We all know that yoga can tone both our bodies and our minds, but there are also some significant gains to consider where yoga’s physical and psychological benefits intersect, namely, the ability to slow down the hands of time and steady the aging process.
That’s not to say that yoga is the exercise equivalent of the fountain of youth or anything, but research does seem to suggest that regular practice can keep us looking and feeling younger in a variety of ways.
Stress is one of the four horsemen of premature aging. Although it’s primarily a mental burden, when prolonged, it can easily bridge the gap to the physical and start laying waste to our bodies.
When we experience long-term stress, the telomeres of all our cells grow shorter, effectively cutting the life cycle of our cells down significantly, and thus, bodily deterioration accelerates — Boo!
But one of the primary benefits of yoga is stress reduction. All that conscious breathing, slow stretching, and meditation is incredibly relaxing, not just in the moment, but indefinitely.
When we make time for these meditative moments of joy and serenity, it realigns our priorities and puts things into perspective. A lot of the time, we realize that the stressors in our life aren’t as important as we think they are, and their negative impact eases.
Ultimately, this means our telomeres remain nice and long, our cells live longer, and so do we, looking lovely and youthful all the while.
Almost all adult Americans experience insufficient sleep at some point in their lives, and a large portion of the population suffers from sleep deprivation as a long-term issue.
Lack of sleep damages the body in the same way extended bouts of mental stress can — Our cells dwindle faster. This can of course have a terrible impact on our appearance, but it also increases the chances of developing a number of serious conditions, including but not limited to cancer, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease.
Thankfully, though, yoga is proven to help us get a better night’s rest. How? Well, actually, no one is completely sure, but it seems likely to be a conglomerate effect of a relaxed mind, a relaxed body, and physical exertion.
One study showed that wake times of troubled sleepers often coincided with low oxygen saturation within the body, so it stands to reason that yogic breathing exercises that strengthen the respiratory system might help reduce such instances.
The breathing element of yoga can also reduce snoring, effectively halving the chances of disrupted sleep.
A good night’s sleep helps to maintain the health and longevity of our DNA, so by regularly practicing yoga, we can expect to look younger for longer and indeed live longer.
Reduced Free Radicals
8-OH2dG is a biomarker of cellular aging, a byproduct of DNA damage caused by oxidative stress, and studies have shown that those who practice yoga regularly have fewer of these biomarkers than those who do not practice yoga.
This suggests that yoga combats the free radicals responsible for triggering cellular deterioration. Research as to why is still ongoing, but it’s thought to be due to the fact it actually stimulates the natural production of antioxidants within the body.
These substances cancel out free radicals, preventing them from wreaking havoc as they travel through the circulatory system.
Regular exercise is also known to boost natural antioxidant production, but studies have found that yoga can increase production by more than 50% of the increase we see from more intensive exercise.
Galvanized Immune System
We all age as a natural consequence of the passage of time, but illness can expedite the aging process significantly. It takes a lot of energy to recuperate after falling ill, and the pathogenic battle can cause a lot of physiological stress, especially if the illness persists for an extended period.
This is why it’s not uncommon for those who become sick quite frequently to show signs of aging prematurely, but yoga can help on this front too.
Research shows that improved blood flow and oxygenation facilitated by yoga can fortify the immune system, reducing the chances we’ll get sick, helping to keep us looking and feeling youthful.
See, yoga doesn’t just relax the mind, it calms down the nervous system, which is the biological network responsible for activating the defense mechanisms of the body.
In essence, it gives the immune system more of a chance to clear up contaminants before the nervous system goes full-blown DEFCON 1.
Why is this a good thing? Well, the nervous system means well, but sometimes, when active over long periods, it can cause excessive amounts of inflammation that damages the skin cells, triggering premature aging.
Inhibits Cognitive Aging
Numerous studies have shed light on the amazing psychological health benefits of yoga. It was found that regular practice can lead to anatomical augmentations in the brain areas associated with cognitive decline, including the hippocampus, frontal cortex, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex.
This means that yoga can slow down the aging process both outside and in, keeping our minds as sharp as our skin is supple.
As we age, our muscles and joints deteriorate, leading to low localized mobility, and low mobility in general, but yoga can help keep us limber for longer.
Enhanced flexibility is one of the well-known benefits of yoga, but rarely do we think about this effect within the context of our aging.
No matter how much yoga we do, we’ll still see decline, but it’s proven that regular practice can stave off pains and impracticalities associated with diminished flexibility significantly.
Our bones grow weaker as we age, losing density through the years. The more bone loss we experience, the higher the chance we’ll fracture or break a bone, which can be incredibly problematic in our senior years.
Yoga will never fix this entirely, as there are environmental and genetic factors to consider too, but by pitting groups of muscles against each other over the course of posture sequences, it exposes our bones to force that encourages enhanced mineral density.
If you’re genetically predisposed to accelerated bone loss, otherwise known as osteoporosis, yoga can slow down the deterioration of your bone mass and keep you feeling strong and stable for longer.
And if you’re not genetically predisposed to accelerated bone loss, yoga will simply help to allay the natural density loss we all experience with age.
Arthritis is another common age-associated issue in which certain joints become incredibly painful and stiff. There are multiple forms of arthritis, so yoga can’t help us with them all, but being that yoga can be instrumental in lowering inflammation, it’s still a valuable asset against some of them.
Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma are all triggered by the nervous system getting ahead of itself and using its defense mechanisms to attack our own tissues.
As previously mentioned, yoga can soothe the nervous system, making way for the immune system to take care of things, thereby reducing inflammation.
This can ease the pain of arthritic joints significantly, especially when combined with other treatments. What’s more, as joint pain has ties to insufficient sleep and stress, yoga can be particularly beneficial to arthritis sufferers.
Blood is the bus of the body, delivering all the necessary nutrients to their destinations. Thus, the better our circulation, the more nutrients our bodies receive.
Great circulation is particularly handy where the skin is concerned, as it can fight off dryness, breakouts, and of course, the natural signs of aging.
Long-time yogis tend to have incredible skin for their age and often even have something of a healthy, radiant glow about them.
When we’re stressed, angry, sad, or anxious, we tend to outwardly show how we feel on the inside, usually by frowning and furrowing the brow.
Over time, these intense expressions can create fine lines and wrinkles way ahead of schedule, but yoga helps to keep us feeling centered and the facial muscles relaxed, preserving the supple, smoothness of our skin.
A fall is more embarrassing than anything else when we’re young, but as we reach the autumn of our lives, a fall can be fatal.
Sadly, we often fall more frequently when we’re older, in part because of weaker joints and muscles, but mostly because our sense of balance deteriorates beyond the age of 50.
Yoga can’t cure the natural deterioration of the equilibrioception system located in the inner ear, but it can strengthen our muscles and joints, slowing the process exponentially.
There you have it, 11 ways in which yoga can combat aging — Is yoga amazing or what?!! Our advice is to start yoga as young as possible to make the most of these age-defying benefits. However, it’s never too late to start yoga.
It might be just the exercise you need to ease up some of the natural wear and tear of time and significantly improve your quality of life.