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Mature woman doing yoga exercise at homeHave you ever tried yoga? There are a lot of misconceptions about this gentle form of exercise and activity. Some people think that it’s not a real workout. Others think that yoga is just a bunch of stretches. Or that it’s only for the young and flexible.

In reality, yoga is a collection of physical and mental practices that research has shown are beneficial to overall health and mental well-being. It can increase your flexibility and improve your muscle tone, which is especially important as we age. Yoga can also provide a foundation for self-discovery, relaxation, and stress management. From meditative breathing to relaxing and rejuvenating poses, yoga can help make your body stronger while also reducing anxiety. Yoga works well with meditation and mindfulness, which also have been found to increase overall health and wellbeing in people of all ages.

Studies have found that yoga may be helpful in particular for caregivers. Research shows that caregivers who regularly practice yoga enjoy lower stress levels and better physical and mental well-being. Another plus: Yoga can be practiced by almost anyone, of any age. With a wide array of styles available and modifications to nearly every pose, couch potatoes and professional athletes alike can garner the benefits touted by yoga gurus everywhere. There are gentle forms of yoga that can be enjoyed by people in their 60s, 70s and beyond. (Most yoga studios have classes for seniors.) Take a class with friends and you get double the benefits — a great form of exercise and social interaction!

The benefits of yoga are not limited to the mental realm, but are said to stretch to total body conditioning, flexibility, injury prevention, and physical well-being. In fact, a recent study suggests that yoga is as effective in reducing cholesterol levels and the risk for heart disease as traditional aerobics, cycling, or brisk walking.

Before you start any form of exercise, it’s a good idea to check in with your physician first. If they give you the green light to try yoga, put on your favorite yoga pants (even a comfy pair of sweats will do) and try some basic yoga poses, right in your own home or yard. If you like what you’re doing, try a class so that you learn proper form and how to prevent injury. You’ll be glad you did.