The years are ticking away and we are not getting any younger. That youthful appearance and agile body is starting to diminish as the sands continue to fall through the hourglass. Is there a way to slow down the progression of the aging process? I'm sure you may have tried those "so-called" miracle creams and ointments to wipe away those crow feet around your eyes. Or perhaps you've tried those abdominal stimulator belts to tone your abs? Maybe there is something out there that is more effective, long lasting, and friendlier on the wallet. Yoga for healthy aging may be your ticket to restoring your looks and how you feel; in body and mind.
1.) A Healthy Body with Yoga
Many that choose to practice yoga often start with the goal of improving their flexibility or posture. We know that yoga can help in these areas and with other physical enhancements. And this can be a great place to start when traveling the road towards healthy aging. If you can maintain your mobility, flexibility, and posture as you grow older, you are already ahead of the game. Here are some basic postures that can assist you within these areas.
2.) Staff Pose
This posture can help with realigning your spine, help roll back those hunched-over shoulders, and even lengthen your hamstrings. Start by sitting on the floor or yoga mat with your legs extended out in front of you. Flex your feet to engage your thigh muscles. To help sit up nice and tall, place your hands on the floor next to your hips, press firmly into the floor to elongate the torso, and then roll your shoulders back. As you do this, engage your upper back muscles. Stay in this position for 10-20 breaths. Over time, you will see an improvement in your overall posture. You'll be able to stand tall and proud which displays a healthy sense of confidence.
3.) Seated Forward Fold
To gain some flexibility in your hamstrings, remain seated from your staff pose, and raise your arms into the air with a full inhale. As you exhale, fold forward until you feel a stretch in your legs. If you need to, it's alright to place a slight bend in the knees. You do not need to fold too far to feel the positive effects of this posture. A simple fold with a sensation of a good stretch in the hamstrings is sufficient. Hold this posture for 10-20 breaths. If you do this regularly, you will quickly feel your tight hamstrings release for you.
4.) Bound Angle Pose
Hips can be an area of the body that experiences a lot of tension, stress, and immobility. In order to regulate a continued path toward healthy aging, you want to have healthy hips. While seated, bend your knees, and bring the soles of your feet together. Your knees will end up pointing outward in this yoga posture. If you notice that your knees do not touch the floor, this is an indication that you may have tighter hips. If you hold this posture and fold forward slightly, you will begin the process of opening up this tight area. Not only will this provide more flexibility in your hips, but as a result, you will notice longer strides when you walk or run. You will have gained more mobility in the connection between your legs and pelvis.
5.) Healthy Internal Organs with Yoga
As we age, we are always concerned about the functioning of our internal organs, particularly the heart, lungs, and liver. Due to genetics, family history, and certain social habits, one can be prone to the decline of these vital organs. To help reduce or slow down this potential decline, yoga can be a useful tool for feeling healthier as you age. How can yoga help with the healthy aging of your internal organs? It can be as simple as taking a deep breath.
Part of the practice of yoga, whether you're sitting in a meditation class or working your body through a dynamic hot yoga class, is the focus on breath. Breath is the foundation to most yoga styles. When you breathe effectively during your practice, you are sending fresh blood and oxygen throughout your body. This can contribute to a healthy heart and healthy lungs. The practice of breathing in yoga is called Pranayama; it is about stimulating the life force within us and allowing it to flow throughout the entire body. Prana is the energy that gives us life. If it is stagnant in the bodily system, we essentially are dead inside and aging speeds up. If you engage in a Pranayama practice, you can reduce aging in a healthy way. Your entire body will feel more alive and vibrant as a result. Here is a simple breathing exercise you can do right now!
6.) Ujjayi Breathing
The meaning of this word is "victorious breathing," and that's exactly what happens when you practice this; you'll feel victorious and vibrant. Sit in a comfortable chair for this breathing practice. To get a good understanding of this exercise, start by breathing in and out through your mouth. Inhale slowly and deeply as if you are gasping for breath in slow motion. As you exhale, imagine that you're fogging a mirror with your breath. As you do this, you may notice the muscles of your through engaging to produce the flow of your breath. Now, continue this throat-breathing action, but do it with your mouth closed. Air will move in and out through your nose, but it is still your throat muscles that are creating the effort of breathing deeply. This is Ujjayi breathing.
