As you age, your muscles atrophy, including around the knees and hips, so you need to increase muscle mass, which can be done through weight-bearing exercises such as yoga. Many yoga poses help to strengthen muscles around joints, which in turn helps support the joints themselves. In addition to traditional yoga poses and exercises, which use your natural body weight for strengthening, some classes also utilize hand-held weights to further augment the weight-bearing benefits.
Just as your muscles atrophy as you age, your flexibility can also diminish as you get on in years, so it’s crucial that you maintain a regular stretching routine. The older we get, the more our knees and hips tighten due to the knotting up of collagen fibers, unless we continue to stretch them out. Yoga’s many poses and stances force you to push your body’s current limits and loosen the collage fibers so that you can actually increase your range of motion – which means no more pulled muscles as you search for the remote in the couch cushions.
Increased bone density
As with muscle strengthening, weight-bearing exercises are incredibly beneficial to improving bone density by increasing osteoblastic activity (bone-cell stimulation growth).
Dissolution of scar tissue
Yoga may not clear up that nasty scar you got skateboarding when you were 16, but it can help break up the tissue that forms underneath, which can inhibit range of motion. After my C-section, I had to have my scar broken up by a doctor. Today, I recommend special yoga exercises to my students who have this and other procedures, such as knee surgeries, so that they can heal more naturally.
Because we use our breath so much in yoga, it helps to get blood surging through your body, which in turn helps it get oxygenated. Without proper exercise, and yoga in particular, your body is more apt to be like a pond: stagnant and sluggish. I like to tell my students as they practice to visualize their blood flowing through their bodies like Niagara falls – rushing and clean. Circulation is the key to good health, and practicing yoga really helps get the blood pumping.
Unknown benefits of yoga are being discovered all the time, but the list is already long enough to compel even the most idle couch potato to drop the remote and pick up a mat. Your body will thank you for years to come.
Written by: Patrice Simon, Author
About the Author
Whether in dental hygiene or in the yoga community, Patrice Simon has made a name for herself by helping others improve their health and well-being. In addition to running Bikram Yoga–The Camp for over a decade, Patrice also pioneered yoga for kids in her Orange County community by founding Smiling Monkey Yoga, which holds classes at the Center for Living Peace. Her upcoming book, Take Up Your Mat and Walk (spring 2014), details how to find your purpose and lead a meaningful, happy life through the practices of yoga.