Age Gracefully with Yoga

By Eryn Kirkwood

Like it or not, each one of us is getting older. Whether you’re 25 or 95, not a single day passes that Father Time doesn’t add another minute to his clock. And while nothing can be done about this ‘unsavoury’ truth, there is much to be said for the youthful impact of embracing the process and enjoying each day as it comes.

Yoga has been cited as the number one way to grow older gracefully. Here are a couple of things that set yoga apart from other forms of physical exercise:

1. Yoga aims to reduce risk of injury and meet you where you’re at. Are you recovering from surgery? Have you had a knee or hip replacement? Are you 80 years old and never exercised a day in your life? There is a yoga class for you.

2. It emphasizes deep breathing. The capacity to breathe deeply influences everything, from heart health to emotional state. We use it to calm the nervous system and gauge if we’re working too hard. Yoga is first and foremost non-competitive—not even with oneself.

3. The increased agility, mobility, strength and balance that are the hallmarks of a consistent practice improve quality of life by “bettering your game” and extending the time you can keep doing the things that you love.

We Can’t Argue the Science!

An article published in a 2019 issue of the scientific journal, Brain Plasticity, referenced modern imaging technology that shows how yoga impacts the brain in ways that improve attention, mental processing speed, executive function, and emotional regulation.

Modern imaging technology has proven that yoga benefits the brain in ways that translate into:

  •  improved attention
  •  reduced stress
  •  decreased anxiety
  •  better sleep
  •  mental processing speed, executive function and emotional regulation (wow, wow, and wow!)

“The unique combination of physical movement, breath work and meditation that confers these beneficial brain benefits.” [cite article]

Where and How to Get Started

Establish what your goals are and go from there. Ways in which yoga helps us to age gracefully include:

  •  Improved balance
  • Reduced overall stiffness
  •  Increased range of motion
  •  Better posture
  • Community through meeting like-minded people

That being said, any reason to try yoga is a good one!

Find a nearby teacher and reach out to them with any questions you may have. Don’t be shy about listing them ALL. A good teacher will patiently address all of your concerns, including whether they are the best teacher to help you reach your personal goals.

Try this Chair Yoga sequence from home and experience the immediate feel-good benefits of a yoga practice for all levels of ability!

Eryn Kirkwood, MA, RYT 500, is a yoga teacher who specializes in Yoga for 55+ and Seniors. She offers group classes throughout the week at Barrhaven United Church. You will find her complete schedule, along with many other useful resources, at ErynsYoga.com.