Can Yoga Impact Longevity?
The roots of yoga can be traced to 1000 BCE and is a daily habit done worldwide. There are a lot of factors that determine the longevity of an individual. They include medicines or drugs targeting hallmarks of ageing i.e., exercise, nutrition, anti-oxidants, and calorie restriction. Stress, chronic pain, and various diseases have all been effectively managed through yoga. When it comes to physical health, there are numerous advantages. Practicing yoga can help you reduce stress, increase flexibility, strengthen your core muscles, and boost your endurance. Yoga offers a wide range of specific physical benefits, including enhanced strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, and endurance. To enhance your longevity and flexibility, yoga is essential for your overall health.
Building a better and more fulfilling life begins with practising yoga for your health and wellness. Yoga is an effective anti-ageing technique that helps practitioners reduce stress, increase blood flow, reduce obesity, improve sleep, and live healthier lives.
Yoga and Longevity: The Research
Yoga is an emerging health discipline that has a positive effect on both mind and body. Studies showed that Yoga affects cellular ageing and longevity in a healthy manner. The Yoga and Meditation-Based Lifestyle Intervention (YMLI) program was designed for people and includes theory and practice sessions. It included Asanas, Pranayama, and Dhayna (Tolahunase et al., 2017). Results showed an increase in telomere length, genomic stability, reduced oxidative stress, decreased inflammatory responses, and increased neuroplasticity.
For a healthy and disease-free life, genomic stability is essential, and this study indicates that YMLI reduces genomic instability, which is characterised by lower levels of 8-OH2dG. Human health has been negatively impacted by unhealthy social behaviours (smoking, binge drinking, etc.), sedentary lifestyles, exposure to environmental contaminants, and consumption of processed and nutritionally deficient foods, which can lead to the beginning of lifestyle diseases at a much earlier age. Genomic instability is caused by these lifestyle and environmental variables (Scarborough et al., 2011).
Studies show that YMLI indicates the potential for yoga in telomere metabolism and cellular longevity. Maintaining telomere length through regulation of telomere metabolism contributes to genomic stability and reduction in telomere attrition (increase in telomere length and telomerase activity levels). Telomeres are highly conserved and act as a biological clock; keeping them long is essential for cellular lifespan. Correct telomere-telomerase interaction is crucial to precisely protect telomere length and prevent telomere attrition. Telomeres length increased (Oeseburg et al., 2009).
Yoga Improves Heart Health
Due to stress, many people are suffering from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Increased levels of stress hormones cause a rise in blood pressure and heart rate which cannot be balanced by our heart. Yoga is a natural technique for stress relief as it includes deep breathing, meditation, and awareness. Studies showed that mindfulness-based stress reduction like yoga decreased the risk of people’s lives. Body weight, lipid profile, blood pressure, smoking, psychological stress, and type 2 diabetes are the factors associated with CVDs (Schmidt et al., 1997).
Stretching and strengthening of the body through yoga poses increase blood flow leading to proper circulation. Asanas such as Adho Mukha Svanasana, Viparita karani, and Uttanasana provide more oxygen to the blood cells which improves heart health. Good circulation of blood in the heart can be known by seeing the colours of fingernails or toenails. If they are pink then the circulation is normal.
Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a significant risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Blood pressure can be significantly controlled and lowered with yoga. Yoga poses that involve deep breathing exercises (pranayama), gentle stretching, and relaxation have been shown to lower blood pressure (Goyal et al., 2014). Regular yoga practice lowers blood pressure and lowers the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Improves Cardiovascular Fitness
Yoga is a traditional method and has special advantages that enhance whole cardiovascular health. Yoga poses combine strength, balance, and flexibility to strengthen various muscle groups and enhance heart health. Vinyasa and Power Yoga are examples of dynamic yoga styles that can raise heart rate and provide an effective cardiovascular workout.
Yoga Fulfills Your Oxygen Need
In our body, the lungs are the major source of oxygen. It is important to keep the lungs healthy and strong to improve oxygen levels in the body. Practising yoga every day improves lung airflow, capacity, and efficiency. There are yoga asanas that remove tension, increase energy levels, and drain mucus from the lungs leading to proper oxygen circulation.
