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Love your feet and toes!

Interlace

As long as we are healthy, we take it for granted that our body functions as it should do.

When was the last time that you thanked your feet for carrying you to your destination – day after day, year after year?

I used to bush-walk and we often talked about boots, orthotics, dome under the ball of the foot, corns and bunions.  No-one of these topics are sexy but as we age the shape of the feet change and we cannot ignore this.

With the arrival of spring it is the right time to exercise our toes which were in closed in shoes for months!

Let’s start with easiest form of exercise: walking barefoot.

Walk 1

You can do it on the beach or walk on the grass. Both are emotionally grounding activities and allow the small muscles in your feet to stretch and strengthen and joints to move.

Be mindful when you walk barefoot.  Notice how you roll onto the ball of the foot and then you push away from the ground.  Progressively increase the time you walk, do not overdo it as you might end up with sore feet.  The sand will dry your feet so use a moisturiser after walking!

I practice the following to exercises in sitting.

Blanket folded in 3

Use a blanket or big towel and fold it (see above) to sit on it.  Sit towards the rounded edge so your hips roll a bit forward, the spine is upright.  Keep your feet hip width apart.

Toes relaxed

Observe your feet in a relaxed state. Notice the difference between right foot and the left!

Toes stretched

Flex your toes towards you.  Feel that you stretch the back of the legs.  If you are an experienced yogi, pull up your knee caps and quadriceps – just as if you were standing on your feet.  Move your toes away from you.  Repeat this cycle 5 times – 2 or 3 times a day.

Toes spreading

Spread your toes.  Observe if there is an asymmetry between the right and left foot.  If you have a bunion like me the joint stiffens and the gap between the big toe and second toe decreases.

Toes fist

Make a fist with your toes.  Repeat this cycle 5 times – 2 or 3 times a day.

Work the sole of the foof

Bend the legs and bring the soles of the feet together.  Align your heels.  This is the cobblers’ pose (or badhakonasana).  Now move your toes away from each other.

Interlace

Visualise interlacing your fingers.  Now try to interlace your toes, starting with the little toes.  Try the other side.

You can do these poses with your hands too.  They will help with the management of arthritis, will keep to keep the joints more mobile.

Once you finished the sitting poses come up to standing and get a tissue.

crunching.jpg

Place it on the ground with one corner facing one foot (hard surface is better than soft).  The aim is to scrunch the issue until it disappears under your toes!  Try with the other foot with a new tissue!

I believe some yoga can be done anywhere not just in a studio and you do not need the latest leotard!  Yoga is for any shape or size and any age!

Oh – and try a new colour of nail polish – maybe to match or contrast your yoga mat 😊!

Enjoy your yoga!

 

Yoga for Cramps

Tree pose in the woods

Yoga can be practiced anywhere

Do you know the feeling of toes rigidly curling up and would not release or the calf muscle pains and you have to jump out of bed, walk a bit before returning to bed?

My students (just like me) are over the age of 50. In class sometimes students get a cramp, generally in the foot (toes) or legs (calves).

Cramp is a painful, involuntary contracting (shortening) of part or all of a muscle, or several muscles in a group.

Cramps of the extremities, especially the legs and feet, and most particularly the calf, are extremely common. Other common areas for muscle cramps include: back and front of the thigh, hands, arms, abdomen, and rib cage muscles.

The actual cause cramps in the legs and feet is not known, but it may be caused by conditions or activities such as overuse of muscles, dehydration, nerve compression, mineral deficiency and cold weather.

Foot cramps are more common in older adults and sometimes they happen at night. Nerves and muscles can wear out as aging occurs, causing cramping. Stretching, staying active, and eating a nutritious diet can help older adults prevent leg cramps.
People of any age who lead a sedentary lifestyle are also at higher risk for leg and foot cramps.

I would like to share my favourite poses which – if practiced regularly will significantly reduce cramps and will strengthen your ankles as well. These poses (as yoga in general) can be practiced almost anywhere. The photos were taken on a recent trip to the Wollomombi area of North/West New South Wales.