This is a very resourceful way of breathing. As you become practiced, this method of breathing sends fresh blood and oxygen throughout your body, particularly to your vital organs. Further, because this exercise ultimately is a slower-paced breath, it actually calms the mind and body because you are slowing down and reducing your heart rate and blood pressure respectively. This is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you get older.
7.) Zafus & Bolsters for Meditation & breathing exercises:
Use a yoga bolster, a thick and firm yoga accessory resembling a pillow, to support your body in certain poses, ease the muscle strain and to reach the state of deep relaxation so you can concentrate more effectively on your breathing by removing discomfort. The rectangular yoga bolsters have a flat surface and steep edges while the round yoga bolster conforms to the body curves and serves great for expanding the chest and improving backbends.
A Zafu allows your legs to drop off the edges at the hip joints so that your knees are lower than your hips and it’s easier for your spine to maintain its natural curves. The curved edges of the cushion also help keep your thighs from pressing too hard into the edge of the cushion, which can get uncomfortable over time. The height of a Zafu cushion, usually four to six inches, makes traditional sitting positions easier and more stable for comfortable Meditation. Zafus are available in different shapes such as Round, Om, Halfmoon, Mod to offer comfort & support during long meditation sessions for all lotus and cross-legged positions; great knee support and to give sit bones lift to support alleviating lower back strain.
8.) Strong Muscles with Yoga
When practicing some yoga styles, you will engage your muscles in order to stabilize your body in particular poses. Doing so also tones and strengthens these muscles for a healthy body. Are you lacking in upper body strength or wish your legs had more muscle tone? Practice these two poses to see and feel your body improve in a short period of time.
9.) Boat Pose
This is a great posture when it comes to strengthening your mid-section. As you age, you can lose your balance, posture and strength. Part of that might be due to losing the strength in your foundation. That comes in your core. With this seated core-stabilizing yoga pose, you can regain that strength and see many improvements in your entire body.
Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor. (It is suggested that you flex your feet to keep your legs energized throughout the posture.) Lean back so that you're sitting at about a 45 degree angle. (You can hold onto your bent knees to stabilize your sitting position.) Inhale, to feel the lengthening in your spine. As you exhale, engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your navel inward toward your spine. Repeat this breathing action for at least 10 breaths. Because you are not moving your body in this yoga pose, you begin to strengthen your core muscles, particularly the transverse abdominal system which is considered the foundation of your core body. When these muscles gain more strength, so does your entire body. You can even see improvements in your overall strength, including your upper body.
10.) Warrior 2
This yoga position is a standing lunging posture that can tone and strengthen your large leg muscles: your quadriceps. Start with your right foot forward and your left foot back. Bend your front knee and ensure that your knee and toes are pointing directly forward. Your back foot will be flat on the floor, but at an angle for comfort in your knee and ankle. Be sure your torso is long and tall. Now reach your arms outward over your legs. They will be parallel to the floor. Hold this posture for 10-20 breaths. The wider the stance, the deeper the lunge, and the harder your muscles will work to hold this position. This posture also allows the hips to open. (Great if you have tight hips!) Practice this pose on the other side, too.
11.) Healthy Mind with Yoga
Not only does yoga help the aging physical body, but it can also benefit your mind. With age comes a lot of responsibility which requires a lot for the mind to juggle. Our minds can be cluttered with so much information to process that it can lead to stress. And stress, as you know, rapidly ages the body and mind. Yoga for a healthy mind and body is essential to slow down the aging process. Taking the time for peaceful, mindful meditation is key to slowing down that fast-paced mind. Refer to the breathing exercise above to help you ease and clear your mind. Studies also show that mindful meditation can help improve memory, verbal recall, and concentration. When you take some moments of silence, parts of the brain regenerate cells that are related to higher levels of brain function like learning and memory.
So, it is quite apparent that yoga can be an important element in helping reduce aging. Whether it is a moving yoga practice or a silent meditative practice, yoga will help you look and feel younger.
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