Bhujangasana also known as the cobra stance, strengthens the central nervous system and promotes mental peace and relaxation while also enhancing brain function. It facilitates opening up the lungs and chest to allow for deeper breathing helping in better oxygen circulation.
Often referred to as the "Lotus Shoulder Stand," this yoga pose helps relieve emotional and mental tension, supports the neurological system and reproductive organs, and activates the hormone glands. It improves breathing and blood flow, aiding in the relief of dyspepsia. Upon completing this yoga pose, releasing your legs allows more fresh blood and oxygen to enter your body, benefiting your kidneys, liver, lungs, and large intestines.
This yoga pose, also known as the sitting half spinal twist, is very helpful in easing tension, stress, and breathing problems. Its ability to twist the upper body improves lung muscle function and encourages deep breathing. By doing this better oxygen circulation within the lung cavity is ensured. It also helps reduce back pain by removing vertebral rigidity.
Also known as the crocodile pose. It helps relax the shoulders and spine. It also treats knee pains, asthma symptoms, and other lung-related conditions. It is incredibly beneficial for overall body and mind relaxation. It facilitates easier breathing and enhances blood circulation which helps in proper oxygen circulation throughout the body. This yoga pose is all about completely relaxing the body, so try not to put too much strain on it.
Yoga Can Build Muscle
Yoga is famous for building muscles. It focuses on building internal and lean muscles. It also helps in developing muscle tone, fat loss and improve flexibility. As we age, the benefits of building lean muscle are important because it protects and increases bone density and strength. An increase in lean muscle mass decreases the risk of ligament and tendon damage.
Provides Core Strength
Getting older comes with improper balance and flexibility. Strengthening your internal muscles can improve your core. Core strength is necessary for everything. Asanas such as Paripurna Navasana, Utthita Vasisthasana, and Ardha Pincha Mayurasana help stretch the abdomen, support the chest cavity, and improve the strength of the core muscles.
Improves Functional Strength
Functional strength is required for performing daily activities such as squatting down, reaching for an object, and standing to sit., Yoga targets the muscles responsible for daily activities and also prevents damage to the muscles by improving flexibility, balance, and body awareness. Asanas such as Double Pawanamuktasana and Virabhadrasana strengthen the back, and front of the calf muscles, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles.
Your posture gets better the stronger and more flexible you are. Core strength is developed in most standing and sitting postures since each pose requires the use of your core muscles for support and stability. A stronger core increases the likelihood of sitting and standing "tall."
Moreover, yoga enhances bodily awareness. This makes it easier for you to detect if you're hunching over or slumping so you can correct your posture. Asanas such as Balasana, Trikonasana, and Setu Badhasana strengthen your abdominal muscles, maintain the elasticity of the spine, and create alignment and space improving posture and vitality.
Meditation is a practice that helps focus and clear your mind, improving mental health. It reduces anxiety, stress, and post-traumatic stress. It also improves the ability to concentrate, think, and solve problems.
How does it work?
Your brain contains billions of neurons, which are cells that communicate through chemical and electrical impulses. These neurons form networks across different regions of the brain, connecting one neuron to thousands of others. These networks make up the various regions and specializations of your brain. Numerous studies have shown that habitual meditators exhibit structural variations in their brains. These alterations often involve denser brain tissue or larger regions of the brain, suggesting that the neurons in those areas have stronger and more numerous connections with one another.
The affected areas of the brain typically involve the management and control of your senses (vision, hearing, etc.), your capacity for thinking and concentration, and your ability to process emotions. This implies that individuals who meditate regularly tend to have healthier brains and are less prone to displaying age-related functional decline. Additionally, they possess a greater capability to cope with and handle negative emotions such as fear, anger, and grief.
The power of meditation to lower stress is amazing. The stress response induces a series of reactions in your body that make you feel like running or fighting. This reaction is beneficial in certain situations involving great danger. But for prolonged time periods, it can lead to anxiety, and harm every area of the body physically.
Meditation has the exact opposite effect on the body as stress. It brings the body back to a state of calm, aids in self-healing, and guards against further harm from the physical side effects of stress.
