As they say, the older you get the wiser you may become. However, don’t you think that becoming wise and mature depends less on one’s age and more on one’s experience and personal attitude? Having said that, getting old does have its perks – apart from getting wiser, such as more time to pursue your passion and dreams, more time for loved ones, living with a sense of accomplishment and a happier outlook and retirement benefits and senior citizen discounts of course 🙂
Still, most of us dread the thought of getting old physically. The stress we carry on our shoulders all through our life, be it personal or professional, soon starts showing and more often than not makes us look and feel older faster. While getting old is inevitable, the practice of Yoga does help with slowing down the process and at times even reverse certain effects of aging such as stiffness, imbalance, poor posture, joint pain, etc.
“You’re only as old as your spine.” Joseph Pilates
While a healthy eating habit and exercise can help keep your body in good shape, Yogic practices such as asana, pranayama, and meditation will not only help maintain physical health but will also keep a check on your emotional and mental well-being.
How Yoga can help make you feel younger
With age, risk of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc, also increases. Most of the seniors also complain about anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders. Joint pain and osteoarthritis are other very common symptoms of aging.
To keep the body healthy and mind sharp, a daily Yoga routine can really help you maintain both physical and psychological well being. The flexibility of spine and bone health are taken off by a regular asana practice that combines forward bends, backbends, twists, and inversions. Breath awareness will further improve the therapeutic benefits of the yoga poses and balancing and relaxing asanas will help keep the mind sharp.
Meditation is another significant and highly effective aspect of Yoga. While there are various meditation techniques to choose from, what matters most is your commitment to practice mindfulness daily.
A daily yoga practice will help minimize high blood pressure by reducing oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. This further reduces the risk of cancer and heart and kidney-related diseases. Yoga helps maintain and strengthen the bone and joint health, helps regulate the flow of oxygenated blood, keeps a check on the weight, helps improve balance, boosts memory, focus, and concentration and also improves mood.
10 Yoga poses to slow down the aging
Below are a few yoga poses that you can practice daily to maintain an energetic and healthy body and mind. If practicing for the first time or if you have any existing health condition and injury, it is best to consult your doctor and practice under the guidance of a certified yoga teacher. Regular practice is what will make the difference … so ensure you include these poses in your daily practice.
Warrior Pose 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)
This pose works on the entire body. It helps strengthen the arms and legs and opens the hips and chest. It also helps improve balance and focus as it is about grounding yourself and connecting to earth while you expand your chest and extend your arms away from the body.
How to do: You can get into this pose from Tadasana or Downward facing dog. From a standing position (Tadasana) take your left leg bag to a wide stance. Your right foot continues to point to the front of the mat and the left foot is turned in slightly pointing to the side. Bend the front right leg such that the right knee is in line with the right ankle and shin is perpendicular to the floor.
Find stability by grounding the left foot and pressing outer heel firmly to the mat. Raise your arms to the side, bringing them in lines with the shoulder and keep the fingers sharp. Avoid leaning the torso over the right thigh and expand your chest as you keep your focus on the right fingertips. Stay for 5 to breaths, release and repeat the posture for the same length of time with the left leg in front.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
This asana helps develop nervous balance and strengthens the leg, ankle and foot muscles. The focus is on grounding yourself and finding your balance, which helps improve overall coordination. It is also therapeutic for flat feet and sciatica.
How to do: It is advisable to take wall support till you start feeling stronger and more confident about balancing on one leg. Focusing on one fixed point will help you find stability. Stand with your gaze fixed at one point. Slowly bend the right leg, grasp the ankle and place the sole of the foot on the inside of the left thigh. The right knee should point out to the side. If you find this difficult, stand against a wall to avoid falling.
You can also practice by placing the left foot or the knee and then slowly work towards taking it close to the perineum. When the body is balanced, you can place your hands in prayer pose in front of the chest or extend the arms overhead. Hold for a few breaths, slowly release and repeat the posture, balancing on the right leg.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
This is a great posture to improve vitality, strength and overall body balance to prevent falls and injuries. It helps strengthen legs and ankles and stimulates the heart as it speeds up breathing, allowing more intake of oxygen. It is also a safe and surgery-free alternative for flat feet!
