Having good balance throughout life can mean the difference between feeling confident when moving during the day or more of a feeling of less confidence and a “fear of falling” limiting a person’s activity level while increasing anxiety. This is a valid concern since one out of three adults age 65 and older fall each year creating a greater risk for nonfatal injuries, hospitalizations, mortality and reduced independence.
One way to achieve better balance is by practicing yoga. Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices originating in ancient India. It has gained popularity in the United States particularly in the last ten years and is considered one of the top ten complementary health practices used among U.S. adults.
Yoga has been found to do the following:
· Increases well-being and quality of life
· It is low impact making it easily implemented regardless of age or level of experience
· It can be modified to meet an individual’s needs
· It has a low rate of side-effects
· It has a low risk of injury
· It has no know interactions with prescription medications
· It can boost confidence and reduce anxiety
A systematic review of yoga found that yoga may have a beneficial effect on balance even though balance as an outcome was underutilized and therefore needs further investigation. Another study found yoga to demonstrate a slight decrease in fall incidence and quality of life in a residential care setting and it did support implementing yoga for individuals who are frail with physical and cognitive limitations.
Australian researchers did a review of studies looking into the effects of yoga on balance and mobility. The reviewers narrowed their search down to six trials involving about 300 people with a range of conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, knee osteoarthritis and previous stroke.
What they found was a small but significant improvement in balance in individuals participating in yoga sessions lasting for one hour once or twice a week. Three of the studies, involving 225 participants, had even bigger improvements for physical mobility.
Yoga appears to be beneficial for balance and stability by the various holding positions involved such as standing on one leg, squatting, or bending forward, back and to the side helping people to improve steadiness on their feet.
There are a various forms of yoga – including ones that focus on specific balance training exercises, strength training, and other movements – all which can improve balance and physical mobility. Individuals just starting out with yoga should find a method that is not only enjoyable but progressively challenging working on becoming more stable and balanced.