Through the development of emotional awareness and regulation, meditation controls emotions. It promotes mindfulness and enables people to notice their feelings without passing judgement. Regular meditation practice can reduce overacting, increase emotional response, and provide calmness, all of which help one gain better control over their emotional reactions.
Meditation improves self-awareness by encouraging people to notice their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without passing judgement. One can experience what's wrong in them and how to improve their internal experiences, enabling them to identify and comprehend their feelings, ideas, and behavioural patterns. Increased self-awareness can eventually result in better self-understanding and personal development.
Yoga Asanas for Longevity
Yoga can help effectively manage chronic pain, chronic diseases, and stress. There are many advantages in terms of the body. It increases your flexibility, strengthens your core, increases your stamina, and lowers your stress level with yoga. The key to increasing your longevity is to practise yoga for its health advantages. Here are some asanas that increase longevity.
Also called as Chair Pose. This asana helps strengthen the spinal column, thigh, calf, and ankle and stretches the thorax region. It mainly helps in toning muscles, strengthens the core, stimulates heart functions, and relieves back pain.
Step 1- Begin with the mountain pose.
Step 2 - Breathe out while bending your knees and pushing your hips back. To support your lower back, tuck in and raise your lower abdomen.
Step 3 - Move your hips back rather than your knees forward to see your toes.
Step 4 - Breathe in and lift your arms up around your ears.
Step 5 - Continue reaching upwards as you sit down for five to ten breaths.
Step 6 - Exhale as you press your feet down to straighten your legs and lower your arms to your sides to return to Mountain Pose.
Doing Utkatasana daily increases blood flow, and flexibility and reduces the risk of joint diseases.
This asana is also known as the cobra pose. It helps in stretching and strengthening the back, spine, and abdominal muscles. It also stimulates the organs in the abdomen, improving digestion. Breathing techniques also are involved in this asana which improves lung and oxygen circulation. Maintaining physical health increases the chance of longevity.
Step 1 - Place palms under shoulders and bend elbows close to sides.
Step 2 - Look down at your mat, keeping your neck in a neutral position, and make sure your pubic bone is firmly on the ground.
Step 3 - Inhale, lift your chest off the floor, roll your shoulders back, keep low ribs down, and ensure elbows hug your sides.
Step 4 - Keep your neck neutral. Your eyes should see the floor.
Regular practice of Bhujangasana helps in preventing blood and oxygen circulatory issues, stress-related diseases, and respiratory diseases such as asthma.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
It is commonly known as the Downward-Facing Dog Pose and is popular as it helps reduce stress, promotes relaxation, and improves strength, flexibility, and balance.
Step 1-Start in a tabletop position with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips.
Step 2-Exhale, lift your hips, and straighten your legs into an inverted "V" shape.
Step 3-Press your palms firmly into the mat, spread your fingers wide and engage your core.
Step 4-Lengthen your spine, relax your neck and maintain a slight bend in your knees if necessary.
Step 5- Hold the pose, focusing on deep, even breathing and gentle stretches in your back, hamstrings, and shoulders.
Regular practice of this asana prevents musculoskeletal issues like back pain, hernia, sprains, strains, and tears of tendons and ligaments.
Yoga's Role in Overall Health
Yoga is important for good health and well-being, which includes mental, emotional, and physical aspects. Due to its many advantages, this age-old Indian practice has become well-known throughout the world.
Yoga combines stretches, postures, and motions to improve balance, strength, and flexibility. It encourages improved alignment and posture, which lowers the likelihood of musculoskeletal problems and raises general physical fitness.
Yoga incorporates mild aerobic activity into several of its forms, which can help with cardiovascular health. Frequent exercise can improve circulation, lower blood pressure, and lower the risk of heart disease.
By boosting metabolism, encouraging mindful eating, and lowering emotional eating, several yoga poses like Bhujangasana, Surya Namaskar, Dhanurasana, etc., can help with weight management.
Yoga before bed can enhance the quality of your sleep. It eases physical and mental tension, facilitating sound slumber and a comfortable night's sleep.
