Yoga For All!

A few years ago my mom retired after 30+ years as a public schoolteacher. Even though I was delighted for her, I was concerned too. Her retirement was like the first clear signal that she was getting old.

If you’re anything like me, you know (or you will realize) that one of the hardest parts of growing up is admitting that you have to let your parents take care of themselves. Sure, you can help and make suggestions. But ultimately, no more than when you were 6 years old, you can’t make your parents do what you want. And it can be hard to watch them make bad health decisions.

So I was delighted when my mom told me she had joined a yoga class.

Flexibility Fanboy

I was so delighted because I’m a big fan of yoga. I’ve been practicing it myself in various forms for years. In fact, it’s probably the one thing I would recommend you start, if you aren’t already doing it. Now there’s a good chance I’m preaching to the choir here, and you’re already convinced of the merits of yoga. But when I looked into it more thoroughly, I was surprised by how far the benefits of yoga actually extend. I think you might be surprised too.

Now there’s a good chance I’m preaching to the choir here, and you’re already convinced of the merits of yoga. But when I looked into it more thoroughly, I was surprised by how far the benefits of yoga actually extend. I think you might be surprised too. The most profound and beneficial effects of a regular yoga practice are less obvious than the physical benefits. I’m going to give you a quick rundown of how yoga can help your hormones, your nerves, your brain, and your mind.

The most profound and beneficial effects of a regular yoga practice are less obvious than the physical benefits. I’m going to give you a quick rundown of how yoga can help your hormones, your nerves, your brain, and your mind.

Deer-In-The-Headlights Be Gone!

Firstly, it’s worth acknowledging that most of us who live modern lives are under chronic stress. Email notifications, busy schedules, and traffic noises have a cumulative effect that keeps your body’s stress response turned on. Yoga can help you turn it off. Brain imaging research at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts showed how practicing yoga causes clear changes in the body’s sympathetic nervous system. Regular practice also reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Combined, these two changes make you feel a little less “fight or flight” and a more “figure it out”.

Brain imaging research at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts showed how practicing yoga causes clear changes in the body’s sympathetic nervous system. Regular practice also reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Combined, these two changes make you feel a little less “fight or flight” and a more “figure it out”.

The Root of All Evil

No, not money (although there are plenty of yoga studios that can help you get rid of that too). Yoga has been shown to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a necessary process that’s part of your immune system. But when there’s too much inflammation you’ve got a problem - it’s the behind-the-scenes mechanism that contributes to everything from heart disease to depression. One study showed how a group randomly assigned to yoga classes had much less inflammation markers than a group that got standard treatment. Basically, this means yoga rebalances your body in favor of health and against disease.

One study showed how a group randomly assigned to yoga classes had much less inflammation markers than a group that got standard treatment. Basically, this means yoga rebalances your body in favor of health and against disease.

Better Brain/Better Mind

Research by the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has shown how regular yoga practice is associated with increased volume in certain brain areas. Cool. It gets even cooler when you hear that the brain areas in question are those associated with dampening stress, directing attention, and a sense of self. Calm, attentive, and secure? That’s how I want to be. And the experience of having a yoga-upgraded brain is pretty awesome too. Personal experience chimes with the claims that regular sessions of even as little as 15 minutes are enough to help you feel calmer, more centered and settled in your body.

Calm, attentive, and secure? That’s how I want to be. And the experience of having a yoga-upgraded brain is pretty awesome too. Personal experience chimes with the claims that regular sessions of even as little as 15 minutes are enough to help you feel calmer, more centered and settled in your body.

And the experience of having a yoga-upgraded brain is pretty awesome too. Personal experience chimes with the claims that regular sessions of even as little as 15 minutes are enough to help you feel calmer, more centered and settled in your body.

Beyond Body Benefits

If you’ve tried yoga, you’ll be aware of all the obvious physical benefits. Moving more smoothly and generally feeling less like a creaky old mahogany antique were some of the effects I appreciated the most (becoming more ass-thetically pleasing didn’t hurt either).

But the really important changes are more subtle. Tuning down chronic stress, supporting your immune system, and creating space between your thoughts are immensely effective ways to improve your quality of life. That’s why I’m so delighted my mom is starting a yoga practice to support a happy, healthy retirement for herself.


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