Actively Aging: Why you should add a yoga practice to your daily routine
The power of yoga
Below are some of the top reasons, as explained to Peak NV from a trio of Sierra Nevada yogis, why you should bring yoga into your life:
Brain Health: By continuously learning through age, the mind never stops working. People who continue to develop skills as they are actively aging improve their brain health and function, also a benefit of practicing yoga.
Muscle Strengthening: Yoga strengthens the body through stretching and movement — therefore, counter-stretching muscle groups through various styled classes helps train all parts of the body and keeps yogis from breaking down through too much repetition and pushing too hard.
Peace of Mind: Taking time to reflect and practice mindfulness has stress-relieving benefits. Breathing slowly and steadily helps the body to relax and rejuvenate its systems while giving the practitioner some much needed mental and emotional space.
Acceptance in Your Tribe: The yoga community is deeply rooted in encouragement and kindness toward others. Joining a yoga studio will not only improve your physical health, it will also give you a place to belong with likeminded people.
There’s a saying, “if you can breathe, you can do yoga.” As Sierra Nevada yoga experts explain, the exercise isn’t just about what shape you make with your body — it’s about being present, breathing, connecting with yourself and reaching new goals.
“We are all aging, and we are all feeling it! None of us escape aging, and bodies by their very nature wear out,” Amy Joytir, co-owner of Carson City Yoga (www.carsoncityyoga.com), told Peak NV. “Any life that is lived, even a well-lived life, leaves its mark on the bodies that we live through. How do we come to appreciate our bodies in the presence of aches and pains, and how do we cultivate more patience with ourselves, more balance both metaphorical and literal?”
In Reno, Kimberlee Orenstein, founding director of Yoga Loka (www.yogalokareno.com), says the aging community is her main clientele, and almost all of her featured classes are suitable for people experiencing limited movement, past injuries or looking for a slow and supported class flow.
“My passion comes from this idea of not just living well, but dying well,” Orenstein said. “No one teaches us about that — our culture doesn’t necessarily talk about dying and getting old and what to do when you get there, so it’s about taking care of not just our body but our spirit as well.”
Yoga offers its practitioners the invaluable luxury of time and space, inviting people to look inward, Joytir said.
“The power of breath, of ease, of relaxation cannot be underestimated in our society, in our current times,” she said. “We live in a world that is busy and rushed, with excessive information at our fingertips. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious. To take time out to pause, to breathe slowly and evenly, even if it’s only two minutes a day, can be powerful in helping us deal with this constant noise and change.”
From a purely physiological standpoint, working with gentle breathing and mindfulness can help the body switch its nervous system from a “fight/flight/freeze state,” Joytir said, to a more relaxed and healthy state.
Doing this impacts one’s entire body — including the immune system.
“Breath and gentle movement are powerful tools to return us to ourselves,” Joytir said.
Orenstein added it’s imperative to care for yourself before you’re able to care for others.
“If you’re wild out of your mind worried, anxious, depressed; if your emotions are getting carried away because of what’s going on in your brain, then just getting yourself to take five minutes a day to breathe and find stillness — imagine what our community would be like if everybody just sat for five minutes and connected to themselves,” she said.
Nestled in Truckee’s mountain town is Truckee Yoga Collective (www.truckeeyogaco.com), launched by owners Meghan Ruiz and Hawley Kobayashi, to provide safe, educated yoga with plenty of classes perfect for yogis of all ages looking to find strength and peace.
The mindset there is to make yoga more available and less intimidating to more people — regardless of age — by creating a comfortable environment.
“Finding yoga in middle age allowed me to notice changes in my body, mind and heart,” Kobayashi said. “It relieved a lot of anxiety and helped me cope with the most difficult time in my life, which was my mother’s illness with Alzheimer’s, and she died at 76 years old. Yoga helped me keep myself sane through meditation and movement.”
Further, Joytir explained movement helps keep aging bodies — which tend to become stiff and achy — more fluid, adding working with balance is a functional skill.
“By keeping the body moving, we can maintain the skills of getting up and down off the floor, or even the ability to get up and down out of a chair more easily,” she said. “We also play with balance in class, using chairs or the wall as supports, and we celebrate wobbling and falling off center, because these are things that teach us how to catch ourselves.”
In keeping with the healthy mindset, yoga is also recommended for people who want to improve their brain health and heal injuries, as well as to be part of a community of likeminded people and to reach goals for life.
“I’ve had more than three people in particular tell me that yoga has saved their lives — they’ve improved their health and patience and found community and acceptance,” Kobayashi said.