Certain breathing techniques like Pranayama and yoga poses like Vajrasana, and Pawanmuktasana can help improve digestion and ease digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
Asanas specific to chronic diseases
Practising yoga reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Yoga poses help you maintain general health and achieve the optimal balance between your body and mind. Some chronic diseases and specific yoga asanas related to them are given below.
It is a condition where narrowing and swelling of airways take place. In some cases, mucus is produced. It leads to breathing problems, wheezing, and shortness of breath. It cannot be cured but it can be controlled.
Asthma symptoms can be controlled by certain yoga asanas. They are:
- Sukhasana (Easy Pose): Promotes mindfulness and relaxation.
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose): Relieves tension, opens the chest, and improves lung capacity.
- Utrasana (Camel Pose): Enhances lung function and encourages deep breathing.
- Pranayama (Breathing Exercises): Control asthma symptoms and improve lung capacity.
It is a chronic condition where the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the produced insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. In type 1 diabetes the pancreas doesn't make insulin and the immune system attacks the islet cells of the pancreas responsible for the production of insulin. In Type 2 diabetes pancreas produces less insulin and the body becomes insulin-resistant.
Diabetes can be treated or reduced by some asanas. They are:
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend): Stretches the hamstrings, enhances digestion, and activates the pancreas for the production of insulin.
- Vrikshasana (Tree Pose): Helps lower blood sugar levels, and improves focus and concentration.
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose): Stimulates the production of insulin and flexibility of the front body.
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose): Strengthens the back, enhances digestion, stimulates abdominal organs, and increases insulin sensitivity.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which one can experience less sleep or not get good quality sleep. Short-term insomnia is caused by stress or changes in your habits or environment. It lasts only for a few days or weeks while chronic insomnia lasts from nights to more than 3 months. It has cognitive function and raises blood pressure levels and blood sugar levels.
Asanas that help treat insomnia:
- Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose): Improves blood circulation and induces relaxation.
- Balasana (Child's Pose): Eases mental and physical tension with a gentle forward bend.
- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose): Reduces anxiety and aids in insomnia relief.
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend): Soothes hamstrings and the spine.
- Halasana (Plow Pose): Helps lower anxiety and tension.
- Anulom Vilom Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing): Promotes nervous system balance and relaxation through alternate nostril breathing.
It is a condition where the pressure in blood vessels increases to 140/90mmHg or higher causing severe headaches, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, and abnormal heart rhythms etc., Checking your blood pressure is very important because it can become a cause of other health conditions such as kidney diseases, heart diseases, and stroke.
Asans which help reduce high blood pressure levels:
- Savasana (Corpse Pose): Eases tension and encourages relaxation.
- Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose): Promotes better blood circulation and soothes the nervous system.
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend): Eases tension and calms the nervous system.
- Easy Pose with Pranayama, or Sukhasana: Deep breathing techniques can reduce blood pressure.
- Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose): Promotes stress relief and improved blood circulation.
Arthritis is a disease that affects joints and involves inflammation of joints. This can be pains in the feet, hands, hips, knees, and lower back. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It involves the breaking of joint cartilage due to repeated stress.
Asanas that can help treat arthritis:
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose): Strengthens legs and improves posture.
- Trikonasana (Triangle Pose): Enhances hip and spine flexibility.
- Vrikshasana (Tree Pose): Boosts stability and balance.
- Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose): Strengthens arms and legs.
- Supta Matsyendrasana (Reclining Twist): Increases spinal flexibility.
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose ): Aids digestion and promotes spinal rotation.
Problems that arise during a normal menstrual cycle like cramps, heavy bleeding or not having bleeding are menstrual disorders. Menstruation occurs between puberty and menopause.
Asanas that can help with menstrual discomfort:
- Balasana (Child's Pose): Eases tension and stress.
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose): Relieves menstrual cramps by stretching the abdomen.
- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose): Calms the body by opening the pelvis.
- Ustrasana (Camel Pose): Alleviates bloating, digestive issues, and back pain.
- Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand): Balances hormones and improves blood circulation.
- Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend): Reduces discomfort and bloating.
