6 Interesting Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

Photo credit: Rawpixel

 

By Karen Weeks

Karen Weeks – Elderwellness.net

karen@elderwellness.net

Yoga can be practiced by anyone at any point in their life. Participation in yoga has nearly doubled in just a couple of years as people have realized the powerful health benefits that it provides. If you’re a senior who is considering getting started in yoga, here are some benefits you may enjoy from your practice.

 

  1. Better dental health

 

There is a well-defined link between mental health problems, like stress and depression, and poor dental health. When you’re stressed out, your immune system is weakened and your gums are more prone to bacterial invasion. Antidepressants can also dry out your mouth, which can make it harder to wash food away from your teeth and gums. If you tend to grind your teeth when you’re stressed out, you can also have problems with your jaw. 

 

Yoga is an excellent activity to help relax you. You learn better breathing patterns as well as how to soothe your mind and body. These are good stress-reducing activities that have long-term effects. Despite yoga’s benefits for oral health, you should still find a dentist to visit if you have problems with tooth or jaw pain.

 

  1. Improved gut health

 

Changing diet and age can reduce the overall diversity of microbes in the gut, and this lack of diversity can make the body less healthy and responsive. Hyperbiotics explains that exercise can boost gut health by improving the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the collection of microbes that naturally live in our bodies and help us digest. Yoga is one easy exercise you can start, even if you haven’t exercised in a while. This physical activity will help you achieve a happier gut, which will help you feel happier overall.

 

  1. Healthier joints

 

Yoga can improve flexibility and joint health. When it’s paired with meditation, it can reduce stiffness. Part of this comes from learning proper alignment of the body, as well as learning how to modify poses that can help minimize pain in your body. Meditation helps you develop a greater awareness of the stiffness in your body and work on relaxing whatever might get stiff.

 

  1. Reduced blood pressure

 

Research has suggested that yoga and meditation as a possible way to alleviate mild problems with blood pressure. Yoga can be a light-intensity activity, which is great if you’re a beginner. Physical activity is recommended for people who have high blood pressure, and yoga can be a big part of that. It can also help your stress response which can impact your blood pressure. Yoga is a good combination of getting your heart rate up while also relaxing your body and mind.

 

  1. Better balance

 

Research has demonstrated that yoga can be a powerful way to improve balance and mobility in older populations. This is especially important in arming you against potential falls and bone breaks. Yoga has all sorts of poses that can help you gain strength and balance within yourself, such as “tree pose.” It will also help you improve your core strength, which helps your balance as well.

 

  1. Strong bones

 

A critical part of bone health is getting physical activity. Some activities are better than others when it comes to building and maintaining strong bones. Yoga is one of these activities, as you build greater strength in your muscles and bones, and you can do it all in a low-impact way. However, if you have low bone density, make sure you do alternatives to specific poses or avoid them outright, such as forward folds and spinal twists. Listen to your body, and avoid any pose that feels painful.

 

Where to Do Yoga

 

Now that you’ve learned all about yoga’s benefits, you may be interested in how to get started on your own yoga practice. The beauty of yoga is that it can be practiced in the comfort of your own home. You can access fitness apps on a fitness tracker or other device to learn yoga poses, or refer to YouTube exercise videos that are geared toward seniors. You may also find that during your at-home practice, you’ll want to enhance your yoga routine with additional exercises like stretches, chair exercises, and resistance training. Mixing up your exercises can help you stay motivated and improve workout performance.

 

If you’d prefer to practice yoga outside of the home, you can learn from a professional yoga instructor who can teach you how to do each pose properly. You can check out some yoga studios in your neighborhood; some may even offer classes specially suited for seniors. 

 

An important part of starting your yoga practice is modifying it to fit your individual circumstances. Start slowly, and focus on poses that you’re comfortable with. As long as you’re careful and comfortable with your progress, yoga is worth giving a try in your senior years.

