Yoga has long been considered one of the best exercises for older adults. Yoga allows seniors to improve their flexibility and balance, enhance overall strength and boost their mood. In fact, yoga can even help ward off conditions like osteoporosis, keeping bones strong and healthy, as well as alleviate many of the aches and pains associated with aging.
Recently, studies have been conducted that reveal yoga may offer additional benefits to seniors: slowing cognitive decline and improving memory.
Yoga and the Brain
Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “to join” or “to unite.” Practicing yoga helps form a union between your body, mind and spirit, allowing for a balance between all three. Adding yoga to a senior workout routine is a safe and effective way to gain strength and stay mentally engaged.
The mental benefits of yoga are currently being studied more aggressively, and results so far have been very promising. Those who practice yoga generally have calmer, more relaxed minds. When yoga and meditation are combined, the results can help improve both your attention span and your memory. How? Well, meditation basically “exercises” parts of the brain that regulate our emotions and mind-body awareness, leading to changes in brain activity that can improve our memory. Studies have shown that the regions of the brain associated with attention and sensory processing can diminish over the years, but practicing yoga and meditation can keep those regions more youthful.
The Benefits of Yoga for Brain Health
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. However, yoga and meditation can play a role in slowing the progression of the disease, as way as helping prevent the onset of symptoms. Some of the main benefits of yoga for brain health and memory include:
Improves brain function and memory.
Yoga can improve how quickly your brain processes information. In fact, studies show that yoga is as beneficial to overall brain function as playing brain games. Yoga may increase the production of a protein called brain-derived neuropathic growth factor, which can stimulate the growth of connections among neurons.
Boosts mental health.
Some studies suggest that yoga can have a similar effect on mental health as using medications like antidepressants or psychotherapy. Those who practice yoga regularly report less depression and anxiety in their lives.
Provides an opportunity for socialization.
Staying socially active is key to overall health and wellness, and joining a yoga class provides that much-needed time with others. So, not only will you experience all the benefits of yoga, you’ll also reap the benefits of getting more involved in social activities.
The hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning, can be particularly vulnerable to high cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Yoga helps manage stress levels, which in turn lowers those cortisol levels that can compromise our ability to learn and store memories.
If you’re new to yoga, it’s recommended to seek a class specifically designed for seniors. Try a beginner’s class and if you notice any new pain or discomfort, talk to the instructor and about modifying the movements to suit your needs.
American Senior Communities offers a variety of senior fitness classes and options through our New Energy Wellness program, available at several of our locations. Contact us today to request more information.