A specific type of yoga can help improve stability and balance in women over age 65, which could help to prevent falls, according to a preliminary study out of Temple University’s Gait Study Center in Philadelphia.
Jinsup Song, DPM, PhD, and researchers at the School of Podiatric Medicine and the College of Health Professions examined the gait and postural stability of 24 elderly females who were enrolled in an Iyengar yoga program specifically designed for those over age 65. They found that at the end of the 9-week program, participants had a faster stride, an increased flexibility in the lower extremities, an improved single-leg stance and increased confidence in walking and balance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among people 65 years and older, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma, and nearly one-third of older adults suffer from some type of fall each year.
Song and his researchers suggested that improving balance and stability through yoga could help reduce the risk of falling, as these are two areas that are often deficient when a fall occurs.
“We were very impressed at the progress our participants made by the end of the program,” Song said. “Subjects demonstrated improved muscle strength in lower extremities, which helps with stability. There was also a pronounced difference in how pressure was distributed on the bottom of the foot, which helps to maintain balance.”
Song and study coauthor Marian Garfinkel, EdD, a certified senior Iyengar yoga instructor, consulted her mentor, renowned yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar, to craft a specific yoga program of poses tailored to the elderly who have had little to no yoga experience. The use of props in the Iyengar program allows participants to gradually master the poses while building their confidence.
“In the past, similar studies have been done that look at gait and balance improvement in elderly females using a more aggressive form of yoga,” said Song, principal investigator and director of the Gait Study Center. “For this study, we worked to create a very basic regimen that taught participants proper ways to breathe, stand and pose.”
Song noted that this preliminary information will pave the way for a larger study on how Iyengar yoga affects the function of the foot to improve balance and stability and prevent falls.