Raising both heels:

Ankle ~ standing on toes

Start with standing tall in the mountain pose. Keep the spine erect, chin parallel to the ground. Roll the shoulders back, bring the shoulder blades in and left the chest.

If you can keep your ankles together and come up on your toes. Release and bring the heels back to the ground. This is one cycle. Repeat fifteen times. It is recommended to do three sets in a day.  This pose will strengthen the ankles and the muscles in the sole of your feet and in the toes.

Releasing one heel:

Release one heel

Come up on your toes (as in previous pose) and release one heel to the ground. Raise the heel so now both heels are off the ground. Release the other heel then raise it. This is one cycle. Repeat it ten times, several times a day.

Stretching the calves:

Calf stretch~one leg straight

Part one:
Place the toes of one foot against the wall or a solid structure. Have your hands on the wall or a solid structure. Keep the front leg bent, shin vertical. Step back with the other leg to a distance where the ankle is on the ground. Do not bring the foot across our midline, try to keep the foot in line with the hip. Feel the stretch in calf. Keep your back straight (take in your spinal processors), chest open and shoulder are wide. Hold it for say 10 cycles of your breath, i.e. one inhalation and one exhalation are one cycle.

Calf and ankle stretch

Part two:
Keep the front leg as it and step forward with the other leg. This will bend both of your ankle. Stay in the pose for 10 cycles of your breath. This variation will also strengthen your ankles, good for bushwalkers going down the hill.
Repeat on the other side (i.e. have the other foot at front).

I hope regular practice of these poses will help you to manage the cramps.

Mary

Yoga for seniors / ageing well

Growing old photo

Recently attended a two-day workshop (run by Elizabeth Williams) on how to teach yoga to seniors.  In this context senior is someone over the age of 65. She is a senior person herself, a nurse, trainer of nurses and a yoga teacher.

Elizabeth thinks age care is medicalised, it is not possible to get a pill for every ache and pain.  If one takes more than three types of medication it effects the kidney, the side effects sometimes as bad as the condition they aim to help.

Some statistics:

  • The way we age is made up as follows: 40% genetic and 60% lifestyle and attitude;
  • 80% of over 60’s have one pre-existing condition;
  • 50% of over 60’s have two pre-existing conditions;

People between the ages of 55-65 (the baby boomers) are aware of the importance of an active life style.  It is not the case for over 65’s.

There are many physical and cognitive changes as we travel on our journey towards old age.

 The key messages for ageing well are:

  • Healthy attitude, accept it as we won’t get out of it;
  • Healthy diet (high in fibre, retain protein intake, reduce carbohydrates);
  • Exercise daily – weight bearing. This will delay the onset of illnesses, it extends independence.  Walking is a good form of exercise;
  • Drink lots of water (tea and coffee in moderation – water is better);

Yoga is the ideal practice for ageing as it is an umbrella for life. 

The word yoga is a Sanskrit word, it means to yolk or unite the body, breath and mind.  The journey of the yogi is through the eight limbs of yoga which was first written down over 2,000 years ago.  Through regular practice of poses, various breathing techniques and meditation the yogi aims to progress towards inner peace (some call it bliss state).

If you decide to join a yoga or exercise class inform the teacher about your pre-existing conditions, recent operations – if you had any.  Seek out yoga classes which are advertised for seniors, therapy, small classes or relaxation.

 Most common changes in the body and mind as we age:

