Review of Yoga for Healthy Aging

Review of Yoga for Healthy Aging
While no one wants to die young, most of us fear losing capabilities, relationships, and ability to maintain personal interests. In addition, we fear loss of mobility, cognitive sharpness, and ability to make a difference in the world. Can yoga help us in defeating these negatives, or at least in slowing the inevitable? Authors Baxter Bell and Nina Zolotow make a strong case in their recent work Yoga for Healthy Aging. This is a book well worth reading by everyone, whether seasoned yogi/ni or complete and utter noob. Not sure where to start? Bell and Zolotow will tell you. Not sure how to continue? This is covered as well.

This hefty tome (published in an oversized format and spanning over three hundred pages) is a comprehensive guide to yoga?s role in maintaining body and mental functions over the course of a long and satisfying life. The authors have very sensibly divided the book into two sections, with discourse on yoga?s usefulness kept separate from an encyclopedia of asana. This organization means that it?s possible to read and understand how yoga helps to keep the body and mind supple without being interrupted by specific instructions for each pose.

There?s a lot written on yoga?s positive effects, but the authors of this book take the arguments farther than usual. Of course, Bell and Zolotow discuss how yoga helps maintain flexibity, balance, and a nervous system unfettered by chronic stress. In addition, however, there?s important information on how yoga influences one's agility, cardiovascular health, and mental equanimity. There?s also a chapter on yogic philosophy that looks at various concepts delineated in historic yogic texts (chiefly the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali?s Yoga Sutras). If you?ve already read both of these, you?ll still find good information here; the way it?s presented will make you think twice about ideas that you may have not yet fully internalized.

Even well-written and important books have flaws, and I do take issue with the implication that yoga by itself is enough exercise for older people. The authors argue that, as a weight-bearing exercise, yoga helps to preserve bone density. This is true, as is the their point that various poses help to strengthen the muscles used to flow in and out. In addition, the authors maintain, again correctly, that vinyasa, or flow sequences, will help with cardiovascular health. These chapters are well worth reading, but it?s also important to consider the importance of other forms of exercise, such as weight lifting and walking, to one's overall health. Yoga combined with other kinds of movement presents an unbeatable combination, and it?s surprising that the authors don?t suggest this, or discuss cross-training at all.

While there isn?t a list of further reading at the end of the book, the ?notes? section provides bibliographic information that could well serve this purpose. The authors also provide two indices, one for yoga poses referenced in the text and the other for general topics.

Disclaimer: I am not associated with either author or with Shambhala Publications. I purchased my copy with my own funds.

Bell, Baxter, and Zolotow, Yoga For Healthy Aging.Nina. Shambhala Publications, Boulder, Colorado, 2017. ISBN 978-161-180-385-3

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