A regular yoga practice can slow or even reverse the harmful effects of aging. Two new studies suggest that doing yoga regularly can slow physical aging and the harmful impact of stress at the cellular and DNA level.
As women progress through life, our bodies go through many phases and changes: puberty, motherhood, and menopause, to name just a few. Yoga can be an incredible support system through all of these changes. It helps you surrender, find courage, obtain inner wisdom, celebrate your body, love yourself, and gain balance – among many other things.
1. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle or Butterfly Pose):
The nurturing nature of women often means that they do not take enough time to nurture themselves. Reclined Butterfly pose ensures that you do just that. Lay back, close your eyes and melt into a deep, sweet surrender and allow your hips and heart to open and renew.
This pose relieves symptoms of menstruation, intestinal/digestion conditions, heart disease, insomnia, and asthma.
Alignment tips: For those with tighter hips, place a block underneath each knee. For a deeper chest opening, place a block between the shoulder blades (long side of the block along the spine). This pose can be held from 5 breaths, or up to 5-10 minutes for Yin/Restorative. For longer holds, use a bolster beneath the torso to reduce the pressure on the hips.
2. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose):
Pigeon is a wonderful pose to open the hips and engage the sacral chakra where most of us store a great deal of emotion and stress. Folding your torso forward in Pigeon pose is an ideal variation to find deep relaxation and surrender.
Women tend to be emotional creatures, but in our busy world it can be difficult to find time to let it all go. Take time out in Pigeon to notice where you are holding tension, and breathe into those areas. Reconnect with your breath and your heart, and become aware – of your emotions, and of how you feel in this pose.
Alignment tips: Begin by planting your palms on the mat, lifting your heart, and then hinging forward, coming to rest on a block, forearms, or all the way down to the mat. If the hip of your bent leg is off the ground, you can place a blanket or block beneath it to find support and stability. The closer your front shin is parallel to the mat, the deeper the stretch.
3. Apanasana (Knees to Chest, or Energy Freeing Pose):
This gentle pose is wonderful for helping us feel connected and centered. Apanasana also helps to eliminate the body of impurities through the lungs and excretory systems. By slowly drawing the knees into the chest and giving yourself a gentle hug, you help the body let go of what it no longer needs (tension, stagnant energy, etc).
In addition to helping to relieve menstrual cramps, indigestion, and bloating, Apanasana is great for stretching the lower back.
Alignment tips: Keep your spine and tailbone lengthened and pressing down into the mat. Your hips should press firmly down into the mat. For more spinal lengthening, you can lift your head and round your forehead in towards your knees.
4. Salamba Matsyasana (Supported Fish Pose):
Our sedentary lifestyles are a growing health concern in the West. Between driving, typing at the computer, desk jobs, school, and watching TV, it is no surprise that the front side of our bodies are often tense and closed off. Matsyasana can be practiced supported or unsupported and with a number of prop variations to increase or decrease the intensity of the front body stretch.
A more open chest and front body allows us to be more open in our interactions with the world around us, making for better relationships and a more positive outlook on life. Physically, Fish pose helps counteract the hunching we do while driving or sitting, so this pose improves your posture overall.
Alignment tips: By lifting the chest with a bolster and/or blanket, you can move the intensity of the stretch up into the chest and allow for a more gentle hip stretch. Legs can either be stretched out in front of you or knees bent and the soles of the feet touching (to make this a supported Reclined Butterfly pose).
5. Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose):
This pose is great for stretching the hips and strengthening the lower body. Goddess is also good for letting go of frustrations and finding inner strength. This pose can be very challenging, especially when held for 30 seconds to a minute, or even longer.
By staying put and breathing through the discomfort, you prove to yourself that you are a goddess capable of staying calm in rapid waters. While in the pose, visualize your worries and fears leaving your body with each exhale.
Alignment tips: Bend your knees deeply so that they are directly over your toes and your body is in a squat position. Tuck your tailbone slightly while pressing your hips gently forward. Hands can come to the hips or you can cactus your arms.
6. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose):
According to ancient yoga texts, Half Lord of the Fishes pose destroys deadly diseases and awakens the cosmic Kundalini energy up and down the spine. By lengthening and twisting the entire length of the spine, this pose can help treat infertility and digestive conditions by massaging and detoxifying the lower abdominal organs.
For women who suffer from bad cramps, Half Lord of the Fishes pose can also help reduce the aches and bloated feeling that often accompany menstrual periods. This pose can also help calm the nervous system, reduce lower back pain, and increase energy. Twists detoxify, realign, and rehydrate the spinal column.
Alignment tips: Allow the back of your neck to be soft and balance your head gently over your spine. Never lead the twist with your head – instead, twist from the base of your spine. Don’t force or push the pose – instead, move with your breath – inhaling to lengthen your spine, and exhaling to twist deeper.
7. Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand):
Inversions are one way to not only reduce the symptoms of menopause but also stimulate hormone production. The inverted position of Headstand flushes and detoxifies the adrenal glands, bring fresh oxygen to the head, scalp, and face, and improve circulation – all of which can help women at various stages of life. This is why Headstand is commonly referred to as the “King of Asanas.”
Alignment tips:Instead of trying to kick your legs into Headstand, engage your core to lift your legs with control. Practice against a wall until you’re steady and confident. Once you’re in position, engage your legs and flex your feet. Note: If you have neck injuries, uncontrolled high blood pressure, ear or eye problems, or are menstruating, headstands should be avoided.
8.Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II):
Warrior II is a wonderful pose to increase and focus on your inner strength and wisdom. Root your feet into the earth and feel the energy and power rise through you from the ground up. The beauty of this pose is that you can step into it feeling worrisome and weak, and five breaths later, step out of it feeling like the brave warrior princess you are.
There is just something about the infamous Virabhadrasana II that reminds us just how strong we are – on and off the mat.
Alignment tips: Be sure to keep your back leg engaged by keeping the knee cap lifted and quadricep engaged. Keep the front knee aligned directly over your front ankle. Your arms stretch out wide and at shoulder height, directly over the hips, and keep your tailbone slightly tucked.
9. Vrksasana (Tree Pose):
It can be difficult to find balance in life. The demands of work, school, family commitments, social activities, and chores often create a hectic and stressful daily routine that can leave you feeling off kilter. The beauty of Tree pose is its ability to reign in your energy and calm it down.
Feel your mind begin to slow down and become quiet as you take a moment to reset and root down into the earth. Come into Tree pose when you need to reconnect with your body, breath, and heart.
Alignment tips: Ground down into all four corners of the standing foot. Bend the opposite knee and place the sole of that foot on the inside of the standing leg. Protect your knee joint and never rest the foot onto the knee of the standing leg. Focus your gaze on one spot. For a challenge, look skyward or close your eyes.
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose):
Women tend to be naturally nurturing individuals who often give a lot of themselves. Sometimes, too much, which can leave you feeling drained and hardened. The best thing you can do in these situations is to counter them with a soft and open heart. Cobra pose is a gentle heart opener that helps to both strengthen and improve the flexibility of the back and abdomen.
Coming into this pose when your heart feels sad and closed off can be challenging, but once there and breathing deeply and smoothly, your chest and heart will open and begin to heal.
Alignment tips: Palms should be flat with fingers spread wide, directly underneath the shoulders. Engage your core and quadricep muscles while lifting the chest forward and up. Everything below the waistline is pressing into the mat, and your elbows are slightly bent.
Why Should You Practice Yoga:
Here are some really tempting reasons as to why any woman above 60 should include yoga in her life:
1. Move and Move, But With Zero Strain:
Walking alone is not sufficient when it comes to aging healthy. You need some kind of strength training which ensures that your mobility remains tactile. According to doctors, the best way to age healthily and strongly is to adopt yoga. Your body will take it easily and you will enjoy it for sure. Yoga strengthens your body by gently coaxing it to indulge in some mild turns and twists. Since you are not using any external weights, the chances of injuries are negligible.
2. You Will Enjoy Better Flexibility:
As you age, you become stiffer and less flexible. With yoga, you can stretch a little more. The improved levels of flexibility will enable you to improve the range of your movements as you age. Keeping the spine pliable is essential to prevent you from getting bed ridden.
3. You Will Be Able To Tackle Menopausal Issues Better:
Stress, insomnia, weight gain, dry skin, irritability, osteoporosis ─ these are just a few of the issues women face during menopause. You can now keep these irritating menopausal conditions at bay with yoga. Be it hot flashes or back pain, just do the Child’s Pose. You will immediately feel the difference.
4. Your Bones Will Have An Extended Lifespan:
Brittle bones leading to osteoporosis and fractures are quite common in women who are 60-plus. Yoga can help in slowing down the pace at which you are experiencing loss of bone density. The pains and inflammations experienced will also be smoothed out. Studies suggest that women above 60 who practiced yoga for at least 2 years actually gained bone mineral density.
5. Your Mind Will Remain Sharp:
Yoga helps in improving your memory and preventing various age-related cognitive issues. Doing some mild inversion poses, such as Downward Facing Dog or Legs Up The Wall could improve the circulation of blood, keeping your mind sharp.
While you can practice yoga at home by watching videos, I would advise you to join a class that actually caters to your needs. Make sure you have accessibility to blocks and other yoga accessories, so that you can modify the poses and stretch yourself to do a bit more.
As women, we are beautiful, radiant beings with so much light and love to give. Despite the busy chaos of the outside world, never lose touch of your feminine energy and power – that nurturing, caring, and loving side of you.
All this love and nurture starts with y.o.u.! As Buddha said, “You, as much as any being in the Universe, deserve your love and affection.” Remember that as you practice these yoga poses to celebrate your femininity. Namaste, ladies!