  • Fear of movement due to pain / or fear of fall;
  • Digestive system is compromised by medication, the older person might get malnourished;
  • Vertebras fuse together or canal narrows;
  • Muscle fibre reduces, muscle loss, loss of strength;
  • Walking with toes turned out (inner leg muscles shorten);
  • Reaction time slows down, when have to go the toilet it is in the last minute. Most of the falls happen in the bathroom;
  • Body parts might be replaced (knees, hip, shoulder) – for recovery follow the information sheet given by the surgeon after operation;
  • Feel the cold more – especially in hands and feet,
  • Eyes: fat behind the eyes reduces, loss of peripheral vision, torso leans forward. Do not do full inversions after any eye operation (half uttanasana is helpful, legs up the wall is OK to do)
  • Blood pressure increases – do not do full inversions;
  • Hearing loss (high frequency goes first);
  • Dehydration: as we age we do not get the ‘thirst’ sign, we get dehydrated, might faint to due this;
  • Sleep deprivation increases heart problems by 50%. We need sleep for homeostasis (the ability to maintain a state of internal balance and physical wellbeing in spite of changes or outside factors, such as body temperature.
  • Brain reduces in size (regardless of the number of crosswords one does 😊). Any concussion to the head can cause bruising against the skull, blood slowly sweeps.  The effect of a fall might not be obvious for days;
  • Dementia is an umbrella term; Alzheimer is the most common form. The number of nerve cells disappear and the pathways reduce.  Word finding (on tip of the tongue) is usual part of ageing;
  • Accept that an older person cannot be 100% safe;
  • Moving to aged care brings on depression – even if the person was willing to move in. Depression starts the domino effect of not eating well, not exercising and not sleeping well.

Self-help:

  • Do daily weight bearing exercises (like walking);
  • Stand on one leg (i.e. while waiting for the kettle to boil);
  • Keep your legs strong, practice sitting up from a chair (with feet hip width apart) – 10 times – 3 times a day;
  • Do a fall prevention course (it will teach you how to get up from the floor – in case you have a fall). Practice getting up from the floor before you really need to do it (come to rest on your knees, use arms to hang onto a stable furniture to come up);
  • Exercise your eyes (follow one hand from upright to down – diagonally, bring index finger to nose tip).
  • Exercise your jaw & teeth (eat apples, maybe cut into smaller pieces);
  • Exercise your tongue (stick it out, roll it around the top of your pallet);
  • If you are taking pain killers take them at least two hours before yoga class. You do not want to be totally pain free as you need feel the effects of the poses and how your body feels;
  • Skin care: discard commercial bath wash. Use natural oils for moisturising (olive oil, almond oil or Jojoba oil which I recently started to use and really like it).  Use dry brush before shower; start from the extremities towards the heart.  Let the brush dry under the sun and wash it once week without soap;
  • Eat with proper posture – i.e. eat sitting up – do not eat in bed;
  • If you have any pain get it investigated – but be aware that all painkillers have side-effects. If you accept some pain you can cope with it better;
  • If you use socks in bed make sure they are sticky on the sole to avoid slipping when getting or in the bathroom;
  • Keep your core warm otherwise blood stays there (not circulating enough);
  • Reduce in stress and anxiety. It helps with pain management;
  • Sleep well (deeply); – see previous blog
  • Try to learn new skills;
  • Keep socially active;

If you are interested in my class please contact me: Mary

tranquability@gmail.com

or 0408 296 670

 

yoga mat

 

 

WHAT I HAVE LEARNT FROM MY SHOULDER INJURY?

1 Marc 2019 (AEST)

I have been practicing yoga for almost 30 years, teaching for 8 years and in October 2018 I had my first yoga accident.  Some of you might think nothing to be proud of, it is bad for business to write about it – BUT – I LEARNT VALUABLE LESSONS which I would like to share.

Half handstand

Doing Half handstand – long time ago

Half hand stand was always a pose I could do with confidence – until – one Saturday whilst I was teaching and demonstrating I lost my balance and fall onto my left shoulder, causing a swollen tendon and nerve impingement.

Brief background to the accident

I got bad news on the Wednesday of that week and was still working through the issues on Saturday.  I was determined to teach the best class I could because I am a professional :)!

On this Saturday the strap around my elbows was a bit tight, I was not quite comfortable in the spot I was demonstrating.  An inner voice was saying ‘do not lift your right leg off the wall’ but I did and fall onto my left shoulder.  I jumped up quickly, felt some pain but I knew no bone was broken.  I finished teaching the last 20 minutes of the class.  My students were concerned, they recommended cream to buy and helped to put on an ice pack.

