Yoga has become extremely popular over the last few decades. You have probably seen photographs of fit-looking young people in stretchy clothing and improbable poses and wondered why they are so enthusiastic about this practice. However, yoga is not about extreme poses or looking good. Practicing yoga is a path to good health. What exactly are the health benefits of yoga?
Regular yoga practice reduces cardiovascular risk, so that people are less likely to experience a heart attack or stroke. It can help control back or neck pain. In addition, people who practice yoga improve their strength, flexibility, endurance and balance. These benefits can reduce the risk of a dangerous fall.
Research has shown that people who practice yoga on a regular basis are less anxious and less likely to become depressed. Some people find yoga helpful in strengthening their coping strategies as they undergo treatment for breast cancer or prostate cancer. Yoga practice can also improve people’s self-perception and enhance their confidence.
You are never too old to benefit from yoga. If you can breathe, you can derive health benefits of yoga, whether or not you can touch your toes. Likewise, even young children can learn simple poses and get benefit from their yoga practice.
Carol Krucoff is co-director of the Integrative Yoga for Seniors teacher training, offered at Duke Integrative Medicine and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, designed to help yoga instructors safely adapt the practice to older bodies, minds and spirit. A frequent contributor to Yoga Journal, Carol served as founding editor of the Health Section of The Washington Post, where her syndicated column, Bodyworks, appeared for twelve years. She has written for numerous national publications, including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest and The Huffington Post.
Carol is the author of several books, including her most recent book (with Kimberly Carson): Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility, and Pain Relief.
Her previous book was Yoga Sparks: 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less.