Weightlifting And Aerial Arts: A Winning Combo

I am approaching the two year mark for my foray into aerial arts, and not only have I stuck with it, I have stepped up my game by taking classes several times weekly. After taking classes at a local aerial studio (www.PinkPoleParty.org) two to three days per week, I recently increased my frequency to four to five days weekly by adding other studios into the mix. Thanks to Classpass, I now have the opportunity to visit facilities all over the Los Angeles area and take classes with other instructors.

I have learned that my body prefers the rigidity of hardware, like lyra and aerial cube, over software like silks and hammocks, so I now confine my aerial activities to lyra, pole flight (a combination of silks and pole), and aerial cube. I am by no means an expert in any of my aerial activities, and I wish I had the incredible flexibility which I see in other aerialists. Yet I think I do decently well, and my upper body strength serves me well whenever I am up in the air.

I honestly think it’s a good idea to experience other studios and other instructors as a means to infuse variety into the regimen. Though I at times think I must be nuts to inflict such challenges on my poor joints and tendons, the overall physical and mental benefits of aerial movements make it all worthwhile. The conditioning aspects of aerial arts have enhanced the v-taper in my back, and have developed my delts nicely. My abdominal muscles are far stronger than they were before I began taking aerial classes, and I am also enjoying enhanced flexibility, balance and coordination from my airborne pursuits.

Weight training is still, and always will be, a staple for me. I faithfully hit the weights five to six days per week, and cannot imagine ever wavering from that schedule. At this point, I truly feel that weightlifting and aerial pursuits complement each other. Bodybuilding imparts strength, aids in preservation of muscle mass, guards against bone loss, and allows me to go into beast mode, while aerial arts provide an outlet for creative expression, challenge my body to become more elongated and flexible, and increase core strength.

If you are in a rut with weight training, why not consider adding aerial arts to your regimen? They are challenging, inspiring, and fun!

Six Common Misconceptions About Bodybuilding

arnold-schwarzenegger-bodybuilding-photo-bodybuilding-1329451810

In an effort to shed some light on what the sport of bodybuilding is like, I am devoting this blog post to clarifying the most common misconceptions which I hear from people.

Misconception #1: You have to train for many hours every single day to get big. I know very few people who have the time to work out for several hours per day on a daily basis. In addition, if someone lifts heavy for many hours, and does it every single day, that person is overtraining. There are numerous problems with overtraining: 1. gains diminish because the body doesn’t have time to repair itself, 2. injuries tend to occur, and 3. energy levels plummet. If you train with intensity, you should be able to get a GREAT workout which stimulates muscle hypertrophy in as little as 20 minutes.

Misconception #2: Bodybuilders are all meatheads. I know that there are people who assume that bodybuilders are a bunch of angry, dim-witted people. My experience has revealed that such an assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the best and biggest bodybuilders have careers in non-fitness fields like law, medicine, engineering, and law enforcement, and are considered to be leaders in the community. In addition, many are very well-educated, very friendly and approachable, and have big hearts. So before you assume that a pile of muscle equates with a mean and stupid motherf*&$er, try getting to know a bodybuilder.

Misconception #3: Bodybuilders have zero body flexibility. If you have ever gone to a bodybuilding event and watched bodybuilders, women’s physique competitors, or fitness competitors perform their routines, you will often get to see some of the best athleticism and flexibility around. I have seen male bodybuilders easily perform splits onstage, which is something I haven’t been able to do since my gymnastics days when I was a child! As long as weightlifting is performed slowly and with a complete range of motion, flexibility should not diminish at all. If weight training was so detrimental to flexibility, you wouldn’t see athletes from other sports round out their training by lifting weights. As always, a good stretching regimen can keep muscles and tendons supple.

Misconception #4: If you stop weight training, you will get fat. The only thing that happens when someone stops weightlifting is that the muscles will atrophy and exhibit a soft appearance, similar to a deflated balloon. So it really isn’t fair to pin an increase in storage fat on lack of weight training. Food intake is what tends to fatten up a former bodybuilder who has hung up the weights, because the strict meal plan also falls by the wayside, contributing to an increase in storage fat.