The rehabilitation

I visited my trusted physiotherapist as soon as I could (Vicki from http://www.myspineandbodyphysio.com/) and started on the exercise routine she prescribed.  It was to remove my fear of movement, to mobilise the joint and to strengthen the muscles in the shoulder.  I am still doing these exercises daily.

The mobility quickly returned but the movements are still not smooth.  It was recommended to modify my yoga practice.  At the beginning restorative yoga replaced general practice.  By Christmas I tried inversions like shoulder stand and it felt good.  I also did THE half handstand without raising a leg.  My confidence has suffered!

 What does yoga philosophy teach us?

Yoga is more than the poses what Westerners mostly focus on.  It is a whole way of life.  The philosophy was written down in Sanskrit by Patanjali more than 2,000 years ago.  He defined the eight limbs or stages of the yogic journey in the Yoga Sutras (chapter II.29) and they are the following:

  1. Yama – ethical disciplines – living in harmony with others;
  2. Niyama – rules of conduct – living in harmony with yourself;
  3. Asana – postures for mind-body connection;
  4. Pranayama – breath control;
  5. Pratyhara – withdrawal of the senses;
  6. Dharana – concentrating on a single point;
  7. Dhyana – mediation, uninterrupted flow of concentration;
  8. Samadhi – pure bliss, fully conscious and alert – no ‘I’ and ‘mine’ exist

Quoting BKS Iyengar ‘When the eight disciplines are followed with dedication and devotion, they help the student to become physically, mentally and emotionally stable so that she/he can maintain equanimity in all circumstances’.

In every yoga conference, workshop or course I have attended we were told to practice and teach all eight limbs of yoga.

 Where did I go wrong?

The first stage (Yama) the ethical disciplines (amongst other things) include non-violence or non-injury in general.  It of course includes no self harm.  On the day I did not follow this.  If we are not gentle with ourselves how can we be gentle with others?

As they show on the airline safety demonstrations: first put the oxygen mask on yourself then onto others who need help.

The second stage (Nijama) includes study one’s own self.  I might have studied myself but I ignored the findings on the day.

 My advice for safe yoga practice

  • Listen to your body. You know your body better than any teacher, you know what sort of day you had prior to coming to class;
  • Accept where you are on a given day. We bring a different body every time we step on the mat;
  • If a pose gives you sharp pain or you are not comfortable in it come out of that pose;
  • If you have an accident seek professional help as soon as possible. Depending on the advice you receive – either rest for a while or start the rehabilitation process and work on it diligently.  As they say ‘you are worth it’;
  • Accept that in our age healing takes longer.

Enjoy your yoga practice!

 

Mary

yoga mat

Yoga for different life stages

tree-pose-w-amanda-and-daughtersgood

Three generations of yogis – Amanda Fuzes, her daughters and me.

 

 

 

At the recommendation of Amanda Fuzes I was interviewed for ‘Inform’ magazine a few weeks ago for an article on yoga for different ages where I represented the ‘over 50’s.

Amanda is the owner/director of two yoga studios http://pranaspace.com.au/ and http://flyingyogis.net.au/. The latter is the kids’ studio where they have classes for ‘bendytots’ (from 18 months) to age 18. Amanda was talking about the benefits of yoga for children and adults.

In my interview with the journalist (Emma Brown) initially the conversation was around her questions. Later I demonstrated Trikonasana (the triangle pose) with my back to the wall – using a chair to rest my hand and in another variation on a block. The aim was to show how easy it is to modify a pose to suit.

Here is a shortened version of the questions and my answers.

How is yoga practiced if you’re a senior?

  • With more props;
  • At a slower pace;
  • Inform your teacher of your pre-existing conditions before the class starts;
  • If you experience sharp pain whilst in a pose come out of it under control. The teacher will offer you an alternative pose;
  • For more details refer read here – How is “yoga over 50” different?

 

Advice on how to start if you’re a beginner? – Which style to start with?

