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Monday, June 24, 2013

How Seniors Can Use Yoga For Better Overall Wellness

In as little as six weeks, seniors can reap a range of wellness benefits from practicing yoga. Studies attest that one hour of yoga five to six days a week can lead to weight loss, better sleeping, an increased ability to relax and better physiological functions.  Yoga is an Eastern fitness regimen that merges spirituality with physical poses and mental awareness.

Breath Better
One of the first commandments of yoga is that practitioners must harness the breath. Breathing is to be done in a controlled, slow, deep and rhythmic fashion.  Seniors should inhale so  deeply that the abdominal cavity extends outward and exhale fully while contracting the belly so that the stomach feels empty.  Such breathing, called Pranayama, delivers more oxygen to the heart and other organs while clearing the mind and creating an internal climate of peace.  Think of this as a three-part breathing exercise: be conscious of the inhaling phase,  the middle phase where you hold the breath for a couple of seconds while your diaphragm is full of air and the final phase of releasing the breath and feeling the body go hollow.

De-Stress
In addition to the stress relief that comes from deep breathing, the stretching and still posing required during yoga provides additional stress reduction. Also, the visualization of peaceful images, whether of water, sky or a soothing, favorite color,  also lessens anxiety during yoga. If you're just doing yoga asanas (poses) without the visual imagery or controlled breathing, you're not really doing yoga or acquiring all the de-stressing benefits.  Medical studies suggest that yoga is so effective in delivering relaxation that it can help treat post-traumatic stress disorders and depression.

Become more Flexible
Seniors often struggle to extend their legs and arms fully without pain. Yoga can help seniors regain range of motion and become limber again.  The best and easiest poses for seniors seeking flexibility include Downward Facing Dog, the Cobra,  The Cat-Cow Pose and the Tree Pose. When extending yourself in these asanas make sure to stretch limbs and the back gently but to the extreme.   Over time, seniors can experience reduced  back and joint pain, looser muscles as well as improvement in mobility.

Improve Mental Outlook
The philosophy and practice of yoga encourages the use of positive thinking mantras as a part of spiritual wellness. Seniors practicing yoga should banish worries, negative imagery and any other debilitating thought processes. While performing poses, chant positive sayings or positive words like "peace," "love," unity," forgiveness," or "acceptance."  A popular mantra in yogic culture is the Sanskrit utterance "aum," or "Om," which is an invocation or prayer to conjure the presence of the Divine. These positive speeches  are  a type of spiritual and mental purification that allows senior yoga practitioners to ascend into a higher self where they feel closer to a spiritual presence.  This can help seniors stay optimistic and happy as they deal with the trials of aging.

Build Strength
Seniors are often in danger of losing calcium and suffering osteoporosis. Because yoga is a strengthbearing exercise that challenges seniors to balance body weight against gravity, it can counter bone loss. Yoga can help the elderly condition and define large and small muscles all over the body, leading to better posture, spinal support and more power to handle personal maintenance and general life activities.

For more information:
http://spot.pcc.edu/~lkidoguc/Yoga/Yoga.htm
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21194669
http://life.gaiam.com/article/can-yoga-replace-strength-training
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19735239
http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/209

This article, written by Julia Dennis, is contributed by Brandon Travis. Julia Dennis writes about Eco Friendly Assisted living communities and other assisted living topics for Friendship Village. When she's not writing she enjoys running and spending time with her children.

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