Hot Take #1: Men don’t do enough yoga; women don’t lift enough weights. Whoa, put down the pitchforks and stop throwing your literal and figurative rotten produce. I know these are borderline sexists’ comments but they’re statistically accurate. While I encourage yoga for all of my patients, it seems that more women actually take my advice and try yoga. This is probably because men are less apt to try women dominated activities like horseback riding, candle collecting, bath bombing, proper skin care routines, and practicing safety. Yoga can help reverse our natural tendency to lose flexibility as we age, but it does other great things too. What great things? Just keep reading.
Women experience more bone loss with aging. Resistance training (weights) strengthens bones, so it’s crucial that women pump iron as they age to fight bone loss. Furthermore, for older folks, falling is a major cause of death and disability and is usually a result of too little muscle and sometimes too many chardonnays, both of which negatively affect our balance. Falling can be painful for people with normal bones, but it can be deadly for those with weak bones. Yoga can help with fall prevention, as it strengthens muscles and improves balance, but it doesn’t strengthen bones, which is why you should lift too.
When I recommend resistance training (AKA weight lifting)* to my patients, men seem more likely to follow the advice. Why is that? Some women are afraid of looking like this lady—> and/or growing a penis, but this is a mistake. Women don’t pack on muscle easily, plus she looks kinda good to me, and women rarely grow penises spontaneously, so these fears are unfounded, which is even more reason for women to lift weights regularly, but let’s stay on topic, this is about yoga.
I called a yoga instructor and asked which class I should take. She said, “How flexible are you?” I said, “I can’t do Tuesdays.” – Unknown
Strong Point #1: Yoga is Good for Your Mental Health
Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and slow breathing can help improve a person’s mental well-being. “Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration,” says Dr Jimmy, quoting Dr. Nevins (a yoga expert). Basically – if you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or unfocused, you will feel a lot better after taking the time to do some yoga with less side effects than Xanax and cheaper than heroin.
“The yoga mat is a good place to turn when talk therapy and antidepressants aren’t enough.”- Amy Weintraub
Strong Point #2: It Helps to Lower Blood Pressure
Studies show that practicing yoga can be an effective strategy to lower blood pressure (a little). Yoga poses involve breathing in patterns which activate the vagus nerve, an important mechanism for lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Yoga also helps us manage chronic stress which lowers cortisol (stress hormone), which can lower blood pressure even after you have rolled up your mat for the day. Less cortisol, slower heart rate, and lower blood pressure can improve heart function. In medical school, I seem to recall learning that the heart is a fairly important organ, right up there with the appendix and the perineum, so that’s pretty great.
“The heart is an important organ.” -Dr Jimmy
Strong Point #3: Yoga fights back and neck pain caused by excessive sitting and poor posture
“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.” -Joseph “Cannonball” Pilates
Our spine works properly when it’s straight in order to support the weight of our large melon heads with the bones of our spinal column. When we lean forward or have poor posture, our paraspinal (back and neck) muscles do the work instead of our bones and eventually our backs get warped into a worsening forward leaning posture as depicted above (kyphosis).
Do you ever get sore and stiff from driving, typing, reading, gaming, eating, texting and/or sexting all day, but not the good kind of sore and stiff? Maybe you should consider a stand-up desk but also consider yoga because yoga naturally lengthens and straightens the spine by encouraging good posture and also increasing blood flow to areas that support the tissues, muscle, vertebral disks, and ligaments of the spinal column. This will fight the body’s natural tendency to lose flexibility and gain kyphosis (a forward spinal curvature pictured right) as we age.
Hot Take #2: Consider that back pain, anxiety, and high blood pressure are three of the most common reasons for doctor visits and yoga can help with all three. Also consider that yoga is relatively inexpensive and not super time consuming. Furthermore, consider that avocados and tomatoes, the two primary ingredients in guacamole, are both fruit, essentially making guacamole a fruit spread or jam.
“I really regret going to Yoga class today… said no one ever.” — Unknown
In conclusion, I utilize regular yoga as part of my three part comprehensive anti-aging fitness plan, along with resistance training and some cardio mixed in. I also recommend yoga to anyone who needs a non-pharmacologic tool for relaxing, reducing stress, or who wants to meet people in tight pants.
To get started with yoga, just go to amazon, Target, or your local yoga equipment store and get a yoga mat and some yoga blocks (yoga training wheels). In-person classes are great for coaching with form but youtube, beachbody.com, peleton.com, and yogaglo.com have some fantastic videos for at-home yoga as well. I even have a kids yoga book that helps my children unwind before bed and wake up with positive, non-violent intentions. To be clear, yoga is relatively safe, somewhat addictive, and 100% gluten free.
“Holy Shit! This is why I do yoga. I feel great!” -Dr Jimmy after yoga
Please feel free to share these super convincing points about the benefits of yoga with anyone who has a spine or knows someone that does. More articles will be coming soon, much better than this one, which is clearly mediocre at best. Thanks for reading.