  • Find the right class and teacher (style, time of class, location, the vibe in the class – it has to fit in with your life otherwise you will not stick with it. Seek out qualified an experienced teachers. The class should be labelled either for ‘seniors’, ‘restorative’ or ‘beginners’;
  • Aim to practice regularly, maybe two classes per week, preferable not on consecutive days;
  • You can start yoga at any age – or come back to it at any age;

What are the benefits?

  • Regular yoga practice has the following benefits: Slows down the ageing, better posture, self-awareness, increased confidence, strength and balance.
  • It helps to cope with life’s ups and down’s better.
  • Community.
  • Skills learnt on the mat are transferable to life off the mat.
  • For more information read Benefits of yoga for older people

Which style to start with and when are you ready to try other styles?

  • Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced yoga in Australia. ‘Ha’ is for hot in Sanskrit and ‘Tha’ is cold. Hatha yoga aims to balance the body, hot/cold, masculine/feminine and the left and right side of the body. Iyengar yoga (this is the style I have been practicing for 27 years) is specialist type of Hatha yoga where lots of props are used to assist the student
  • There are two ways to experiment with different styles: either at the beginning to find the suitable class for you or once you learnt how to do the poses safely then venture out and try other styles.

What is the philosophy of yoga?

  • If you are interested in the philosophy get your hands on a copy of ‘Light on the Yoga sutras of Patanjali’ by BKS Iyengar. Patanjali’s yoga sutras is the bible of yoga.
  • Patanjali categorised the 8 limbs (or stages) of yoga which represent the journey of the student from beginner to advanced level (enlightenment). The first two of these stages are conduct with others and self-discipline. The asana practice and breath control are the ones which are mostly practiced in classes. The last three stages are: one pointed attention, meditation and “bliss”.
  •  The way we practice today (in a class environment, sometimes with music and candles) is very different from how it was practiced 4000 years ago in the Himalayas. Those days it was Indian men who were taught by their guru in a ‘one on one’ situation.
trikonasana-3-generationsgood

Trikonasana ~ three generations

Ayurveda ~ daily routine

Lotus flower

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;
    • Charitable;
    • Humble;
    • Affectionate to guests;
    • Religious duty;
    • Start a conversation;

 

Other recommendations:

  • 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!

yoga mat

 

 

 

Introduction to Ayurveda

20151110_103056

 

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

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which was followed by a healthy breakfast, including all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent and bitter).

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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.

 

Dosha Vata

Air & Space

Pitta

Fire & water

Kapha

Earth and water

Main characteristics

If Dosha is

in balance

 

Occupation

Expands energy

Movement

Joy, creativity

Inspirational

Good communicator /

 

Actor

 

Efficient at alloc energy,

Transformation

Fire of metabolism

Intense, focused, detailed

Politician

Conserves energy

Cohesial / stagnant

Grounded, stable

 

 

Bank Manager

If out of balance Worry, insomnia

erratic

Poor digestion

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

Change routine

This dosha is dominant in People over 50 Between the ages of

20-50

Childhood

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.

DSCN2605

Treatment table, my herbal pouches in the bowl and gas for heating

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.

 

 

 

Relax and Renew yoga class on Sat 3rd Oct in Randwick

 

Relax and Renew® yoga class

 

When:               Saturday 3rd October 2015 (long weekend)

                             11.30 am to 12.45 pm (usual class time)

 

Where:              Yoga Light

Level 1, 165 Alison Road, Randwick

                            (close to Belmore Rd corner, enter via the purple door)

 

Cost:                         $25

 

What to bring:         A towel to cover your head, all other equipment provided

  

This yoga class will involve nurturing physical poses, supported by the props, staying each pose for a few minutes. The aim is to let go in a safe environment. You will feel refreshed after the workshop and you will learn poses to practice at home.

 

Please email me to secure your place: tranquability@gmail.com

 

Numbers are limited.

 

Looking forward to seeing  you there.

