How asana practice may help keep you young

We’ve touched on the topic of yoga and aging a few times. (Check the link for a recent comment by our resident “I started Ashtanga after 50” friend. It’s great and right to the point.) Now, we’ll add this spin: Yes, your asana practice may be keeping you young.

That’s the findings of a new study — well, if you are OK equating asana practice (note, I’m saying asana, not yoga) with exercise. Check this out from the New York Times:

Active older people resemble much younger people physiologically, according to a new study of the effects of exercise on aging. The findings suggest that many of our expectations about the inevitability of physical decline with advancing years may be incorrect and that how we age is, to a large degree, up to us.

Aging remains a surprisingly mysterious process. A wealth of past scientific research has shown that many bodily and cellular processes change in undesirable ways as we grow older. But science has not been able to establish definitively whether such changes result primarily from the passage of time — in which case they are inevitable for anyone with birthdays — or result at least in part from lifestyle, meaning that they are mutable.


The researchers compared the results of cyclists in the study against each other and also against standard benchmarks of supposedly normal aging. If a particular test’s numbers were similar among the cyclists of all ages, the researchers considered, then that measure would seem to be more dependent on activity than on age.

As it turned out, the cyclists did not show their age. On almost all measures, their physical functioning remained fairly stable across the decades and was much closer to that of young adults than of people their age. As a group, even the oldest cyclists had younger people’s levels of balance, reflexes, metabolic health and memory ability.

Plus there’s this: “All in all, the numbers suggest that aging is simply different in the active.”

So, I think, that leads to two reactions:

  1. Your asana practice is keeping you young — or, to put it another way, you are only as old as you feel. (As long as you act young, too.)
  2. You can’t be too old to starting a yoga practice, because it will lead to your getting younger. If you start at 50, by the time you’re 55, you might really be just 48!

And maybe there’s a third reaction: Keep up with the vinyasa.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

One thought on “How asana practice may help keep you young”

  1. I started Ashtanga practice at age 53, add a life altering “accident” (earthquake related) at 56 and now, at 66 I still practice daily- almost. I started with Iyengar practice at age 40, but didn’t really “take” to it because of the constant chatter and yoga-speak. The practice (Ashtanga) keeps me more flexible in mind and body than I would be otherwise. I love that it is a self-practice in more ways than just doing asana at home. I don’t find it high impact particularly as I no longer include “jump backs”. I’ve also learned to accept that change is the only constant in life and if you’re fortunate enough to live long enough you will age, get stiffer and achey from all that came before. However you needn’t get ‘old’ because that is a mindset, not a number. I’ve learned to modify both postures and yogic philosophy to meet my individual needs so as to avoid harm to myself. My practice is so much more than asana practice and I enjoy it all. BTW, my 69 year old husband also practices daily.


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