The Anti Aging Benefits of Yoga for Overall Health

The anti aging benefits of yoga for health have been a marvel in my life. I am a doctor and I spent last Friday and Saturday at a yoga-intensive workshop. Again, I’m again astounded by what a completely transformative experience a yoga practice can be.

When I first wrote this article in 2010, I had only practiced yoga for 2 years. I am updating it in 2023. This means I’ve practiced yoga steadily for almost 15 years.  The anti aging impact is so profound for me that I know I’ve altered the course of my aging journey. 

I highly recommend 2 to 3 days a week of yoga for healthy aging.

health benefits of yoga to fight arthritis

The image here is me in the plow pose. When I started yoga, I could never have done this! My back hurt all the time. For many years I suffered musculoskeletal problems that were gradually reducing my functionality. Yoga has stopped this decline in my functional fitness. It has increased my odds of aging as a fit, functional, vital woman who stands up straight and can pick up things that she drops on the floor!

I don’t want to join the ranks of the frail elderly without a fight and yoga is one of the powerful puzzle pieces I’ve found to help me. – Dr. Bailey

Scientific studies support my observation on the health and anti aging benefits of yoga for our body and mind. Yoga is proven to

  • Reduce low back pain
  • Improve balance
  • Straighten spinal kyphosis (the excessive hunching over that happens to people as they age)
  • Improve muscle strength and reverses the muscle loss that happens with age
  • Improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
  • Improve menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, insomnia and mood swings
  • Decrease anxiety and depression
  • Improve control of type 2 diabetes
  • Increase flexibility

Being the good doctor that I am, I did a medical literature search on the health and anti aging benefits of yoga and this is what I found:

I started doing yoga for my back pain and I can attest to its benefits so I wasn’t surprised when I saw:

Yoga reduces back pain

  • The Harvard Women’s Health Watch recommending yoga to help people reduce back pain.
  • Scientists have also found that yoga helps straighten the hunched over back that we get as we age (called kyphosis). This is indeed an important anti aging benefit of yoga for many of us.

In my experience, this hunching over makes doing everything harder because it puts new strain and stresses on our body that we aren’t designed for, thus leading to more injury and disability. For me personally, this is one of the biggest anti aging benefits of yoga in my life!

Yoga reduces rheumatoid arthritis pain and improves balance 

Another one of the anti aging benefits of yoga is proven in a scientific study that found that yoga decreased pain, improved balance and increased functionality for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

yoga benefits for rheumatoid arthritis

Kaliji, the founder of Tri-yoga, which is what I practice, notes that she is the only member of her large family not suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis. She attributes this to her 30 plus years of yoga and her vegan diet. As a doctor, I would say that yoga certainly worth a try for anyone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, since all the treatment alternatives have significant side effects and don’t really stop this debilitating disease. 

I personally have inherited psoriatic arthritis and enthesitis from my dad’s side of the family. Enthesitis is inflammation where tendons and ligaments attach to bone near joints. The pain feels a lot like arthritis. A more recent study has shown that yoga reduces the level of inflammatory markers associated with inflammatory conditions – such as psoriatic arthritic in my case!  I know that yoga helps because when I slack off on my regular yoga practice, I stiffen up and hurt. That plow pose is really important to keep my back nimble and pain-free. 

Another small review showed that yoga can reduce pain in knee osteoarthritis. We know that  exercise helps improve arthritis and yoga may play a unique and specific role!

Yoga is a form of resistance training to help you maintain muscle fitness with age

Yoga also provides excellent total body resistance exercise training which slows the loss of muscle that we all experience as we age.

The Buck Institute for Age Research demonstrated that resistance exercise training actually reverses a good portion of age-related muscle loss, which is otherwise an inevitable consequence of aging for us all.  I’ve always done resistance fitness and my yoga class give me the most total body resistance workout of my life; both small and large muscles work against gravity moving the mass of my body weight (which is heavier than any dumbbell or the weight machine settings that I’ve ever used).  My strength continues to increase and I’m certain my yoga practice is providing good resistance training to help preserve my muscles as I age.

Yoga benefits for diabetes

The study that surprised me the most was that yoga-nidra helps control type 2 diabetes!

I would never have predicted this correlation, but in a study from India, people with type 2 diabetes had better blood glucose control when they added 30 minutes a day of yoga-nidra to their lives. Yoga-nidra is the meditative relaxation exercise done usually at the end of a yoga class.  This benefit of yoga is fascinating to me.

Yoga reduces menopause symptoms

I’m not at all surprised that menopausal symptoms are reduced by yoga, mine certainly were. This is an anti-aging benefit of yoga that is really important for we menopausal women.

anti aging health benefits of yoga

Scientific evidence suggests that a yoga practice reduces hot flashes, insomnia and the lovely mood issues we women get when we hit menopause.  It’s curious that I gravitated towards yoga during menopause and I’m glad I did (Hmmm… survival instinct, inner guidance, guardian angel or just a coincidence?). Amazing! Menopause is a challenge for speeding up the aging of our skin. I have a lot of advice for skin care after menopause!! Skin care helps but the anti aging benefits of yoga must surly help slow overall physiologic aging too. 

Facial yoga may improve facial appearance in aging women

study done at Northwestern University showed that a 30 minute facial yoga routine done daily or every other day for 20 weeks modestly improves the appearance of cheek fulness in some middle-age women! The theory is that the muscles may gain fitness that fills out the cheek. As a ‘middle-age’ dermatologist, I know that our facial fat pads fall and we lose cheek fullness with age. This leads to the sagging jowls and square lower face shape that none of us like.

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