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

Benefits of yoga for older people

lotus yoga

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:

  1. Yoga can increase bone mineral density (Judith et al., 2009)
  2. Yoga can increase muscle strength and prevent deterioration (Telles et. al., 2014)
  3. Yoga can reduce central obesity, associated with increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Telles et al., 2014
  4. Yoga can improve glycemic control and HbA(Ic) – useful to avoid and manage diabetes (Beena et al., 2013)
  5. Yoga can prevent deterioration of lung capacity (Manjunath et al., 2006)
  6. Reduce blood pressure (Chobanian et all., 2003)
  7. Improve cardiorespiratory efficiency (Papp et al., 2013)
  8. Improve primary working memory (Laveretsky et al., 2013)
  9. Enhance sleep (Manjunath et al., 2005)
  10. 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: tranquability@gmail.com  or 0408 29 6670.

Hope to see you on a mat near me!

yoga mat

Our expectation in a new class and etiquette

lotus yoga

I started to practice in a “flowy” class which compliments my Iyengar style and I really enjoy it.  Most students are regulars and some of them arrive early and place the mat to their “usual spot”.

Have you noticed that we all have a favourite spot?  Who would have thought that yoga is like real estate – location … location!!!

As in most classes – a few students arrive late.  A few weeks ago I had to “uproot” four times to accommodate late comers and let me tell you I do not travel light when it comes to props.  As an older person with back problem I use more props than the mostly younger crowd in the class.  I sensed that the person next to me felt that my belongings took up too much space.  As the class was already in progress we did not discuss the issue but this experience made me think about our tolerance, our need for space, expectation in a class, consideration and respect of others. 

Let’s consider the space first: each yoga studio has a preferred way of setting up the room which suits the size and shape of the room best.  In the absence of the teacher’s direction I would set up my mat with the narrow end against the wall in a location that I do not have anybody directly opposite me (if the room is narrow it means staggering the mats).  This set up leaves enough space between the mats for props, jumpers etc.  In square shape rooms generally the wall sides fill up first and some students might be practicing in the middle of the studio.  Be aware of any windows behind you and leave your bigger props in storage until you need them!  In savasana it is better if your feet do not point towards a fellow student’s head.

I like exploring new studios and today I participated in a relaxation class close by.  Was not sure what to expect and was curious.  We spent most of the time laying on our back, releasing our hips, engaging and strengthening the pelvic floor and the core muscles.  After an hour I started to wonder if we will do anything else and felt that my shoulders are stiff.  We had background music from a DVD chanting “Govinda” almost continuously.  I do not practice or teach with music and at times I hoped for some quietness.  Eventually the teacher changed the music and we did some sitting poses with shoulder work.  The relaxation (Savasana) was very good and I finished the class in good spirits and my back feels better.  The moral of the story: each teacher has a different style and if we are new to her/his class we need be open to the experience and embrace it!

Based on my 25 years on the mat I complied the rough etiquette for attending yoga classes:

For students:

  • Please be punctual, ready to start practicing at advertised time; turn off your mobile phone; do not eat 1.5 – 2 hours prior class;
  • For big classes – if there is a designated area for personal belongings use it,
  • Advise the teacher if you have any medical issues, menstruating or pregnant,
  • As a student you are expected to take more responsibility for your learning than in normal school environment – you know your body better than your teacher; if something does not feel right (sharp pain) come out of the pose!
  • Generally there will be an easier and more advanced variation for most poses. Choose the one which fits you best on the day;
  • Please keep your area safe and pack up all of your props at the end of the class;
  • Wearing layers is helpful, apart from that wear comfortable clothing;
  • Enjoy your class!

For teachers:

  • Arrive early so you have a chance to talk to your students – especially if someone is new to the class;
  • Start and finish on time;
  • Be respectful of your students, ask if they want an adjustment or not,
  • Create a safe environment for all;
  • Be aware of your limits, sometimes referring a student to a specialist might be the best advice;
  • Keep up your own practice and participate in professional development;
  • Enjoy teaching the class – remember you learn as much from your students as they learn from you!

See my earlier blog: how find the right teacher

Relax and Renew workshop on Sunday 21st June in Randwick.  See blog and timetable for details!

Keep up your practice!

Mary

yoga mat