Is Yoga The Fountain of Youth?

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With all the creams and tonics out there that claim to defy the effects of aging, there's an ancient remedy that seems to be at the top of the list. If you haven't already, add yoga to that list of anti-aging therapy; it can be the cure for so many things.

 

Turn Back The Hands of Time

People will start to ask you what diet you're on or what moisturizing cream you've been using lately. They will see how brilliant you look! You can simply tell them that it's "the yoga." One of the magical things about practicing yoga is that you may not go to class with the intention of looking and feeling younger. More often than not, you're going to work out a stiff back or to gain some more flexibility in your legs so you can bend over (without moaning) to tie your shoes. There are so many positive side effects to this amazing practice; you'll walk away with many more benefits than you would have imagined. Below you'll read about some of those wonderful outcomes. Some may even motivate you to get a yoga mat and jump on the yoga band wagon!

Stronger Muscles

You won't get massive biceps doing yoga, but you will feel stronger after a solid commitment to the practice. There are many poses in which you hold and have to engage your muscles in order to maintain the position. Typically, you engage your core muscles (your abs) when you stabilize your body. So, you may not get bigger biceps, but you WILL get stronger ab muscles.

Sail Away

A great core strengthening posture is called Boat Pose. This posture engages those mid-section muscles to help you hold positions that call for balance, stability, and strength. Sit on the floor then lean back so you're able to lift your feet into the air. As you begin, you can keep your knees bent. Flex your feet to keep your legs energized and strong. You can also hold onto your legs. Doing so, literally lift your torso so that it is straight as can be. Boat Pose has a "V-shape," so you'll want to lean back like you're in a reclining chair. Be sure to keep the spine straight, though. Take a full breath in to help extend the spine in this seated position. Now, as you exhale, draw your navel inward toward your spine. This will engage those abdominal muscles. Hold the posture for a few more breaths to entice your ab muscles to get stronger. Eventually, you'll be able to release your legs, extend your arms outward, and even begin to straighten your legs. You are guaranteed to get stronger relatively quickly practicing this pose.

Better Posture

You won't look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame anymore after a few sessions in a yoga class. Those tight shoulders will roll back to their proper position and you'll be standing tall and proud once again. You'll look and feel more confident and definitely younger. It can be as simple as standing in Mountain Pose.

Root your feet strongly into your yoga mat. Feel grounded and connected. Stand with your feet about hip distance apart and your toes pointing forward. Stand tall with straight legs, but keep a slight bend in your knees. Make sure your spine is erect, neck is long, and keep your gaze forward. Standing like this will automatically give you better posture. Your shoulders will naturally draw back, but intentionally roll them back to ensure that proud looking stance.

Clear Skin

Nothing says younger youthful skin like a regular yoga practice. That's right....even your skin can appear like you haven't aged one bit. But how? Think about it, when you're moving through poses, accompanied by steady yoga breathing, you're flooding your body with a healthy dose of oxygen and good blood flow. This is very rejuvenating and nourishing for your entire body: your organs, bones, muscles, and skin.

Breathing is the key. In yoga, the breath portion of the experience is called Pranayama. In some styles of yoga where you are moving your body continuously through poses, a particular type of Pranayama is used; it's called Ujjayi (oo-jah-yee). Here's how you do it.

Victorious Breath

Translated, Ujjayi means "victorious." To create this energetic breathing effort, start with your mouth open. Inhale like you are gasping for air in slow motion through your mouth. You will be using the muscles of your throat to produce the "pulling in" sensation of the inhale. When you exhale, breathe out of your mouth like you are fogging a mirror. Actually, this is NOT Ujjayi breathing, but it sets up the process. Recall that you are using the muscles of your throat to produce your inhale and exhale. Now, breathe in a similar fashion, but now do it with your mouth closed. Air will move through your nostrils, but the effort of breathing is done with your throat muscles. Ujjayi is a deep cleansing breath that will get your blood flowing efficiently as you move through your yoga practice.

Sweat Away Those Toxins

And a little sweat doesn't hurt either to experience a sip from the Fountain of Youth. Try a hot yoga class. The raised temperature in a studio will certainly get you perspiring. A hot yoga class may be challenging for some, but the benefits are great: detoxifying, cleansing, and also very good for your skin.  And if you can remember your biology classes, you may recall that your kidneys and liver are vital organs in the body. Your kidney helps to flush out waste from your system while your liver can help with the break down of fat. (And we all could lose a little fat, right?) Keeping your body moving in a hot yoga class will only heighten the productive work of these organs.

Flexibility

And who can forget good ol' flexibility with a dose of yoga. You'll definitely get a good stretch in those tight hamstrings in your power yoga class. And you'll be high kicking like the Rockettes in no time. Another simple pose you can practice, even at home, is Seated Forward Fold if you're wanting to gain some greater mobility in your legs and also your back.

Take a seat on the floor, with your legs extended out in front of you. Flex your feet to engage your legs, but keep a slight bend in your knees. Place your hands on the floor next to your hips. Press into the floor to assist the lengthening in your spine. Extend your arms into the air, then start to slowly fold over your legs. Take your time; take small incremental movements as you fold forward. Allow your body to get used to the deep stretch. Pause when you feel the sensation of the stretch in your legs. Take some deep breaths. As you fold, you may begin to round your back. This will allow for some lengthening and stretching in your back that will feel quite relieving. Hold your posture for 5-10 breaths so that your muscles get a good stretch.

The list of anti-aging benefits can go on and on when it comes to the practice of yoga. If you haven't already, give it a try and experience the pleasures of the Fountain of Youth for yourself.


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