Thirty-five years ago, cardiologist Dean Ornish, M.D., made headlines with his claim that yoga and meditation, when combined with improvements in diet and exercise habits, could reverse heart disease.
Since then, research into the health benefits of yoga, especially its effect on adults 50-plus, has exploded.
Here, a brief guide to the benefits of yoga (and some poses you can do) in your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond.
3 Reasons to Practice Yoga in Your 50s
1. Minimize hypertension
“Yoga has a powerful effect on stress and hypertension and can help people reduce the amount of medication they need,” says Amy Wheeler, yoga professor at California State University at San Bernardino. According to one recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension, participants who practiced yoga six hours a week for 11 weeks reduced their systolic blood pressure — the top number — by an impressive 33 points, compared with 4 points for a control group. Researchers speculate that the slow, controlled breathing inherent in yoga practice decreases nervous system activity, which helps manage blood pressure levels.
2. Strengthen bones
“People in their 50s often develop the beginning stages of osteoporosisand low bone density,” notes Melinda Atkins, a yoga teacher in Miami. Studies consistently show that the weight-bearing activity of yoga helps slow bone thinning, reducing the risks of osteoporosis, particularly among postmenopausal women.
3. Keep excess pounds at bay
Yoga enhances concentration and determination in all aspects of life. Practicing it every day “improves willpower and shifts your focus toward wellness rather than instant gratification,” says Larry Payne, yoga director at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
2 Poses for Your 50s
CHAIR POSE: Stand with your back against a wall, feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor, as if you were sitting on a chair. Gently pull in your belly button and hold out your arms in front of you.
TREE POSE: Stand tall and balance your weight on your left leg. Bring the sole of your right foot as high up your left leg as you can, holding your hands as if in prayer. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.