Tag Archive | yoga over 50’s rose bay nsw

Yoga for different life stages

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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.
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Trikonasana ~ three generations

Our expectation in a new class and etiquette

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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

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How is “yoga over 50” different?

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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!

In summary:

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!

Keep up and enjoy your practice!

Namaste

Mary

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NEWSLETTER ~ APR / MAY 2015

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Dear Yogis,

My intention in March was to post monthly newsletters and I have fallen behind.  We are all pulled into several directions simultaneously and sometimes we get overwhelmed, maybe get lost in the details – which is what happened to me.  If you have renovated your residence before you know what I mean.

This is what happened since my March newsletter:

During Easter we had our usual Saturday class in Randwick.  To keep in line with the holiday and to amuse ourselves we practiced bunny jumps.  Bunny jump is one of the preparatory poses for the hand stand, it strengthens the arms, wrists, shoulders and increases balance.  Another way to prepare for handstand is stationary, we create a right angle with our body, hands on the floor and the soles of the feet are on the wall.

This year Anzac Day fall on Saturday.  To honour the 100th anniversary of landing in Gallipoli the theme for the class was hero poses.  Think about the strong leg work, arms stretched wide and balance required for all three “warrior” asanas.  The torso is long and the chest is open in all these poses indicating confidence!

In the week leading up to Mother’s day, as my gift to you, I asked each of you which is your favourite pose and incorporated those in the classes.  The most popular requests were: work with the hips and twists laying on the floor.  We, women, hold a lot of tension in our hips and thighs and with the cold weather creeping on us we get tighter so we need keep our joints moving!  Twists on the floor release tension in the lower back, they are safe and they mobilise the whole spine – from the tailbone to the neck (if you turn your head away from your legs).  Twists in general generate heat in the body which  increases our immune system. If you are menopausal you might not need extra heat 🙂 though! As winter approaches we are likely to include more twisting poses in the class as they are also helpful in reducing the effects of scoliosis and help digestion.

Are you curious which poses will we do on the Queen’s birthday long weekend?  I already have some ideas – please come along!

 For regular students ‘10 class passes’ are available in both studios (some conditions apply).  They represent a minimum saving of $50 for 10 classes.

Thanks again for supporting my classes, hope to see you soon!

Namaste,

Mary

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Letting go of the old, setting intentions for the new

I was a happy participant in Byron Yoga Centre’s 8 day ‘New Year Renew and Revive’ retreat, http://www.byronyoga.com/

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.

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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).

Set your intentions

Set your intention

 Photos are courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

In with the new – out with old!

Have a great year!

Mary

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.

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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.

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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

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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