flexibility is stress reduction. Our lives are filled with stress! Our muscles tighten, including our chest wall muscles and our diaphragm, the big muscle that sits under our lungs and helps us breathe.
When we are tense, our breathing is more shallow as our lungs struggle against that inflexible diaphragm.
Yoga practice emphasizes the importance of breath control. It focuses our minds and relaxes our muscles. So many common and chronic health complaints have their roots in stress: high blood pressure, headaches, reflux disease and other intestinal complaints, memory problems, TMJ, back and neck pain.
Related story: Yoga may help reduce blood pressure
I could definitely use more help managing stress, so I might check out Barbara Benagh’s DVD for that as well: Yoga for Stress Relief.
I’m pretty active and fit, but I am aging. I am less flexible than I was a few years ago, and my muscles feel quite stiff if I sit for too long. Arthritis runs in my family.
I don’t want any joint replacements, I don’t want prescription meds to prevent hip and spine fractures. I don’t want to be a hunched-over little old lady that shuffles behind her walker.
But I’m hopeful regular yoga exercise will help me into a healthy, strong, flexible, balanced old age. I just need to work a little harder to be as strong and bendy as Barbara Benagh!