Yoga for Healthy Aging

by Julia Siporin, E-RYT 500

With prescription glasses, I can see signs of aging with greater clarity, and I know I’m not alone. Osteopenia.  Joint stiffness. Did I forget to mention memory? With each new grey hair, I search for the granny gear to slow this train down.

While there are a handful of known ‘Blue Zones’ on the planet where people tend to live significantly longer and healthier than the norm, Eugene isn’t one of them. However, in general, Westerners ARE living longer than our ancestors.  But what is the quality of life we can hope to enjoy in these newly acquired years?   

We see people whose poor health has narrowed their options to enjoy these extra years, and we would prefer not to be one of them. Can we do anything about that?

After spending a week with Dr. Baxter Bell last summer getting my certification to teach Yoga for Healthy Aging, I understood that although we don’t have control over our life span (the number of days we’re alive), we can increase our health span – the number of days we are generally healthy and free from serious or chronic illness – thus reducing the number of days we spend in ill-health, known as morbidity. Here’s the math:

Lifespan – morbidity = Health Span

In essence, we want to keep our health span as long as possible and the period of time we’re in ill-health towards the end of our life as short as possible.  We want to maintain our independence for as long as possible. To do this, we need appropriate exercise to nourish and challenge our various body systems and hold at bay those diseases that affect our heart, bones, joints, muscles, organs, nerves, blood vessels, and brain.

Fortunately, yoga has much to offer to help us preserve and improve our strength, flexibility, balance, agility, cardiovascular system and brain health so that we can enjoy our independence for as long as possible.  

Yet, our physical health isn’t the only thing we need to consider. Aging takes a toll on our equanimity – our ability to face the many difficulties and challenges of life with grace. We lose loved ones as the years roll by, as well as the gradual loss of our senses that have given us years of pleasure. Though all of these gifts inevitably diminish, here too, yoga has stress-reducing tools like mindfulness and pranayama practices to help us access our innate resources and wisdom. 

So, whether you’re new to yoga or a long-time practitioner, know that your commitment to your yoga practice has many benefits to serve you well throughout your years. Your style of yoga may change, or you may incorporate different types of exercise (variety is good!) or discover the wisdom in letting certain poses or approaches to poses go in favor of more sustainable practices. Change is inevitable, and we can take effective action to shape those changes in our favor.

We are fortunate at Eugene Yoga to have so many amazing teachers and class offerings dedicated to your lifelong well-being – recognized and celebrated by the community of Eugene (thank you voters in the recent Reader’s Choice award for Best Yoga Studio!).  It is our honor and privilege to serve you at every stage of your life with Yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais, Zumba, Melt, Yoga Nidra, meditation and more. 

Be well,

April 2018