Anti-aging yoga secrets
It's no secret that stress is a big contributor to the wrinkle count. Genetics, sunlight exposure (we get a far bit of that here in the Cayman Islands), smoking, and — yes — stress can harm the proteins in skin tissue and cause wrinkles. High amounts of cortisol — the stress hormone — can break down the skin's collagen and elastin and, you guessed it, form wrinkles. The answer? 'Use it, or lose it.'
We've all been there. Glued to our computer, hunched over the keyboard, unable to break our eyes away from the screen. The pressure from never-ending tasks to complete with unreasonable deadlines keeps building, and you're unaware you've been sitting still for over eight hours without moving. You feel tired, stiff, and unconsciously aware that you've eaten two chocolate cupcakes and are now on your fifth cup of coffee. Even the thought of standing up is countless minutes being wasted. Or are they?
Taking a break from your desk to go for a walk outside, take your shoes off, and feel the grass under your feet could make up for the endless hours you've been staring at the same document blankly, as you reach into the inner fathoms of your brain to complete a task that would normally take you 30 minutes.
Start with these four key points: movement, breathing, balance and body awareness to help lower stress.
Yoga creates movement and improves blood circulation for that ultimate glowing skin, and with movement, comes flexibility. With flexibility comes a chance to ease and potentially prevent aches, pains and stiffness within our bodies. Getting out of a chair or bending to pick something up don't have to be painful experiences. Through asanas we create space in our bodies, especially between the vertebrae in our spines, to improve nerve conduction to all organs so everything flows and works better. And when we feel good we get a renewed sense of energy. It's like tapping into an unlimited energy source!
Breath awareness in yoga increases lung capacity, and provides more oxygen to all of the cells in our body. As we learn to breath properly, we help our digestive system and blood pressure, feel energised and alert, and function more effectively and efficiently. The same applies when we become more aware of our bodies. Our posture improves and we tend to notice if something doesn't feel right, and have the ability to correct it before damage is caused. The same applies to diet and being aware of what we consume.
Agility is key as we get older and building balance in both our body and mind helps coordination, concentration and stress levels (especially when things are out of our control).
In light of the above, here are my top seven yoga techniques that will give any anti-aging cream a run for its money.
Lion Pose: Kneel on the floor without slouching, placing your hands on top of your knees. Widen your palms and press them firmly against your knees. Splay your fingers like the claws of a lion. Inhale deeply through your nose. Lower your jaw and open your mouth as wide as possible. Stretch your tongue out and curl its tip down toward your chin. Open your eyes wide, looking upward. Focus your eyes in between your eyebrows, or on the tip of your nose. Contract the muscles at the front of your throat. Activate your hands, splaying your fingers further out. Now, hold this position and exhale slowly through your mouth. Feel the air pass over the back of the throat as well as the contraction of your throat and neck muscles. You should make a distinct “haaaaa” sound as you exhale. Don’t forget to give your best lion roar!
This pose will help to reduce tension in the face, enhance the functioning of a sluggish thyroid gland, stimulate and tone the platysma (a flat thin muscle in front of the throat), and activate facial muscles to reduce wrinkles.
Neck stretching: Hopefully your yoga teacher adds in a couple of great neck stretches during class. Using your neck muscles will build strength, and tone and reduce age-related stiffness for comfortable neck and shoulder movements.
Standing Forward Fold: This pose is commonly used in Sun Salutations and helps to prevent inflexibility of the spine, while energising the nervous system.
Warrior II: A no brainer for arm strengthening and toning.
Downward Facing Dog: Another yogi favourite, this pose improves circulation and digestion, tones both arms and legs, and decreases anxiety.
Supine Twist: There are lots of variations, and each one will provide you with copious amounts of energy as you stimulate the nervous system that runs along the spine. Twists also tone the abdominal muscles and improve posture as you encourage the opening of the chest and shoulders. Add in a neck stretch at the same time, and you've got a winning combination.
Bridge Pose: Give your back muscles the opportunity to strengthen that they deserve. Strong back muscles help to support the spine, improve your posture and prevent lower back aches and pains.
Did you know that in yoga philosophy, a person's age is determined by the flexibility of their spine, not by the number of years they have lived? I will leave you with that to ponder.
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Can yoga tone my body?