Breast cancer was the second highest cancer in NSW during the last five year period (prostate cancer is the first but it diagnosed later and patients die with it rather than because of it).
Pink yoga is the yoga community’s initiative for fund raising for research into breast and ovarian cancer together with providing support to woman suffering from these cancers.
As detailed in my last blog I decided to hold a pink yoga class in Randwick on 2nd of April 2016. After registering with the Cancer Council I received some promotional material, decoration and started to promote the class to my students.
My regular students from both studios either confirmed their attendance or donated.
Due to delay in advertisement on pink ribbon / cancer council website we did not get any new students.
As per my undertaking I am donating $10 per student and together with their contribution (some students were not able to attend but donated) we raised $241. Thank you very much to all!
As noted in may last blog recently I was on a Yoga / Ayurveda retreat in a small, purpose built village in the South of India.
We practiced yoga every morning and had Ayurvedic treatments every day.
The Ayurvedic Doctor, Dr Alibash Anand gave us a lecture on how to orientate towards healthy living. Here is his list.
Ideal daily routine:
Wake up between 3-6 a.m. – 48 minutes before sunrise;
Note if you have digested the dinner (drink water – does it taste water or yesterday’s dinner?);
Brushing the teeth on waking (use astringent, bitter and pungent tastes);
Water splashing of the eyes (with cold water in summer, use warm water in winter). Note the eyes represent fire – this routine aims to cool them;
Retaining of medicated oil in the mouth, gargling;
Chewing – i.e. bitter leaves;
Herbal drink (avoid tea and coffee or keep it to the minimum);
Application of medicine / KOHL to the eyes;
Nasal administration of oil / medicines (try one drop per nostril, leave it there for 5 minutes, do it in the morning or evening but not before or after meal. This is more beneficial than using neti (cleansing the nostrils with warm, salted water using a special dish, called neti pot).
Mild stretching exercises – one should use only 50% of energy;
Body massage with warm oil on head, ear, feet and body at least once a week – minimum: head, ear and feet). Start with sesame oil. Oil massage reduces skin dryness. Always use downward motion on the arms, chest and the thighs;
Bath with warm water and herbal powders – do not use hot water on head, use herbal powder instead of shampoo. Do not shower after strong exercise or a big meal;
Select a profession you like and one which is beneficial for the community;
Spend time with friends;
Have the desire for knowledge;
Go to bed by 9 p.m, do prayer before sleep, head towards East;
How should a person be?
Calm and composed;
Affectionate to guests;
Start a conversation;
Eat a healthy breakfast (suitable for your prakruti);
Pre-lunch appetizer drink and then you main meal of the day;
Relaxation followed by another herbal drink (or sip warm water);
Avoid sleeping during the day;
Yoga and/or mediation;
Mild warm herbal appetizer before Dinner followed by a light meal. Do not eat for 2 hours before going to bed;
On a personal note I am working towards this complex daily routine by exercising (yoga or walking) every day, aiming to reduce my chocolate / biscuit intake, drinking more water and will try the oil massage. I have difficulty with getting up early in the morning and tend to stay up till late night.
Small changes are more sustainable then unreasonable ‘big changes’.
Please try some of the recommendations – you will feel better!
Recently I was on a Yoga / Ayurveda retreat in a small, purpose built village in the South of India. The retreat was organized by Adore Yoga.
As you might know Yoga means yolk or unite, generally interpreted as uniting the body, mind and spirit or uniting the individual consciousness with the universal.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda (Ayur: life, Veda: knowledge/wisdom) is ancient science of life and healing. It is originated from India, 4000-2000 BC. Holistic healing, sister science to yoga.
THE LINK BETWEEN YOGA AND AYURVEDA IS PRANA OR LIFE FORCE.
Ayurveda offers knowledge of the senses, mind, emotions, body and our relationships with others, with our environment and with ourselves.
There are five elements (air, space, fire, water and earth) and three Doshas or energies in the body, Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth).
Our individual constitution is called prakruti and it is decided at conception. Your prakruti will determine how things will affect you, how you react.
An Ayurvedic specialist will assess our dosha by observing our body (built, eyes, hair, skin and nails), speech, gate, tongue and he/she will ask about digestion, elimination and sleep pattern. Based on these he/she will specify our prakruti. Each dosha has its positives and negatives properties, we need them all and in the body they work together (i.e. digestion).
Most people have a dominant dosha and sometimes one of the three is out of balance.
