Tag Archive | yoga practice

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 (Flying yogis for kids and Prana-space for adults). In 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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The benefits of yoga OFF THE MAT – part 2 – the support of the yoga community

Following on from part 1 of the benefits of yoga OFF THE MAT now I would like to share my experience with you about the support I have received from the yoga community over the years.

I clearly remember attending a morning class as a student not long after my husband suddenly passed away, many years ago.  I was sitting on a yoga block and as the sun softly shone in the room I was thinking that this was familiar environment and I should keep coming here to allow this part of my life to go on as it used to.

In May this year on a Thursday morning the phone rang from Hungary and I learnt that my Mother had peacefully passed away a few hours earlier. As a good yogi she went with a peaceful exhalation. We were talking and crying with my friend on Skype for more than an hour.  Obviously there was no time to find a replacement teacher with such a short notice so I got ready to teach from 10.00 am. My students are regular in my class so my initial thought was to tell them about my loss at beginning of the class but changed my mind and taught the class without saying anything about Mum.   At the end of the class one of my students asked how was my Mum and then the tears started to roll again. Another student offered to drive me to my Aunt’s place after the class to share the bad news.

I attended The Australian Yoga Therapy conference on the coming weekend. I have known some of the fellow teachers for a decade or more. During the two day conference I cried a bit here and there and everybody was sympathetic, accepting and allowed me space to be. Again I felt the support of the yoga community.

Yoga is a holistic system made up of 8 steps or stages which relate to the progress of our practice – from social conduct to enlightment.  In a general yoga class we practice poses and breath control (steps 3 & 4 of the 8 limbs). It is said that Ayurveda (Indian health science which focuses on Agni, the digestive fire) is yoga OFF THE MAT.

Regular yoga practice teaches us both perseverance and letting go, listening to our body.

I have attended a few yoga retreats over the years (Satyananda yoga ashram at Mangrove creek, Billabong to mention the ones closest to home). Some people attend these retreats to deepen their yoga practice or to “have time off” to deal with issues they need to deal with such as relationship breakdown, difficult children or work problems. Yoga retreats are a good way to travel, to meet like minded people, to cleanse your digestive system with good vegetarian food and to get clarity of thought. It all helps to come back to balance. My experience in these retreats that someone will always be available to have a chat or just to listen to you.

I find it reassuring to practice with regular fellow students and have regular students in my class. Over time we get to know each other and friendships are born from the common shared interest.

Over the years I witnessed dancers/artists/film makers / food provedores marketing themselves in their yoga community. If I have a chance I will attend the show or exhibition promoted by fellow yogis.

Once you become a yogi you become a yogi for life. The benefits of yoga “OFF THE MAT” are almost as important as the practice itself.

The benefits of yoga OFF THE MAT – part 1 – posture, confidence and being in the present

The numerous health benefits of yoga are well documented and generally known. In this two part series I would like to talk about the benefits of yoga OFF THE MAT as I experience it.  This blog will show the portable benefits, transferable skills of yoga to the business world in and in the next post we will focus on the support the yoga community.

I have been practicing yoga regularly since 1989 and have been teaching for four years so I speak from the trenches.

I recently changed the jobs and the process of applying for positions and attending interviews was made easier by my yoga practice. Though I am not a recruiter I would like to share my thoughts on how to prepare for a job interview.

Apart from standing tall (in Tadasana which is our basic standing pose) include asanas which open the chest (to increase confidence), think of the Warrier 1, 2 and 3 poses (virabhadrasana 1,2 and 3 in Sanskrit). Move the shoulder blades in and down to open chest and to lift your sternum. Have energy in your arms and fingers, keep your chest facing the front. Work your legs and feet without gripping the mat with your toes! Legs they are the foundation of the Worrier poses!

Worrier 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)

Warrier 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)

Just watch the “All blacks” at the beginning of a game! The posture, slightly bent knees, chest open. The chanting is getting the team ready for action, focusing their mind for the task ahead! The eye-rolling and poking the tongue out sends out a strong warning to the opponent “we mean business”. We use these latter moves in yoga too, to exercise eyes which strained by looking at a computer screen for too long and in the lion pose we extend our tongue to “clear” it – however I do not recommend it as interview technique!

It is also important to be in the right frame of mind, so regulating the breath (maybe slowing it down whilst waiting for the interviewer, inhale for the count of 4, exhale for count of 4 or 6 if more experienced). During the interview be alert, be in the present by sitting tall, keeping your face relaxed, throat soft, chin parallel to the floor and look the interviewer(s) in the eye. State and quantify your achievements and be aware of and accept your weaknesses.

Yoga teaches us to be strong and flexible on the mat, have perseverance and to know when to have a rest.  All these skills are transferable to the business world!

Dress for the interview in comfortable and appropriate clothes (just as you do for yoga). Arrive a few minutes earlier, just as you come to class on time, ready to start.

Once you know the outcome of the interview be gracious in accepting  “No thanks”. Try to learn from the experience.

After the interview (or any other time) relax in some restorative pose (legs up the wall or lay down and support your calves on a chair). Whichever pose you choose make sure you are warm and stay there for a minimum of  5 minutes, the longer the better. You will be refreshed and ready to start a new day or have better sleep at night.  These restorative poses are also beneficial in the evening, before going to bed – especially if you had a stressful day!