Relaxing Bodies and Minds of All Ages Through Yoga

Yoga might well allow benefit to the muscles, but an equally important aspect of the practice is the benefits to the mind.

Research consistently has shown that yoga improves psychological and mental well-being in a variety of ways—including relief from anxiety and depression and improving both concentration and memory. It even has been shown to improve the symptoms of schizophrenia when practiced with drug therapy.

There’s good news for older adults, too: Yoga can deliver the benefits of movement, building strength with less possibility of strain than some other exercises. It can increase flexibility; relieve uncomfortable symptoms of menopause; prevent and slow bone density loss; and help keep the mind sharp, according to an article in The Huffington Post. Attending classes also provides community.

“Relaxing yourself deeply into a yoga pose through deep breathing lowers the brain’s response to threat.”

The Harvard Mental Health Letter notes that yoga appears to modulate stress response systems, which in turn decreases physiological arousal. There is also evidence, Harvard reports, that yoga practices “help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.”

Psychology Today states that it’s the relaxation response that accompanies mind/body practices such as yoga that leads to improvements in both physical and mental health. Deep states of physiological relaxation, which come through deep breathing, take place on a neurobiological level.

Yoga also enhances body awareness, and the good news is that people don’t have to be overly flexible to take part. But yoga is still exercise, so it’s always best to check with a physician before beginning a practice. This is especially the case for the older population or for those who have not been fairly active throughout their lives. Many studios offer beginner classes, as well as those for older adults, and yoga instructors should be able to help with props and modifications.

Haven’s Team

ABQ Jennifer YogaJennifer Harris came to the practice of yoga in 2010 from a place of chronic pain and anxiety. She completed the 200 hour Hatha Yoga teacher training at High Desert Yoga in Albuquerque in May 2014 and went on to complete the 300 hour teacher training in September 2015. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as a 500 hour certified yoga teacher. She has been guiding classes throughout the Albuquerque area since 2014 and specializes in therapeutic based and trauma informed yoga. She also teaches at and manages Dragonfly Yoga Albuquerque, while also guiding weekly classes at Santa Ana Pueblo and the New Mexico VA Medical Center. Jennifer teaches gentle chair yoga to our seniors at Haven with love, compassion, humor and gentle modifications and believes that yoga is accessible to any body at any age. In class, movement is linked to the breath to create a feeling of awareness and relaxation. Jennifer guides classes at Haven twice a week–Monday evenings from 7-8 p.m. and Thursday mornings from 9:30-10:30 a.m.



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