Tag Archive | ageing well

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

 

 

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

Yogies’ survival kit 2: jet lag

 

Australia (or ‘down under’) is sooo far away from everything we need to travel long haul, crossing several time zones in the process.

While my parents were alive I made regular trips to Hungary.  Many years ago the floor at the airport gates were carpeted, nowadays cold tiles.  If you ever saw a woman laying down with legs up the wall or calves on the seat of the chairs … it might have been me.

During my numerous trips to Europe the following list crystalized in my head as guidelines for long haul air travel:

  • Start the journey in the best possible shape, increase your fitness in the weeks leading up to the trip, walk on the beach, de-clutter your mind; prepare your packing list, have copies (two sets) of your important documents;
  • On the plane stay hydrated, drink plenty of water during the flight (alcohol will have the opposite effect) and as you will be burning less calories – you do not have to eat every morsel of food served J;
  • Move your wrists, ankles, neck and shoulders (you might find a chart with recommended exercises in the net in front of you);
  • Stand up and walk on the isle as much as possible;
  • Do some gentle stretches whilst queuing up for the toilet;
  • Try to get some sleep – do not feel that you have to “do” something, the aim is to arrive in the best possible shape for your holiday or business trip;
  • Change your clock to the destination time soon after take-off;
  • Once you arrive try to spend half an hour in sunshine and assume the schedule of the new time zone straight away.

You might experience the following: your feet may swell, your lower back may ache and you may develop sinus problems due to air conditioning and changing air pressure.

I have included a few restorative poses for you below which you can modify and practice even in a small hotel room.  Use rolled up blanket(s) or bedspread instead of a bolster and towel to support your head and neck.  If you are not comfortable in the pose come out and adjust.  Stay in each pose for at least three minutes. If you do not have enough time to do all the poses do the legs up the wall and the supported bridge pose.

1. Viparita Karini (legs up the wall)  – this asana will help to reduce the swelling in your feet, heart is resting, it is a pose the remove fatigue from the body.

IMG_1719

 

2.   Backbend to open chest as we tend to collapse the chest / shoulders as we sit.  Roll up a blanket and a towel  and have them close by. Sit in front of the rolled up blanket, bend yours knees and place your elbows on the blanket.  Slowly lower your back over the blanket.  The rolled up towel should support your neck and back of your head. Stay in the this poses up to three minutes.

3.  Repeat the Legs up the wall position but this time elevate your hips (use a blanket or a towel), stay in the pose for five minutes.

4.  Supported bridge – enjoy that you can finally stretch out.  In yoga class we might use two bolsters so the back of the knees and the feet are supported.

IMG_1703

5. Supta badha konasana (supported bound angle pose).  Alow the props to support you and the fatigue will lift.

Supta Badha Konasana

Supta Badha Konasana

6.  Forward bend

IMG_1708

7. As any yoga practice we should finish the sequence with Savasana, try legs elevated.

Savasana

Savasana

Repeat the restorative sequence on the morning after your arrival.

If you are more energetic include a few standing poses:Trikonasana (triangle poses), Parivritta Trikonasana (revolving triangle) is recommended.

Safe travels!

Mary

We are on the move to Randwick Junction – from 10th January 2015

lotus yoga

Yoga for over 50’s will move from Clovelly to Randwick Junction to a bigger, well equipped studio.

 

First  class will be held on Saturday 10th January 2015.

 

Time: 11.30 a.m. to 12.45 p.m.

Cost: $20 per class

See details below:

Address: Level 1, 165 Alison Road Randwick Junction (cnr Belmore Road)

Map Yoga Light Randwick

Map

165 Alison Road~Yoga Light

165 Alison Road, Randwick – entrance is the purple door

Tree pose (Vrksasana)

 

Tree pose

Tree pose

 

 

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

Tree Pose with wall

  1. 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;
  2. Quietly transfer the weight to the left leg, without pushing the left hip out ;
  3. Bend the right knee so the right heel lifts off the floor, come up on your toes;
  4.  Turn the right knee out (work from your right hip);
  5. 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;
  6. 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!
  7. Keep your chest, hips and face in one direction (i.e forward);
  8. Keep your chin parallel to the floor, throat soft, look with soft gaze in front of you – eye level or slightly above
  9. 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;
  10. Stay in the pose for a minute on so (on each side);
  11. Coming out of the pose: release the arms and slowly release the right leg back to the floor;
  12. Find your balance by standing in Tadasana for to-three cycles of your breath;
  13. 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!

yoga mat