Spinal cord disorders are caused by damage to the spinal cord. The diseases include degenerative disc disease, tumours, spinal stenosis, herniated discs, abscesses, hematomas, and vertebral fractures. These can harm the spinal cord, affecting communication between the brain and body, often requiring medical treatment.
Asanas help treat spinal cord diseases by increasing strength and flexibility are:
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose): Eases tension in the spine and strengthens it.
- The Marjariasana (Cat-Cow Pose): Increases spinal flexibility.
- Balasana (Child's Pose): Eases lower back stress.
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose): Strengthens the buttocks and lower back.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog): This pose stretches and fortifies the back.
In summary, yoga, a time-tested practice, profoundly impacts longevity and overall well-being. It holistically benefits the body, mind, and spirit, influencing cellular aging, stress reduction, and heart health. Through poses and breathing exercises, it enhances fitness, flexibility, and core strength, vital for graceful aging. Yoga also addresses chronic diseases and age-related issues naturally, promoting a healthier lifestyle. While not reversing aging, it contributes to a more youthful and vibrant life. For beginners and experienced practitioners alike, yoga offers a path to better health and a fulfilling life.
Oeseburg, H., de Boer, R. A., Van Gilst, W. H., & van der Harst, P. (2010). Telomere biology in healthy aging and disease. Pflügers Archiv-European Journal of Physiology, 459, 259-268.
Scarborough, P., Bhatnagar, P., Wickramasinghe, K. K., Allender, S., Foster, C., & Rayner, M. (2011). The economic burden of ill health due to diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and obesity in the UK: an update to 2006–07 NHS costs. Journal of public health, 33(4), 527-535.
Tolahunase, M., Sagar, R., & Dada, R. (2017). Impact of yoga and meditation on cellular aging in apparently healthy individuals: a prospective, open-label single-arm exploratory study. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017.
Schmidt, T., Wijga, A., Von Zur Mühlen, A., Brabant, G., & Wagner, T. O. (1997). Changes in cardiovascular risk factors and hormones during a comprehensive residential three month kriya yoga training and vegetarian nutrition. Acta physiologica scandinavica. Supplementum, 640, 158-162.
Goyal, R., Lata, H., Walia, L., & Narula, M. K. (2014). Effect of pranayama on rate pressure product in mild hypertensives. International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research, 4(2), 67.
1) Which yoga is best for anti-ageing?
Sarvangasana, Hastapadasana, Halasana, Bakasana, and Adho Mukha Svanasana are the yoga asanas that are best for anti-ageing. These asanas enhance skin glow, reduce blood pressure levels, help maintain weight, and benefit individuals with other age-related disorders like Alzheimer’s, etc.
2) Does Doing Yoga Make You Look Younger?
Yes, Yoga makes you look younger. Face yoga helps tone the facial muscles and improves circulation in the face. It also helps in eliminating ROS responsible for oxidative stress which breaks down skin elasticity.
3) Does yoga reverse ageing?
No, practising yoga won't stop the ageing process. It cannot stop time or undo the body's natural ageing process, but it can improve several elements of ageing, including flexibility, stress reduction, and general well-being.
4) Does yoga delay ageing?
It is not a miracle to delay ageing but can benefit various aspects of ageing. Regular practice can help maintain muscle tone, reduce stress, increase flexibility, and enhance overall well-being, promoting a healthier and more active lifestyle. It won't stop the natural ageing process, but the relaxation and stress reduction in yoga can indirectly contribute to a more youthful appearance. The extent of its anti-ageing effects varies depending on individual factors like lifestyle, health, and consistent practice.
5) Can yoga help with age-related issues like joint pain and stiffness?
Yes, Yoga helps with age-related diseases like joint pain and stiffness by
- Improving flexibility
- Improving joint mobility
- Strengthening support joints
- Managing pain and reducing stress
- Improving balance and coordination
- Enhancing mind-body connection for better alignment and reducing strain on joints.
6) What are some tips for beginners starting yoga for longevity?
Some beginner-friendly tips to start yoga are:
- Start Slowly
- Listen to your body
- Be Consistent
- Balance Flexibility
- Stay Hydrated
- Eat well-balanced die