In August 2015 I attended The Australian Yoga Therapy Conference which was organised by Enlightened Events. Various speakers covered a number of areas where yoga practice can be helpful, such as managing heart problems, increasing the immune system and mental illness in children.
The topic which was closest to my heart and body was about the benefits of yoga for older people. For this purpose I believe over 60 is when we are called an “older person”.
With ageing we experience some level of decline in vision, hearing and memory. Balance and muscle strength are often affected and anxiety and depression may increase along with sleep disorders.
So what can yoga offer us as we age?
Dr Shirley Telles, is an internationally acclaimed Yoga therapist, medical doctor and neuroscientist. She is the director of the Patanjali Research Foundation in Haridwar, India. Dr Shirley Telles presented the findings of her research into yoga and ageing (Oxford University Press will publish it sometimes in 2015).
Dr Shirley Telles’ studies have shown that:
- Yoga can increase bone mineral density (Judith et al., 2009)
- Yoga can increase muscle strength and prevent deterioration (Telles et. al., 2014)
- Yoga can reduce central obesity, associated with increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Telles et al., 2014
- Yoga can improve glycemic control and HbA(Ic) – useful to avoid and manage diabetes (Beena et al., 2013)
- Yoga can prevent deterioration of lung capacity (Manjunath et al., 2006)
- Reduce blood pressure (Chobanian et all., 2003)
- Improve cardiorespiratory efficiency (Papp et al., 2013)
- Improve primary working memory (Laveretsky et al., 2013)
- Enhance sleep (Manjunath et al., 2005)
- Induces a positive mental state (Wood, 1993)
Please note the above benefits are only achieved through regular yoga practice – over an extended period of time. It might take a few months before you notice the difference!
My students are typically over 50 and most of us have a number of pre-existing health conditions.
So how do I teach a class where there are several different “contraindications” are present?
I teach small classes (maximum 12 students) and modify the poses to suit the individual. It is not unusual that we have two or three variations happening for the same asana. Some students might need to use more props (blanket, block and maybe a chair) to gain the benefits of the poses. In my sequences I include ‘exercises’ which open the chest, keep the spine mobile and upright and we almost always practice standing poses to increase strength and balance. Whilst preparing for inversions fresh blood rushes to the brain and thus increases memory function. Of course students with high blood pressure would do modified inversions! Forward bends tend to calm the mind and slowing down the breath (especially lengthening the duration of the exhalation) reduces anxiety. I also believe in the social effect of practicing in a class environment. My aim is to teach the students poses which they can practice at home or during their travels.
For more information on my yoga background please refer to: About Mary
For timetable refer to: Classes
If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0408 29 6670.
Hope to see you on a mat near me!