How to do: From Tadasana, raise your arms up over your head, either keeping them shoulder-width apart or holding pranam mudra. Bend your knees and push back like you would if you were to sit on a chair. Keep the thighs parallel to each other and at the same time ensure your knees do not extend past your toes.
Keep your spine lengthened and focus on your breath to calm your mind. Try and hold this pose for 5 to 10 breaths and gradually aim for a minute or two. To release the posture, exhale and return to Tadasana.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This is one of the common or must-have poses for any Vinyasa flow and comes with many benefits. It helps strengthen the upper and lower body. It helps strengthen wrists, shoulders, helps elongate the spine, engages the core thus helps tone abdominal muscles, engages the quadriceps, stretches and strengthens the hamstrings, calves, arches, and feet. Being a mild inversion, it helps stimulates the nervous system, increases blood circulation, memory, and concentration and also helps reduce anxiety and stress.
How to do: Balance on all fours by placing your palms in line with the shoulders and your knees placed directly under the hips. Spread your fingers and start lifting your knees off the mat, raising the buttocks towards the ceiling. Keep the head in line with the spine, between the arms and don’t let it hang.
As a beginner, It is okay to keep the knees slightly bent and heels away from the floor. Gently push back, moving the torso and shoulders towards the thighs and lift the sitting bones up, towards the ceiling. Slowly work on straightening your knees. Do not strain. Stay in this posture for 5 to 7 breaths and then relax in child’s pose.
Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
This is a complete body work-out that helps you improve your strength, stamina, and mood. It not only works on your core strength but also helps in strengthening your shoulder, chest, neck, glute, quadriceps, and back muscles. It takes time to build your strength to be able to hold the pose for a few additional seconds and you can use variations like placing your knees down to rest or even challenge yourself by lifting one hand or leg (or both) off the mat. Being a weight-bearing exercise it enhances bone and joint health and improves balance and coordination.
How to do: Come on all fours with wrists under the shoulders and knee in line with the hip. Spread your fingers with the middle finger pointing forward. Engage the core, extend one leg back with your toes tucked, followed by the other leg. Avoid arching the back and ensure the body is in a straight line from head to heels.
It is important to not let the shoulders sink. Spread your collar bone, keep the facial muscles relaxed and firm the shoulder blades against the back and spread them away from the spine. Press into your palms and keep pushing the floor away. Stretch your heels back, engage your thigh muscles and lengthen the tailbone. Hold this for a few breaths and gradually increase the time to 1-2 minutes or more!
You can also practice elbow plank (forearm plank) and move in and out of plank pose from Downward facing done, a movement which is usually included in Vinyasa flow. Instead of gazing down, keeping the gaze forward will improve balance.
Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
It is one of the best poses for spine health and for harmonizing nervous and pranic energies. Thus it is very effective for anxiety, depression, and stress. It massages the digestive and pancreas, thus helps improve and maintain digestion and keeps a check on diabetes. It is also good for liver, spleen, kidney and adrenal glands.
How to do: Sit straight with your legs stretched out in front. If this is difficult or uncomfortable, as a beginner you can also sit on the edge of a block or on a folded blanket which will help lengthen your spine. Usually, people aim for bringing the head to the knees or toes, which often results in a rounded back.
The focus should always be to bring the abdominal muscles to the thighs. As a beginner, you may find it difficult to achieve this, thus you can keep the knees bent. Inhale and stretch extend your arms up and as you exhale stretch them forward and grab hold of the arch of your feet. The abdominal muscles will be pressed against the upper leg and as you exhale, you will notice that exhalations are longer than inhalations.
Slowly you can move the feet away and work on straightening your leg without arching your back or increasing the distance between the lower belly and thighs. Alternatively, you can attempt this pose while keeping your legs stretched out in front and feet flexed.
