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Every second of every day, all of us are ageing, and yet we often wait to address — or altogether avoid — age-related concerns about our health until we reach a certain point in our years or our capabilities begin to diminish. Having said that, it’s never too late — or too early — to follow a few rules that can help you age well.
One of the most important rules of ageing well is about physical activity and there is nothing more effective and calming as restorative yoga and Pilates. While both disciplines are different in nature, both benefit physical, mental and emotional health immensely by improving your level of physical fitness and your peace of mind. Restorative yoga promotes stress relief through relaxation and meditation, while Pilates’ breath and concentration techniques encourage body awareness and confidence.
In a world where we never slow down, it’s no wonder so many people are discovering the healing powers of yoga. Yoga originated more than 5,000 years ago in Eastern Asia and includes three main structures: exercise, breathing and meditation. Later, yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar developed the practice known as restorative yoga to let all people, regardless of age or ability, benefit from yoga principles. Joseph Pilates combined elements of yoga with athletic conditioning to create the exercise method that bears his name. Interestingly, Pilates wasn’t initially created with the idea of everyday exercise in mind. It was actually invented as a way to help dancers through injury.
As is the golden rule with being successful in any discipline of life, achieving better health too requires commitment at all levels. While both forms are physically demanding when practised at an advanced level, low-impact, beginner’s yoga and Pilates can give you a calming, refreshing workout as your body slows down.
Pilates is a type of exercise in which you perform a series of controlled movements that flow into one another with precision. As far as muscles are concerned, it’s technically considered a total body workout. It focuses on breath and movement, but emphasises on concentration rather than meditation while restorative yoga takes the relaxation element of regular practice to the next level.
Yoga helps you focus on your breathing, allowing you to enter a deep state of relaxation and giving a host of benefits. As you age, the body starts to stiffen and this is where yoga stretches benefit by improving your flexibility and keeping the body supple. Yoga also helps promote a healthier lifestyle by keeping body weight in check and improving the overall sense of wellbeing. But while yoga can be pretty slow and focuses a lot more on mobility and stretching, Pilates emphasises on building functional strength. It is a whole-body workout that encourages you to think about yourself as a person who moves and the best way to support those movements.
Restorative yoga is a supported meditation and with its increased awareness, the body, over a period of time, develops the ability to consciously surrender the layers of physical and emotional holding and by its very nature, promoting mindful living. Research looking at the therapeutic benefits of yoga recognises how restorative asanas encourage you to turn inward, listening to your senses and giving your nervous system a little downtime.
As you age, you become more self-aware. We know certain yoga ‘power poses’ help improve self-esteem, but restorative yoga also helps develop skills, including dedication, patience, compassion, skill and courage. It also nurtures your insight and spiritual growth. Restorative yoga is so powerful it can even calm your nervous system by working on your parasympathetic nervous system and reducing stress and improving your mental wellbeing. Likewise, Pilates’ strength training exercise encourages you to identify and work within the limits of your body. There’s also an inherent mindfulness to it and a lot of breathwork, which can help relieve tension and stress.
Other than the mental and spiritual benefits, yoga and Pilates manifest physically too by keeping the metabolism going and preventing lifestyle diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar and excess body fat as well as boosting the immune system. Lastly, as sleep eludes as we age, setting a routine can help you enjoy the therapeutic benefits that both the disciplines offer.
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