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While age does affect you in various ways, there’s a lot you can do to limit its impact on your body. Yoga is an excellent anti-aging tool, capable of relieving symptoms and in some cases improving medical outcomes. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from or how old you are—movement and yoga can help.Along with the smile lines and gray hair, aging brings changes that are harder to see but very easy to feel, especially during movement. As you age, you’ll encounter general physiological changes in elasticity, stability, speed, strength, and endurance, as well as a different perspective on physical goals. Specific health problems emerge as we age, and these age-related illnesses might affect your yoga practice. Here, we offer our thoughts on how to modify your practice for these common ailments, and we detail the ways that (in some cases) yoga can actually relieve symptoms or has been proven to improve medical outcomes. From heart issues to less lung capacity, decreased bone density to hormonal changes, and bad backs to artificial knees, physical changes will affect and dictate the needs of a yoga asana practice, but in all cases, doing yoga will make you feel better.
Here’s the bad news: as you age, your body becomes less flexible, less stable, slower, weaker, and less competitive in endurance. With age you lose elasticity in muscle, fascia, and (as you can see in a mirror) skin. This results in generally less flexibility, which can translate to instability and stiffness. Sarcopenia (muscle loss) and osteopenia (bone loss) are common aspects of aging. Both can contribute to less strength, speed, and endurance. While it does get harder to build muscle with age, it’s not impossible, and it’s never too late. Exercise and yoga help you maintain the muscle mass you have and continue to add more. Whether you suffer from osteopenia may have as much to do with genetics and gender as it does with your physical activity level, but movement and weight-bearing exercises keep bones healthier for longer.
This information probably doesn’t come as a surprise, though; we tend to be well versed in the changes that come with aging, especially as we get older. The good news is that you also have all the attendant wisdom, confidence, and life experience of your years on earth. And let’s be honest: while it might be nice to still have the body of a twenty-one-year-old, we know few people who actually want to be twenty-one again (we certainly don’t!). Besides, the news gets even better: while age does affect you in various ways, much of it is in your hands, and there’s a lot you can do to limit the effect of age-related changes. Yoga is an excellent anti-aging tool. And it doesn’t matter where you’re starting from or at what age you begin—movement and yoga can help.
There’s plenty of reason to celebrate every passing year: self-confidence, body image, empathy, and decision-making all get better with age.And as we age, our stress levels tend to get lower. People report greater happiness in the later years of their lives—the older we are, the happier we are. In short, things may change, but a lot changes for the better!
Yoga has taught me that every body is meant to be loved and respected as it is now. You are already worthy of love. You are enough. We’re all enough. I started sharing my yoga practice on Instagram and then wrote my book, Big Gal Yoga, because I want everyone, no matter their size or shape, to be able to feel that way too.
The following sequence is all about fostering self-love. I’ve brought these asanas together because they open the heart, increase blood flow to the brain, and invite you to tap into your core strength, increasing confidence, silencing negative thoughts, and alleviating stress.
Stand at the front of the mat, feet hip-distance apart, and arms down by your side. Inhaling, reach the arms up straight overhead, fingertips reaching toward the sky. Exhaling, take the gaze up between the hands. If you are not used to backbends and are still working on the uplift and lengthening of the spine, a good way to support the back from crunching is to place the hands, palms with fingers pointing down, on the lower back. Squeeze the shoulder blades together to open the heart. If you feel comfortable without the hands, they can also be placed palms together at your heart center.