However, when you stretch your arms, reach forward and place them where comfortable, preferably toes, if not the arch of the feet, ankle or shin muscles. Maintain the hold, relax your neck and shoulders and with every exhalation, move deeper into the pose by lengthening your spine and bending the elbows.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
This pose plays a vital role in improving and maintaining your digestive system and also keeps your weight in check. Being a backbend it is excellent for the spine, back muscles and overall posture. It helps improve the function of the pancreas, respiratory system, kidney, and liver. It helps relieve stress and helps improve overall flexibility.
How to do: Lie down flat on the stomach with the arms by the side of your body. The feet should be hip-width apart. Inhale and lift the legs as well as chest off the ground. Bend your knees and stretch your hands back to hold your ankles as you pull your leg back. Try and lift your legs higher towards the ceiling.
Keep breathing and relax your face muscles as your body assumes the shape of a bow.
Be in the pose for about 30 seconds and release.
Plow Pose (Halasana)
Halasana prepares the body for deep relaxation and restoration. It is an inversion which helps improve blood circulation and boost the immune system. It is very therapeutic for backache, insomnia, headaches and digestive disorders. It improves the function of the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands and is beneficial for people suffering from diabetes.
How to do: Lie on the back with the arms placed by the side of the body and palms facing down. Take a deep breath and lift both legs off the ground only with the help of the abdominal muscles. Keep the legs at 90-degree angle. Now support the hips with the hands
Bring the legs forward and over your head, and continue to lower them behind the head.
Try and touch the floor with your toes and as you do this, the chest moves closer to the chin. Be in the position for about a minute. And slowly bring your legs down without any jerk.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
It is usually practiced as a counterpose for Halasana and helps rebalance the body and restore spinal strength. It is very therapeutic for tension around the neck and shoulder region which is a very common problem these days. It stimulates the lungs, rib cage, cervical muscles, thorax and helps relieve fatigue and stress almost instantly. It also helps you sleep better.
How to do: Lie on your back with your legs straight or if possible, fold them in Padmasana. Since Padmanasana is usually difficult for a beginner, legs can either be kept straight or with knees bend and feet on the floor. Place your arms alongside the body with palms facing down.
Press into your forearms and elbows and lift your chest, shoulder blades off the mat, creating an arch in your upper back. Tilt your head back and bring the crown of your head on the mat. There should be a minimal amount of weight on your head. Continue pressing down your elbows and forearms to keep the muscles around the neck area relaxed. Press outward through your heels and stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.
If holding Padmasana, you can grab hold of your toes and press down your elbows to repeat the backbend. To release, gently lift your crown off the mat and lower your upper back and head on the mat.
Roaring Lion Pose (Simhasana)
It is an excellent pose to enhance the functioning of thyroid glands and also beat stress and anxiety. It helps reduce tension in the face and chest area and also helps keep a check on the wrinkles. It also stimulates the platysma, which is a thin, rectangular-shaped muscle in the front of the throat. This exercise will keep the platysma firm as you age.
How to do: This asana is a great start to your day; however, you can practice it anytime. It is very important that you practice this only on an empty stomach. Also, there are various sitting positions you can choose from. In a simple cross-legged or kneeling position, cross the ankles under the body and sit on your heels. Rest your palms on the knees with fingers spread out.
Inhale through your nose, and slightly lean forward as you exhale with your mouth while you stretch your tongue out, making a ‘ha’ sound as you breathe out. As you do this, the eyes are wide open and the facial muscles are slightly tense. You can repeat this 2-3 times with right ankle over the left and then the same number of times with left ankle over the right.
You can also choose from other sitting positions, like Vajrasana, or Virasana with fingers under the shin and pointing towards the feet, or in Padmasana variation where you place the palms down in front of you and on exhalation, stand on your knees and hands and lean forward, bringing the pelvis forward and down. When you stick the tongue out and roar, you can either gaze at the point between the eyebrows or at your nose tip.