PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- For older adults, the focus is often on keeping our bodies fit. However, experts say mental and emotional fitness is just as important.
Priscilla Fitzpatrick has been practicing and teaching yoga for decades. She may have started yoga for exercise, but this instructor at the Haverford YMCA has learned it's wonderful for her emotional well-being.
"It allows you to release the fluctuations in your minds, you're focusing on your breath," she said.
Experts say our mind needs as much attention as our body.
"Having good health doesn't just mean you are physically well. It can mean - am I psychologically well? emotionally well? socially well? spiritually well?" said Dr. Heidi Syropoulos from Independence Blue Cross.
Dr. Syropoulos says balancing physical and mental health is especially important for seniors.
"They may have isolation and social problems, they may have financial problems," she said.
The older members of Fitzpatrick's classes say exercise helps them cope with the physical changes the years bring on and that keeps their attitudes upbeat, and relieves tension.
"You can't erase the stress in your life, but you can change how you react to it," said Vashni Nilon.
Fitzpatrick and Dr. Syropoulos agree that breathing is at the heart of yoga, but anyone can take advantage of that tool.
"If we just spend some time, just being quiet and concentrating on our breathing," said Dr. Syropoulos.
Fitzpatrick says the stress-release helped her cope with serious loss.
"I lost my husband in January, and I don't think I could be here right now without yoga," she said.
The class also provides another element essential for good mental health - social connections.
"Be with people, and be with people in different places," said Dr. Syropoulos.
Age Fearless is a sponsored partnership of Independence Blue Cross and 6abc.
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Age Fearless: Taking care of your emotional and mental health
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