By: Larry Studt, M.D., Occupational Health & Medicine Program, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph Hospitals
When you think about yoga, do you imagine having to stretch yourself into a pretzel like an Olympic gymnast? You might be worried that you're "too old" or "too out of shape" to even give it a try. The truth is, you're never too old to increase your flexibility, and everyone – even the beginner – can see benefits from giving yoga a try.
Practicing yoga can lead to improved balance, range of motion, flexibility, and strength. Because gentle stretching is involved, yoga can also offer some relief for chronic medical conditions such as back pain and arthritis.
In addition, because you use your abs to support many yoga poses, you'll strengthen your core muscles. This can lead to better posture. You'll sit a little straighter and stand a little taller when you add yoga to your weekly exercise routine.
Most yoga poses encourage you to take deep breaths while you are in hold. Many people find breathing deeper and being more conscious of your breathing to be very relaxing. There are also many calming yoga stretches that can be done before bedtime to promote better sleep.
Beginners might benefit from working with a trained instructor to learn the proper way to perform the exercises and avoid injury. As with any exercise program, it's always best to consult with your health care provider before you begin.