Ageing Gracefully with Yoga

Ageing is a natural process. The one who is born is bound to age every second. The process of ageing starts right from the conception and continues through birth and till an individual dies. In this world nothing is stable. There is a time in one's body when all the systems in the body work till their maximum capacity. These duration of peak activity is not stable for a very long time. Subsequently there comes a stage when their is decline in the functional capacity of organ and the individual as a whole. This process of ageing is sequential and gradual. Further this process may vary from person to person. With the advancement in science and medical knowledge the average life span of human beings has increased. Thus resulting in large elderly population around the globe. Thus more the ageing population more the medical facility would be required. Think about country like India where we are fighting with Malaria, Dengue and polio like diseases how we can tackle heart diseases, kidney failures, strokes and cancer. So one of the best way to deal with these situations is to understand what happens during ageing. One can understand his limitations and can repair himself accordingly.    

Nervous system- With ageing, the weight of brain decreases. As the cells of brain shrink and they are not replaced by healthy cells. Further blood flow to brain also decreases by about 20%. The reaction time is prolonged and there is loss of capacity for postural balance. This can result in frequent falls faced by the elderly. Thus power of thinking and proper understanding of a complicated matter may not be as accurate as it was earlier. Psychological changes also occurs as we age. Elderly are emotionally more fragile. They may weep and cry over little issues.

In these periods yoga can help elderly to a large extent. Continuous practice of pranayama can improve oxygenation of blood. Co-ordinated activity by practice of asanas can improve sensory-motor function of old people. Thus yoga is a very safe and helpful tool for elderly populations.
Heart and blood vessels- The process of ageing affects the heart minimally when the person is at rest, but during physical exercises the changes can be seen. Under stress, the recovery time increases markedly. Blood vessels becomes stiffer and the elasticity is lot. This results in high blood pressure in elderly. But some communities may not affected by this but the individuals in which this process is going on they are at risk of strokes and kidney damage. In few elderly pulse rate may not be regular. As with ageing number of pulse activator cells decrease and the patients may feel vertigo and may fall. Thus there could be injury by irregular rhythm of the heart.
Again yoga can help heart patients in many ways continuous practice of Anuloma-Viloma, Sheetali, Sheetkari pranayama have direct influence on heart. Stress level decreases. Cardiac output normalises. Yogic asanas like slow practice of Surya Namaskar is highly recommended in heart hypertension and in patients suffering from abnormal lipid profile.
Gastrointestinal system: Ageing affect gastro intestine system also . All parts from our oral cavity to large intestines are affected. By ageing our linings of oral cavity, stomach, intestines starts wearing down. Swallowing becomes less coordinated. Gastritis is common in old age due to variety of factors. In intestine the internal structure are damaged which results in less absorption of end products this may also results in constipation. Various vitamins and minerals are not properly absorbed and deficiency of these elements can be seen in the form of any diseases.
Regular practice of Asanas like Katichakrasana, Chakki Chalan asanas, tadasana, Trikonasana, Abdominal breathing can work wonder in elderly suffering from gastrointestinal disorders. Changing life style and food intake can also improve overall health of our gastrointestinal system.
Excretory system: With ageing mass and size of kidneys also decreases. There are lesser number of kidneys cells which are in working condition. Thus with ageing, nature of urine also changes. There is more chances of kidney and bladder infections. Various Hormones secreted by kidney are also reduced in quality and quantity which affect blood pressure, Iron absorption etc. Thus ageing kidneys have impact on heart also.
But with continuous practice of yoga this ageing of kidney can be retained. Sheetli, Sheetkari pranayams in summer season and abdominal exercise are beneficial for kidneys. Vajrasana, Padmasana look simple but have impact on blood flow of kidneys.
In the nutshell it can easily be thought that changes are not only finfined to major systems but also at hormonal, enzymatic, neuro-transmitters level. With regular practice of yoga and whole body is benefitted and an elderly can add life to his remaining years.
Dr. Gagan Thakur
Therapeutic Yoga Course
Dayanand Ayurvedic College,