Study reveals even more benefits to yoga as its huge popularity continues

Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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If you haven’t performed a Downward Dog or a Sun Salutation, then you’re in a minority – because yoga is booming in popularity as a way to exercise and de-stress.

This 5,000-year-old system of postures, breathing and meditation has many forms.

There are more than 10,000 yoga teachers in the UK, with as many as 30 million people practising yoga worldwide.

But the benefits go beyond flexibility or wellbeing, according to health and beauty writer Josephine Fairley, whose new book, Yoga For Life, aims to show the benefits of the system to those aged over 40.

‘Yoga is wonderful in so many ways,’ she says.

‘It can improve strength, flexibility and balance, it helps bone density and may boost the uptake of nutrients.

‘It may also help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol, bring down high blood pressure and stabilise blood sugar.’

A recent study reported that 21 people aged 60 or over who had rounded backs, a so-called dowager’s hump, reduced their curvatures by six per cent, increased their walking by eight per cent and improved their balance following yoga sessions once a week for 12 weeks.

But the boom in the enthusiasm for yoga, she acknowledges, has not been without controversy.

‘Great advice I always remember being given is that there are two teachers present at every class – the teacher and your own body,’ she adds.

‘In other words, listen to any twinges or anxieties your body is communicating to you and if something seems too hard for you, it probably is.’