“Taking good care of yourself is a wonderful way to slow down the rate at which your body ages, because at some point, how old your body feels is not a question of years, but a tally of habits and choices and chance.”
Cameron Diaz, THE BODY BOOK
By Abi Carver
As we look forward to the release of The Longevity Book, in which Cameron covers all aspects of aging, and how to do it with ‘strength, grace, health and wisdom’, I wanted to share 7 ways that yoga can support you in feeling young, strong and capable.
- 1. Self-Care
The secret to aging gracefully and healthfully is to take good care of yourself. Yoga is a restorative practice that encourages a deeper connection with your body, helping you to gain a better understanding of your physical and psychological needs. You can start to develop a subtle awareness of what the aches, pains, tightness and injuries are trying to tell you. All of these sensations can give you valuable information about how your body is doing and how you can take better care of it.
And the mind-body connection also works the other way. Your mind hears how you’re treating your body, so by nourishing yourself with the peace and calm that you experience in a yoga class, you are signaling that you are your priority. Not work, your family, your community or your friends–yoga is your time to focus on rest and rejuvenation. During your practice–whether that’s 15 minutes at lunchtime or an hour and a half on a Sunday afternoon–there is nowhere else you need to be.
2. Stress Relief
The stress of being overworked, over-stretched and overwhelmed not only stops you feeling young and vibrant, it actually ages your body and brain on a cellular level. The stress response, that sends adrenaline and cortisol coursing through your body, weakens your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to infection and illness as well as increasing your risk for more serious conditions, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and depression.
There is great science demonstrating that yoga can act as a powerful stress-reliever, both on a mental and physical level. On the mat, you can finally slow down, tune back into your body, your blood pressure drops and your central nervous system calms down. Allowing your body to completely relax brings you a sense of peace and helps you to unwind. And this gives you the headspace to step back from your troubles, gain some perspective, and see solutions that weren’t available to you when your mind was overwhelmed with stress and anxiety.
3. Restorative Sleep
Poor sleep also escalates the rate of aging, and specifically skin aging. Sleep deprivation increases production of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes the breakdown of collagen–the protein that keeps skin looking young, smooth, firm. The brain also releases too little growth hormone, which is responsible for repairing your skin and other tissues.
Yoga has been proven to improve sleep. The integration of conscious breathing, movement and meditation activates the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” nervous system. By relieving stress and anxiety, releasing tension throughout the body and calming the mind, you will find that you sleep better and as a result feel more refreshed and energetic.
4. Muscle and Bone Strength
Muscles and bones become progressively weaker as a natural part of aging. The density of bones begins to diminish, cartilage in the joints becomes thinner, ligaments and tendons become more brittle and muscle mass decreases. The good news is that it is completely within your power to slow down this process.
Most yoga classes incorporate strengthening postures–including Downward Dog, Plank, Chair Pose and Warrior I–that build muscle mass and increase bone density. Research shows that consistent resistance training slows the rate of bone and muscular degeneration dramatically. Training strength also increases your aerobic fitness and helps you to maintain a lean and powerful physique. This boosts your energy and adds to your confidence and feelings of youth and vitality.
5. Natural Pain Relief
When you’re under stress or sleep-deprived, you’re much more likely to feel sore and achey, especially in the neck, shoulders and lower back. Tight muscles and poor posture can throw your body out of alignment causing muscular pain, headaches and seriously depleting your energy.
One of yoga’s greatest superpowers is in relieving these aches and pains naturally. Yoga relaxes the central nervous system, corrects poor posture, teaches you to breathe efficiently, stretches out tight muscles, strengthens areas of weakness, realigns the joints and brings you back into balance. When your muscles are strong and your joints are flexible, you can operate at max capacity and realize your full and vibrant potential!
6. Healthy Eating
People who practice yoga are generally more conscious of their eating habits. Unlike other forms of exercise that are more challenging from a cardiovascular point of view, yoga does not tempt you to reward yourself with unhealthy treats and behaviors. In fact, it has the opposite effect. As you become more aware of your body and how it’s feeling, and more conscious of your thoughts and emotions, you tend to be more careful about what you’re putting in your body.
And by tuning into your body at a deeper level, you also become more sensitive to your true appetite, as distinct from cravings and other confusing signals. You are more mindful of how certain foods make you feel and whether some you might be better off without. As you start to trust your instincts around food more and more, it becomes easier to resist unhealthy temptations. Yoga has a halo effect–the more you prove you have the ability to be self-disciplined and take care of yourself, the stronger the urge to maintain these practices.
7. Live The Life You Love
“The more you learn the best ways to care for yourself and apply that information consistently, the better you will feel and the more you will be able to really LIVE, not just today but for the rest of your life.” ~ Cameron Diaz, The Body Book
The beauty of practicing yoga, is that for all the reasons above and for many more that you may personally experience, stretching, building strength, conscious breathing and the whole ritual of yoga allows you to do all the other things in your life that you enjoy, better and for longer. Work becomes less stressful, relationships become more rewarding, your brain feels sharper and less fuzzy and your body is capable of doing so much more than you ever imagined.
Now you can go on that surf holiday, play frisbee in the park, keep up with your kids, take up kickboxing, do whatever it is that you want to do, with full energy and vitality and without feeling old before your time.
SHARE WITH US:
Do you find that yoga as helped with your energy or mind-body healing? Tell us about your experience below.
ABI CARVER designs 15-minute yoga routines to improve flexibility, balance and strength, de-stress and ease aches and pains. Her videos are available to download from her site: www.yoga15.com.