Knowing and understanding our doshas is important for selecting suitable foods, species, herbs and lifestyle. Generally we get along better with another person whose prakruti is different from ours (imagine two cooks in a kitchen!).
Back to the retreat – we started the day with an early morning yoga class
which was followed by a healthy breakfast, including all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent and bitter).
In Ayurveda they teach against overeating and it is recommended to fill the stomach with food up to half way, ¼ is used for liquids and ¼ of the stomach is left empty to allow for digestion. Indians eat sitting on the floor in easy crossed legged position. This pose helps to as one burps at half-mark.
Despite eating big meals after a few days we all felt lighter as the toxins were leaving our body.
The table below has some information on the Doshas.
Air & Space
Fire & water
Earth and water
If Dosha is
Good communicator /
Efficient at alloc energy,
Fire of metabolism
Intense, focused, detailed
Cohesial / stagnant
If out of balance
Irritable and critical
Congestion in the body, weight gain
To balance this dosha needs
Nourishing and grounding/ routine
Take regular breaks
Calming foods (warm) and calming yoga poses
Stimulating food (light foods/salads) and more vigorous yoga
This dosha is dominant in
People over 50
Between the ages of
If you are interested in reading more about Ayurveda ‘The science of Self-Healing’ by Dr Vasant Lad is a good book.
We live in a Vata society, high rise buildings, air conditioning, fast pace – so ideally we all should chill out / relax more.
My Ayurvedic treatment included warm oil massage and massage with warm herbal pouches – as prescribed by the Doctor.
As we age we are getting dryer both outside and inside. Self massage with warm oil (which is suitable for our constitution) once a week is an effective way to keep ourselves young.
There are a number of qualified and experienced Ayurvedic specialist in Sydney.
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
A few years ago a marketing guru suggested to us (yoga teachers) that we should identify our “ideal student” and instead of trying to please everybody we need to concentrate on servicing these “ideal” people.
For me it has been the “over 50’s”, the baby-boomers. Party because I belong to this group and partly because my lower back problem excludes me from doing and demonstrating the fancier poses.
Due to the “over 50” label when I get an enquiry about my classes most people start with telling me their age. I reassure them that I won’t ask for their birth certificate and during my 26 years of practicing yoga I have learnt how to modify the poses to suit the individual.
The question I am aiming to answer is “how is yoga over 50 is different (from other yoga)?”
Our classes are gentle in comparison to the dynamic ashtanga / power or yang yoga practices. Gentle means that we might go a bit slower (have a rest anytime you need to). When it comes to inverted poses we do the preparation for headstand and shoulder stand instead of the full version. Due to the higher number of medical conditions in the class we might have more than two variations for a pose – so every student can practice safely on their own level.
In my view our attention to detail exceeds what I have seen in big “general” classes. If we go into balancing standing poses with grace (i.e. hands on the wall until we feel secure standing on one leg) we stand straighter than a lot of people half of our age!
For an ageing / stiffer body it takes a bit longer to warm up so we start by warming up all of our joints (neck, shoulders, fingers, hips, knees, ankles and toes). With the colder weather we experience cramps more often than in summer and more often than the younger generations. This could indicate that we might not stretch enough or we have magnesium deficiency.
In my class we use a lot of props (blocks, belts, bolsters, blankets and chairs) which reflects more my Iyengar style practice than the age of the students.
Most of us have passed the “working long hours and exhausted all the time” stage in our lives and no one falls asleep (no one snores) during Savasana at the end of the class. We enjoy our tranquillity!
As in any class – some over 50’s prefer open windows / fans whilst others feel the cold – my aim to please most people. There are excellent breathing techniques to cool off hot flushes.
There is more and more medical research and evidence into the health benefits of yoga, including how it slows down the ageing.
Apart from the stretching and strengthening exercises yoga requires and improves concentration, stamina, reduces stress and some students appreciate the social aspect of practising together with likeminded people. There is no difference whether you are young or over 50!
I believe if a yoga class is marked for over 50’s, seniors or golden yogis – it is suitable for anybody who wants to practice in a small class with a senior teacher who most likely has seen a lot on the mat and off the mat.
People of all ages and with various pre-existing conditions(or recovering from injury or operation) would benefit from attending these classes. Students who new to yoga could learn the basics before joining in faster paced classes. Once you know how to do a pose safely you can prevent injuries.
I would almost promote the over 50’s classes as a type of therapy class!
I was a happy participant in Byron Yoga Centre’s 8 day ‘New Year Renew and Revive’ retreat.
