If you’ve been near a gym around lunchtime recently, you’d be forgiven for thinking yoga was only for slender twenty-somethings able to contort themselves into impossible positions.
But it’s actually an ancient practice that dates back 5,000 years. Yoga has an excellent reputation as a muscle-strengthening activity and is known to improve flexibility, strength, balance and coordination.
Here are five reasons why practising yoga is an excellent choice for people of all ages living with life-changing conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome or multiple sclerosis.
It’s a good way to reconnect with a body that you may feel has failed you.
Although some life-changing conditions might be with us only a short while, others are lifelong and threaten to change how we see ourselves permanently. Yoga can help you start to view your body not as the enemy or something that is stopping you from doing things, but as an ally that you can learn to work with.
It brings mental and emotional health benefits.
Since yoga focuses on breathing and incorporates aspects of mindfulness meditation, it comes with a range of mental health benefits. Practising yoga acts as an excellent distraction from pain and aids relaxation, releases stress, boosts mood and helps with memory and concentration.
You can adapt it to suit how you feel on a given day.
Yoga might just be the perfect exercise for someone with a long-term, variable condition. During a flare up or on days when you have less energy, you can modify your routine to accommodate postures that work best for you. Likewise, on days when you’re able to be more active you can take it up a level and try more advanced routines.
It’s a gentle way to improve your physical health.
Although you should always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regime, yoga could well be the perfect way to incorporate exercise into your day. Below are some of the reported physical benefits of yoga:
- Improves circulation and cardiovascular function
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves flexibility and strength
- Builds stronger muscles, in turn protecting joints
- Prevents cartilage breakdown and improves bone health
- Develops balance
- Supports ligaments and deep tissue
- Reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Helps the lymphatic system fight infection and disease
- Boosts sleep quality
- Improves digestion
- Develops lung function
- Relieves pain
You can tailor it to suit your condition.
Although there are many free yoga classes on YouTube, it is perhaps better to find a yoga instructor who is experienced in teaching therapeutic yoga (or even yoga for your specific health condition). They can work with you one on one to create a programme that suits your individual needs.