Misconception #5: In order to get big, bodybuilders have to take steroids. This is by far the most controversial misconception. Are there bodybuilders who take steroids? I am sure there are. Do they all take steroids? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of people in the bodybuilding world who will staunchly defend the gear-free lifestyle. Haters want to hang onto the ridiculous notion that in order to grow appreciable size, there must be some illicit secret to it all. Perhaps if they stopped flapping their gums and hit the weight hard at the gym, they might harvest some muscle of their own.

Misconception #6: Women who train with weights will become very big and muscular. As a woman who lifts pretty heavy and does it up to six days per week, I speak from experience when I say that this is a big, fat lie. I still have curves and look feminine, and my muscles aren’t bursting out of my clothing like a she-Hulk. I have said this many times before, and I will say it again: lifting heavy weights will NOT make a woman overly muscular!

Silks Class

aerial silks

Last fall, I began taking flying trapeze classes and loved the challenge of performing tricks while suspended in the air. What I did not enjoy was being up on the pedestal board, which is the 12 inch deep platform that performers stand on and launch from. Even though I don’t have a significant fear of heights, that damned platform would freak me out every single time I went up there. When you set up to launch off the board, you have to lean completely forward, either by holding onto the side rail or having someone hold you at the waist while you lean waaaaaaay forward. It’s completely unnerving. After three flying trapeze classes, and twenty visits to that blasted board, I still hated being up on the board so much that it distracted me from the joy I felt when I was finally swinging on the trapeze. I could no longer deal with the feeling that my heart wanted to leap out of my chest every time I stood on the board, so I abandoned my pursuit of the flying trapeze.

Though I was pretty much done with flying trapeze, I began to consider taking classes in static trapeze, bungee trapeze, and lyra hoop. I also looked into aerial silks and was so fascinated that I had determined that it was the aerial art I wanted to try next. My roommate and friend Myra bought me a silks class session for Christmas (thank you Myra!), so my opportunity to try silks came about even sooner than I had expected. I booked a class session and headed over to the dance studio earlier this week after work.

The instructor, Kylie, was very friendly and really knew how to explain the tricks in a way which anyone could understand. She showed me the first move, which was a straddle mount inversion. You can see a straddle mount inversion demonstrated in this video:

After Kylie demonstrated the move, she had me come up and try it. I grabbed the silks and attempted to jump into a straddle. No go. My legs folded in and I sank to the mat. I tried a second time and got it, but I didn’t look nearly as graceful as the former ballerina who was now trying to instruct me on the art of aerial silks.

We then did the single foot lock:

And aerial splits:

Throughout the class, I also did arabesques and other ballet-inspired moves while suspended on the silks (it’s a good thing I took basic ballet when I was a kid!). At the end of the 75 minute class in aerial silks, my interest had not waned. I was intrigued. I loved the challenge of using the strength in my abdominals and arms, but the forearm tendinitis and achiness in my wrists and hands became limiting factors in my stamina, so I have some concerns about taxing my body by taking more classes. There are other obstacles as well: 1. lack of free time, 2. lack of funds, and 3. not wanting to remember all the choreography in my already very full brain.

If you are considering taking aerial silks, be aware that you will be at a distinct advantage if you have a strong upper body, because you will be supporting your body weight with your upper body for the majority of the time. If you have severe arthritis in your shoulders, elbows, wrists or hands, you will not enjoy silks. This is a VERY challenging art!

Static Trapeze

static trapeze

I recently started taking flying trapeze classes and have enjoyed them immensely. However, I began to analyze the reasons why I enjoyed the flying trapeze, and realized that the acrobatic moves were the most intriguing to me. Though I love the whole idea of swinging 20 feet up in the air and doing catches with the catcher, the timing is critical. When you’re trying to think about your trick, setting up your trick with proper timing, and paying attention to the calls from the catcher, all while swinging up in the air, you can get a bit rattled.

