Real Possibilities

April 13-19, 2020

By Nan Selz
Executive Council, AARP Arkansas


Yoga is Really Good for You


Yoga probably developed around the 5th or 6th centuries BCE as part of ancient India’s ascetic movement. Traditionally, yoga was a private, personal practice that involved a sacred bond between student and teacher (guru). Henry David Thoreau was the first prominent American to embrace these concepts – posture, breathing, meditation and understanding the nature of the world and one’s place in it.


Yoga became popular in the U.S. in the 1980’s when fitness programs became all the rage. In the almost 40 years since the first yoga schools opened in America, yoga has evolved from a niche activity of devout New Agers to part of the cultural mainstream. 


Yoga’s popularity has led to growing scientific interest in yoga and meditation, and research has demonstrated that yoga has measurable physical and mental health benefits. Yoga has been shown to help fight everything from addiction and lower back pain to diabetes and aging, in addition to boosting overall well-being and providing stress relief.


Three basic elements of yoga – postures, meditation and breathing – have been found to significantly reduce blood pressure in study participants. Amy Wheeler, a professor at California State University at San Bernardino says, “Yoga has a powerful effect on stress and hypertension and can help people reduce the amount of medication they need.” 


The weight-bearing activity in yoga helps slow thinning of the bones, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis which is prevalent in postmenopausal women. Yoga can help lubricate joints, staving off debilitating disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. Yin yoga, which requires that poses be held for several minutes, may be especially beneficial for lubricating and nourishing the joints.


The slow, measured movements and strengthening postures of yoga can help you achieve better balance and prevent falls. Some postures focus specifically on improving balance and control. Yoga not only tones muscles, it also enhances your proprioception – your sense of position in space. Yoga postures that emphasize standing and balance also help build strength.


Yoga’s combination of breathing, meditation and movement creates an overall sense of well-being. Studies show yoga has a greater impact on enhancing mood and reducing anxiety than other forms of exercise because yoga boosts levels of the brain chemical GABA, which helps calm nerves.


With all the benefits enumerated above, it’s no wonder that in 2016 one in every ten Americans engaged in some form of yoga practice. 


For more information, check out the Yoga Special Report at  


  • Nan Selz
    Nan Selz