John Ogilvie founded the yoga centre in 1988. His aim was to create a sanctuary (ashram in Sanskrit) for people to come where they can connect their body, mind and spirit – in a supportive, non-judgemental environment. John’s vision is to increase the number of yogis who practice all aspects of yoga and thus making the world a better place.
The schedule for the retreat was full with yoga/mediation classes, informative talks, massages and treatments. Most days we had three yoga classes to choose from, different styles, luckily one was restorative. You could do as much or as little as you wished. We even had an impromptu aqua yoga class in the 30m heated pool. In the water we stretched our hamstrings, twisted our torso and supported each other in the Tree pose (not all of it at the same time though…).
The food at Byron Yoga Centre is Sattvic which aims to calm and purify the mind. It is delicious vegetarian with vegan and gluten free are available. Some of the vegetables are grown organically on site, instead of carbon print it takes a few footprints to get the vegies to the kitchen.
One of the highlights was the New Year’s Eve fire ceremony. A couple of days prior to it we were asked to think and write down the issues we want to let go off, baggage we don’t want to take to 2015. Once the fire was burning we released our issues by throwing the papers into the flames. Some papers stubbornly stayed outside of the reach of the fire, we had to push them in, we were all eager to let go. It was a very moving ceremony under the Australian summer stairs.
On New Year’s day we were asked to set our intentions (sankalpa in Sanskrit) for the year ahead. We visualised our ‘new’ life, what we need to change to achieve it, what are the obstacles.
I have been home from the retreat for day and a half now and cooking healthy meals and not munching between meals are presenting a problem. Who is preparing my customary 10.00 o clock fresh juice? One of the issues from last year is still pocking its head up – no one said it would be easy to let go!
I suggest you do a stocktake for 2014. Be grateful for what was good and have gratitude towards the people who helped you along the way. Make a list of the issues you do not want to carry further and have your own little burning ceremony with a candle, make sure it is safe!
Once you let go set your intentions for the year ahead. Apply some discipline to make the changes happen. Be flexible and alter your plans if required. Sometimes we over analyse things instead of listening to our gut feeling (speaking about myself now).
The Tree pose has a number of benefits and it is a slightly neglected asana.
There is a lot of grace in the pose.
Standing on one leg helps to improve balance, strengthens the ankles, legs and the muscles which stabilize the hips.
Being in this pose gives a good indication of ones mental state on the day. Of course trees move / sway a bit and as there are many types of trees – so we all do a slightly different version of the tree pose.
To avoid injury in Iyengar style yoga we pay a lot of attention to safely going in and out of the poses (and graciously possible).
For beginners I recommend practicing the pose against a wall or preferable in a corner as per the photo below (the photo was taken in the Bungle Bungles National Park hence the shoes).
Tree Pose with wall
Stand tall in Tadasana (mountain pose), with your back against the wall, big toe bases touching, heels are either together or slightly apart, feel that you have equal weight in both feet, raise your toes, extend the toes and place them back onto the floor;
Quietly transfer the weight to the left leg, without pushing the left hip out ;
Bend the right knee so the right heel lifts off the floor, come up on your toes;
Turn the right knee out (work from your right hip);
Slowly bring the right foot up (help with your right hand) and allow the right knee to rest on the wall in front of you. Variations are: if you do not feel stable keep your toes on the floor, if you are more confident bring the right foot either to the inside of your left calf or higher up to the inner thigh. Be careful – do not push on your left knee, have the foot either below or above the left knee;
Keep the standing leg strong, pull up the knee cap and the quadriceps and work the inner leg. If you do not work your inner leg the right foot will slide off – so we cannot really blame the fabric of our pants!
Keep your chest, hips and face in one direction (i.e forward);
Keep your chin parallel to the floor, throat soft, look with soft gaze in front of you – eye level or slightly above
Bring your hands in together in front of you in Namaste or more experienced yogis bring your hands above your head, resting the heels of the hands on the crown of your head;
Stay in the pose for a minute on so (on each side);
Coming out of the pose: release the arms and slowly release the right leg back to the floor;
Find your balance by standing in Tadasana for to-three cycles of your breath;
Turn around and REPEAT on the other side.
Once you mastered the Tree pose against the wall try it free standing, facing the wall. Stand close enough to wall so your fingertips can touch it. Only take your hands off the wall if your balance is good on the day.
I recommend to practice this pose regularly (daily).
Keeping the balance over 50 is an essential part of ageing gracefully!