Dr. Marie A. Bernard:
I started doing yoga a little more than two years ago, when I found that my previous form of exercise was not as readily available to me. I started at a studio that provides hot yoga and thought I was going to die at the first session, and then after I got accustomed to it and realized that this is a wonderful form of exercise. It allows me to get flexibility, balance, muscle strengthening, meditation. It has an aerobic component to it if you are doing flow rapidly. It’s everything.
Typically at home, I start off with downward facing dog, which allows me to stretch all of the muscles, get my body centered. Then I go into sun salutations. That again allows stretching, you begin to move the body a little more rapidly. Then I do spinal twists -- that again gets things flowing -- and then onto backbends… eagle… triangle. So, just about every muscle group gets used.
I think that yoga has a number of health benefits, and we have research at NIH and NIA that supports the fact that there’s benefit to increasing one’s flexibility, increasing one’s balance. That’s very important in terms of helping to prevent the risk of falls as one gets older. There’s benefit in terms of strengthening muscles, also important in falls protection. I think it’s one of the best forms of exercise that’s available.
Some of the conveniences of doing exercise -- and in particular yoga -- at home are that you can do it regardless of the time of the year and the outside temperature, whether it’s too hot or too cold. You can do it with video tapes or to music, or there are even television instruction classes on yoga. You can do it with a group or you can do it all by yourself. It’s portable and when I travel I do yoga. I would say that yoga is a form of exercise that one can likely do to the end of one’s days. It’s low impact and yet has multiple benefits. So I think that’s something I would want people to think about. You need to exercise, this is something that you can continue doing regardless of your age.