This article was originally published in Prevention.
Eight years ago, when Sharon Gothard Weisman turned 40, backaches, dark undereye circles, forgetfulness, and fatigue made her feel more like 60. In the hope of finding anti-aging relief, Weisman took a yoga class. An hour later, she felt more relaxed than she had in years. She's been doing yoga three times a week since and says, "I have more energy, strength, and flexibility than most women half my age."She recently ran into an old high school friend who asked, "Don't you get older like the rest of us?"
Many women try yoga for stress reduction, but they stick with it because it makes them feel--and look--younger, says Larry Payne, PhD, a yoga director at Loyola Marymount University and coauthor of Yoga Rx. Unlike traditional exercise, yoga blends anti-aging moves that improve circulation, balance, flexibility, and strength with meditative techniques such as deep breathing. "My students call yoga a natural face-lift," he says. "It cleanses, relaxes, and restores."
The yoga advantage
Minimizes wrinkles Yoga can reduce stress by nearly a third, reports a German study of 24 women. As a result, clenched jaws and furrowed brows relax, helping to smooth away wrinkles. Yoga may also rejuvenate skin's glow by reducing oxidative stress, which breaks down skin's elasticity. In an Indian study of 104 people, oxidative stress levels dropped by 9% after just 10 days of yoga.
Slows weight gain During a 10-year University of Washington study of 15,500 men and women over age 45, those who didn't do yoga gained up to 13.5 pounds. Those who practiced regularly lost up to 5 pounds.
Eases pain Yoga is twice as effective as stretching at relieving back pain, according to another University of Washington study that had 101 people with lower-back pain do either yoga or stretching once a week for 3 months.
Helps you sleep like a baby Levels of the brain's natural nighttime sedative, melatonin, decrease with age, but another Indian study found that when 15 men, ages 25 to 35, practiced yoga daily for 3 months, their melatonin levels increased.
Keeps you sharp Researchers at Jefferson Medical College discovered that just one yoga class helps keep the stress hormone cortisol in line. Elevated amounts may contribute to age-related memory problems.
Try our Stop-the-Clock Yoga Routine.