7 Reasons to Try Yoga

So you have resolved to relive stress, for both body and mind, but you are not sure where to begin. Let me recommend yoga! In fact, a 2008 Harris Interactive Poll found that 6.1% (14 million) American adults say their doctor or therapist recommended yoga to them!

Yoga is an ancient healing practice that has become increasingly popular in our modern, stressful world as a powerful way to stretch and strengthen the body, relax and calm the mind, enhance energy, and life the spirit.

Doctors recommend yoga to people over 50 because it can lower blood pressure, ease pain, and improve balance. But people stick with it because they find it improves their mood, reduces stress, and, simply put, makes them feel happier.

Here’s why I think you should try yoga:

1. Yoga can be good medicine.

Flexibility and stress reduction are the most common reasons new students have sought out a yoga class. But in recent years, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that yoga offers many health benefits including reducing high blood pressure, relieving back pain, and improving sleep. Today, new students often say that yoga was recommended by a doctor. And increasingly, this yoga-as-medicine trend is fueled by people over age 50.

2. Yoga is not just for the fit.

Saying that you’re not flexible enough to practice yoga is like thinking that your house is too messy to hire a maid. The idea that you must twist yourself into a pretzel to do yoga is one common misconception. Yoga can be taught to people with a wide array of health conditions including heart failure, osteoporosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and back pain. The only requirement for practicing yoga is the ability to breathe.

3. Don’t sweat headstands.

While some people will be able to do headstands and other challenging yoga postures, much more common are older adults who fit the profile of the “average” senior in America – 80% of whom have at least one chronic health condition and 50% of whom have at least two. Many also face other health challenges, such as artificial joints or prosthetic heart valves. That’s why it’s essential for older adults beginning yoga to find an appropriate class with an experienced and well-qualified instructor.

4. Yoga comes in many styles.

For example, ashtanga yoga is very athletic, while kripalu yoga tends to be gentler and viniyoga is generally done one-on-one in a theraputic setting. If you attend a class that is too demanding for your specific level of fitness, you may risk injury. Be sure you’re in a class that is appropriate for you, and inform the teacher of any health concerns or challenges you face. (I recommend that you spend time looking for the right instructor.) Older adults, particularly those who have been inactive, should look for a class called gentle yoga or one specifically geared to older people.

5. Yoga should never hurt.

The yogic approach is very different from Western exercise mentality of “go for the burn.” Ancient texts on yoga say that a posture should be “steady and comfortable” or, according to some translation, “relaxed and stable” or “sweet and calm.” So if you’re straining to push yourself into a posture suitable for a magazine cover, that’s gymnastics or calisthenics but not yoga. Yoga invites you to move into each posture only to the point of where you feel a sensation of pleasant stretch, then allow your breath to help the pose deepen and unfold. If it hurts – back off!

6. Yoga is not just for a workout.

Yoga is a powerful form of mind-body medicine that approaches health in a holistic manner, recognizing that physical ailments also have emotional and spiritual components. In one recent small study, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found yoga was better than walking to improve people’s moods. The tools of yoga are postures, breathing practices, and meditation, which work together to balance and integrate mind, body, and spirit.

7. Help is available for a smooth start.

Tell your doctor, nutritionist or health coach, and friends that you’re planning to take yoga and ask for advice, and recommendations. Call your local yoga studio and ask about any specific movements or positions you should avoid and what they recommend (remember: take your time choosing a studio). People with osteoporosis, for example, should usually avoid certain movements that can cause fracture – including bending forward from the waist and twisting the spine to a point of strain – movements commonly done in certain postures taught in many yoga classes. Responsible yoga teachers will ask you about your health and, in some cases, may seek your permission to work with your physician to create a yoga practice for you.


These ancient practices may be just what your doctor ordered.


The Harris Poll Online data

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