Lifewatch: Yoga

Reported by Claire Hosmann  email
Posted by Heather Setzler  bio | email

(WECT) -- Over the past several years, yoga has experienced an upsurge in popularity in the western world.

While many associate yoga with new age mysticism or the latest fad at the gym, it's actually an ancient practice that connects the mind, body, and spirit through body poses, controlled breathing, and meditation.  Those are all critically important to aging bodies.

70-year-old Marsha Mendelsohn once lived the high pressure life of a computer industry executive.

"I was spinning around the world in nano-seconds," said Mendelsohn.  "Going to the office, finishing a meeting, going home, packing up, getting on a plane, going to London, going to Paris."

Then, 16 years ago at age 54 she started experiencing chronic back pain.

"People get stiffer with age.  I used to wake up in the morning and get out of bed and not feel so great. I jump out of bed now like I'm 19 years old.  It's all because of yoga."

Once something for the granola and sandals set, studies show it's now gone mainstream. 16-million Americans regularly practice yoga, and almost one in five is over the age of 55.

"Can it reverse every change of aging?" asked Dr. Tim McCall.  "No. Can it prevent you from ever dying? No.  Can it cure every disease? No, but can it make you feel better, live longer, live more vitally? Absolutely it can!"

Marsha Mendelsohn, now a yoga teacher, says she's proof.

"I feel today 30 years younger than I did 30 years ago."

From lowering blood pressure to increasing pain tolerance, yoga improves conditions within the body.  That's why seniors who may have once dismissed yoga as too "new-agey" are finding that the benefits are too good to pass up.

Medical researchers have tried to pin down what it is that yoga actually does to improve health, but even though it's ancient, studies by western doctors are limited.  What they do know is that yoga helps people of all ages.