Healthy Beginnings

Is Yoga the Fountain of Youth?

According to many studies, yoga facilitates healthy aging. It can positively affect the heart, nervous system, brain and skin – turning back the effects of time. In comparison with medications, medical appointments and surgeries, yoga is both inexpensive and effective. Can yoga truly be the fountain of youth?

In yogic philosophy, there is a belief that each of us is born with only so many breaths to take. Once those breaths have been taken, we die. This correlates with what we know about stress-related illnesses. When we undergo ongoing and chronic stress, we tend to breathe more quickly, more shallowly, and use more of our accessory breathing muscles (chest, shoulders and neck). In other words, we are using up a lot of our allotted breaths very rapidly. This ages the body, moving us toward death more quickly.

Aging is also associated with changes in the nervous system and brain that decrease cognitive performance and may eventually cause dementia. One study found that yoga could reverse age-related degeneration affecting the heart, brain and nervous system, restoring them to “normal or near-normal levels of function.”

According to this study, participants who practiced yoga improved their heart health and displayed more balanced levels of brain activity and hormones, including reduced levels of cortisol and epinephrine (often called stress hormones.)

Yoga has been shown to improve cardiometabolic function, as well. Yoga can increase levels of a protein called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” which affects memory, brain plasticity and mood. Low levels of BDNF are associated with lowered cognitive functioning, as well as depression, dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease.

A separate study looked at skin appearance as a primary indicator of aging. It found that the effects of both asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) have been shown to correlate with a reduced inflammation response and improved metabolic function of cells and tissues, including skin’s appearance.

Tao Porchon-Lynch is the world’s oldest yoga instructor. She was born on August 13, 1918 and, at the writing of this article, was still a practicing yoga teacher. She has been practicing yoga on a regular basis since she was a youth (although many studies suggest that yoga can improve one’s health no matter how old they are when they take up the practice). When you see pictures of Tao, she is a beautiful woman who definitely does NOT look her age and is photographed taking challenging poses such as “scales.”

If yoga is Ms. Porchon-Lynch’s fountain of youth, it can also be yours! When will you choose yoga as a way to build and maintain excellent health?

Reverend Dr. Kathaleen Martin Midcalf is the founder and master teacher at The Yoga Pearl in Sparks, Nev. She is an ordained minister who holds a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies, a master’s degree in natural health and a doctorate in natural health. The Yoga Peal is celebrating its10-year birthday in September. For more information, call 775-750-7610 or visit www.TheYogaPearl.com.