Why I Choose Yoga to stay Fit after 40
Even before I was 20 I was actively learning and experimenting with fitness. I was weight training before it was cool and way back before it was something women did. I’ve always loved challenging my body and seeing what it was capable of. As a short, slow, and really self conscious girl, team sports wasn’t something I ever felt comfortable participating in - but I loved to dance and I was obsessed with martial arts when kickboxing was all the rage so I stayed pretty active most of my young adult years. Before my 40th birthday I started running distances - mostly to prove I still had ‘it’ but after about 2 years I began to feel the effects of said running in my back and joints. My hips were tight always and my lower back hurt all the time. Finally, I surrendered to the pain and quit. At 42 I turned in my fitness towel and succumbed to a life of working all the time, insomnia and tons and tons of job stress with no outlet. I just couldn’t force myself to go back to the gym and I figured my fitness days were over.
Yoga was my saving grace in so many ways. I learned how to manage stress, be nicer to myself and others, I started sleeping a little better and I learned how to breathe for the first time in my life! But the biggest surprise in my yoga journey was just how physical it is and how happy my soul was to once again have a physical outlet to challenge my body. There is something about physical strength and ability that empowers the inner person. Standing in warrior pose, mountain pose, even sitting in hero pose fills my heart with a self confidence I had never felt before and needed so much. I moved easier, stood taller, and rested quieter - and all of these things developed a part of me that started to show off the mat and throughout my life.
For yoga I will be forever grateful
After a few years of practice I started noticing some things about women older than I that didn’t practice yoga. They were shrinking and they were losing muscle tone. They were hurting themselves doing simple things, and they were having decreased flexibility which led to increased trips and falls. In my heart each time I noticed it I said, it’s because they don’t do yoga. Instinctively and assuredly I knew it was the truth and I firmly resolved to never stop doing yoga myself for those reasons.
Today I want to share with you how good yoga is for your physical health and why you should consider starting your own lifelong practice - no matter what your age is today.
Stop the Shrinkage:
At my age the older women in your life all seem to get smaller. Why is that? Most of it is attributed to bone density loss in the spine. Yoga is one of the best activities for spinal health. There are few other forms of fitness that even address the spine as an area of focus, yet it is one of the major areas of focus in yoga. Through lengthening and strengthening the spine yoga counteracts the effects of aging and shrinkage and can help you to maintain your height as you age.
Bone Density Loss and Osteoporosis:
After menopause bone breakdown in the body is more rapid than replacement. In recent years studies have affirmed that weight bearing exercise is one of the best ways to build bone density and prevent bone density loss. In yoga all areas of the body are used to bear weight. Consider down dog - one of the most common resting poses in yoga where the upper and lower body are both bearing the entire weight of the body. Simple poses like this aid both muscle and bone strength yet they are low impact and kinder to the body we age.
Flexibility and Balance:
I live in the Chicago suburbs and sometimes we get some serious snow and ice. A few years back I slipped on the ice but caught myself before falling. Even though I dodged the bullet on the fall I was pretty injured anyway. Just the act of starting to fall and trying to catch myself caused me to seriously pull some muscles and I was hurting for quite a while. It was then I realized that flexibility and balance were important. Ask anyone what they think of when they think of yoga and they will tell you flexibility and balance - these are core principles in the practice. The truth is anyone not regularly stretching or improving their balance could really benefit from some incorporation into their fitness regime. Flexibility reduces pain and helps prevent injury while at the same time gives greater range of motion for other activities. It’s a win-win!
Self Care and Compassion:
Even though this post is about the physical benefits of yoga I couldn’t end without mentioning the self care and compassion aspect. While it’s not technically a physical issue a lack of self care and compassion does negatively affect the physical body and is worth noting.
In yoga we learn to be compassionate to ourselves and others. We learn to recognize and eventually stop judgemental/critical thinking and speaking to ourselves and others. We learn to be gracious to ourselves despite our shortcomings, to be imperfect in front of others and to encourage ourselves and others as we try new things. All of this changes the body composition from a negative and acidic, disease inducing body into a relaxed and healthy environment where physical and emotional healing can prevail. Self care and compassion are the basis of yoga and the perfect foundation to build a strong body.
So if you are intrigued find yourself a yoga studio and drop in for a class. The imperfect, out of shape, and inflexible are always welcome and I promise if you keep going you too will be forever grateful to yoga!
Ps: check out my yoga love Pinterest board HERE for some awesome yoga inspiration!