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Fitness & Nutrition: Yoga Great Way to Slow Aging

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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The long-accepted view of the aging process is stiffening of the joints, rigidity and the overall shutdown of the body. Without proper exercise, that's pretty much what will happen.

If the body does not receive sufficient exercise, a loss of height, strength and flexibility will occur.

Yoga exercises help reverse the aging process by moving each joint in the body through its full range of motion -- stretching, strengthening and balancing each part.

Misconceptions about yoga run rampant. The most common misconception about yoga is that you need to be flexible to participate in this gentle form of exercise.

Carol Ann, Education Director for FiTour in Wesley Chapel, Fla., says, "You will need to continue the practice, in order to become more flexible."

Another misconception, according to Ann, is that "some people think that they need to be in great physical shape. Again, not true. You need a starting point to get yourself in better shape. What matters is how you feel when you are engaging in the gentle movements."

Current research increasingly supports the benefits of yoga's weight-bearing postures for fighting musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Since our muscles shorten with age, and most popular forms of weight-training exercise can create further stiffness, yoga is a natural alternative. Yoga stretches the body to relieve stiff joints and lengthen muscles.

Yoga attracts diverse groups of people, and can be enjoyed by everyone (seated or standing), including those who may be physically limited because of age, body shape, disability or chronic illness.

Liz Franklin, the owner of Yoga in Chairs in Kansas City, teaches many of her seated yoga class to residents in retirement communities. The class was developed after watching frustrated elderly and frail yoga class participants try to keep up with the easiest moves in some of the yoga classes.

"I try to emphasis the mind and body connection through movement and breathing," Franklin said.

"My hands are warm for the first time" and "I no longer need to take anti-anxiety medication for relaxation" are just a few of the comments Franklin has received from some of her older yoga students.

One of her pupils is 93 years old and has attended class for three months -- proof that it's never too late too start.

The many health benefits of yoga are endless. Here's a few examples:

Helps create self awareness

Improves physical balance, muscular strength and coordination, joint range of motion and flexibility

Improves posture, which allows internal organs to function better

Enhances the immune system

Decreases risk of injury

Promotes relaxation and stress reduction and ultimately weight loss.

Yoga is not a miracle cure, but it can offer the mature adult something almost as important -- independence.

Starr Carson-Cleary, a certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist, is the founder of Body Motions by Design. Write to her in care of Lifestyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, 95352.

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©2004 The Modesto Bee. All Rights Reserved.

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