Older adults doing yoga guided by an obscured instructor

Yoga has plenty of physical and mental benefits, especially for active adults.

Yoga lovers can be found everywhere - grabbing coffee before class, stopping at the grocery store after class, getting into their cars with their yoga mats, rushing to a lesson at the gym.

So what is the big deal about yoga, anyway?

Yoga has so many health benefits that writing about them could fill a novel, but we’ll go the shorter route here. The advantages of practicing it are more than physical; it is a mind-body connection that provides psychological advantages as well. There are many different types of yoga, ranging from simple, gentle stretching to “hot” yoga, with intense classes taking place in sweaty rooms packed with people.

Types of Yoga

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t for everyone! But there are enough choices to please almost anybody. Prevention Magazine lists some of the most popular:

  • Restorative: This is a slower practice, focusing on deep relaxation. It uses props like blankets and blocks to help with the movements. This is good for beginners.

  • Hatha: Hatha is also on the slower side. In class, you will move through certain poses, holding each one for several seconds. Hatha is also a good starter yoga.

  • Iyengar: This approach is helpful for those that have pain and medical issues; it has been shown to be quite helpful for back pain. Poses are held longer, and props are also used here.

  • Ashtanga: More athletic, this classic form of yoga repeats some poses and aligns them with breathing.

  • Vinyasa: A step above Ashtanga, Vinyasa flows more quickly and elevates the heart rate. It is good to nail down the basics before trying this one.

These are just a few of the different types of yoga classes, and others may be more challenging, or can be enhanced by meditation, chanting, or music. No matter what kind you choose, the benefits can be life-changing.

Mindfulness

Everyone is talking about mindfulness these days, but what does this really mean? Simply put, it is an increased state of awareness that can make you feel better. Yoga develops this by teaching you how to pay attention to your body and thoughts, which can make you more connected to yourself, others, and the world. Yoga classes usually take place in calm, relaxing environments, which can be beneficial for your nervous system, reducing inflammation and anxiety.

Willpower

Yes, you can lose weight from doing yoga. Some of the more advanced classes are real calorie-burners, but the less strenuous ones help active adults focus better and achieve goals like losing extra pounds.

A 2014 post on BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that diabetics that were doing yoga three to six days each week for a period of eight weeks lost more weight than other diabetics who were walking for that same time. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention also reported that more than a third of all adults 65 and older are actually obese, so losing extra pounds should be a priority for much of this population.

Standing Tall

Once you hit 55, balance and joint health can be major health issues. Since yoga poses are rooted in stability and balance, they strengthen muscles and improve posture, which can prevent falls. Better muscle strength can also speed up healing time after someone experiences a fall.

Yoga poses are low-impact, which means that they are kinder to your joints. These gentle exercises can also increase flexibility, aiding in joint stiffness. It is a weight-bearing exercise, so it can also slow down bone thinning, which leads to osteoporosis. Another 2014 study, this one by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, revealed that yoga can offer therapeutic benefits via muscle loosening and toning for women with osteoarthritis.

Better Breathing and Blood Pressure

Retirees that cut down on their exercise will soon have a lower tolerance for any kind of exertion. This leads to reduced oxygen intake, and lower respiratory function. Yoga breathing also targets the respiratory system, leading to more positive effects for both the body and mind.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a main cause of kidney and cardiovascular disease. Practicing yoga can reduce hypertension, possibly because it uses slower, controlled breathing patterns. It is known to help people relax by lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Many people turn to yoga when they need to reduce their anxiety and cope with stress.

An added benefit, lower blood pressure can also allow active adults to cut down on their prescription medications.

Smarter and Happier

If those benefits weren’t enough, yoga has also been shown to sharpen the mind and put people in better moods. According to ScienceBlog, a study by Trinity College Dublin showed that both yoga and meditation use breathing techniques that can improve your gray matter.

Cognitive benefits like less mind wandering, better focusing ability, happier emotions and less emotional reactivity (feeling calmer) were reported. In 2016, the International Review of Psychiatry stated that doing yoga for just 30 minutes had immediate positive effects for multiple sclerosis patients.

Yoga induces the relaxation response, an alpha state between awake and asleep that helps modulate the way the body responds to stress. When faced with a potential threat (or ongoing stress), your heart beats faster, your muscles tense and you start to sweat. Yoga stops this process in its tracks, reducing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure and easing respiration.

Case in point: A 2015 study published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that women who participated in a 60-minute yoga class twice a week reported greater reductions in anxiety after the eight-week study period compared to those who didn’t participate.

New Jersey 55+ Communities with Yoga

There are many active adult neighborhoods with homes for sale throughout New Jersey that offer groups and classes, and this is an excellent advantage worth looking into. It’s easy to reap the benefits of this exercise when there are classes right in your neighborhood. Check out these New Jersey 55+ communities that offer yoga.

Concordia - Monroe

Four Seasons at Great Notch Spa and Club - Woodland Park

River Pointe - Manchester

Centennial Mill - Voorhees

The Oaks of Weymouth - Mays Landing