I thought that if I removed the flying variable from the trapeze, perhaps I would be able to concentrate more on the tricks. Because of this notion, I am looking into taking static trapeze classes as well. I took gymnastics for several years when I was a kid, and since my best event was the uneven bars, I thought a great progression from childhood gymnastics would be the static trapeze. I like the fact that trapeze isn’t the first thing people think of when considering athletic pursuits, and I also like the fact that trapeze is vastly different from weightlifting. Hopefully my creaking joints and reduced flexibility will dissipate as I venture more deeply into the trapeze arts.

Once I take static trapeze, I will post an update on the experience.

Nope, I Really Don’t Want Kids

I do not want kids
People are continually amazed when I reveal my utter lack of desire to have children. Though I have found myself pondering the concept of having children while in relationships (including my most recent one), I find that as a single woman, I truly don’t see myself ever pursuing an opportunity to have a child. I have felt this way my entire life, even when I was married, and knew in my heart that unless a man swept me off my feet and somehow convinced me that having a child would be a great idea, that I would never willingly sign up for motherhood. Yes, I have come very close to agreeing to the whole kid thing, and I think I am probably still at risk of being somehow convinced that the idea might fly, but I would never make such a decision on my own. I have NEVER been the kind of woman who has watched children playing, or has seen babies in a nursery, and thought, I want one! I don’t yearn for the mother-child connection, and I don’t feel the need to create a mini-me.

There are a multitude of reasons besides my general lack of interest in the concept of having children which support my decision to remain child-free, but the three main reasons are:

1. KIDS ARE EXPENSIVE: Raising a child is unbelievably expensive. Be prepared to spend $245,000 to raise a child in the United States from birth at 2013 up to age 18. Here is a reference article so you can see the breakdown of costs:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/08/18/raising-child-cost-2013/14236535/

This is insane to me. I can barely get by as it is, and cannot imagine dealing with the financial burden of raising a child. No thank you.

2. TOO MUCH ON MY PLATE: I have so many projects that demand all of my time and focus, and am well aware of the fact that ALL of that would crumble if I were to have a child. Since I have no intention of redirecting my attention, no children will come into the picture. I certainly would never want to be a neglectful mother, and that is why I would relinquish all of the activities (EXCEPT gym time and eating clean!) that consume the bulk of my time and energy. I am not selfish enough to rob a child of all that he or she should experience, and would make every sacrifice to send the child to the best schools and provide everything possible. That would mean the end of all that I have known in my life as an independent woman.

3. I VALUE MY FREEDOM: It is pretty liberating to be able to leave at a moment’s notice (provided it doesn’t conflict with my work schedule) to go out of town, pop over to a store to run an errand, go out with friends from time to time, or just take a rare nap in the middle of the day. If I had a child, I would have to plan EVERYTHING in advance, arrange for child care, or take the child with me, along with diaper bag, formula, etc. I would feel so incredibly encumbered that I know my spirit would suffer.

i-cant-wait-to-have-kids
For those of you who wonder if I feel any sadness over being childless, I can tell you without hesitation that I value my freedom far more, and as a result, couldn’t be happier about the fact that I have no children. People still seem so shocked by that, as if an adult is supposed to feel some type of longing for parenthood. Society often regards people who choose not to have children as somehow inadequate, which is ridiculous, since those of us without children often have schedule flexibility which people with children can usually only fantasize about, and we have just as much value despite the lack of progeny.

I also find it extremely irritating and condescending when a WOMAN asks me if I have any children, and upon my negative reply, says, “Oh, yeah, that’s why you look so good.” This only prompts me to bust out photos of women in the fitness industry who have borne as many as SIX children and who rock washboard abs and fantastic muscularity and conditioning throughout their bodies. The desire to keep my body in its best shape ever has been a minor factor in my decision to avoid having children, but it by no means has been a primary reason. Fit women have proven over and over again that it is possible to bounce back into great shape after having children.

If you’re worried about me being child-free, remember that I love the flexibility and freedom in my life. I have pets whom I love dearly, and I have incredible friends. I don’t perceive any hole in my life because I never bore a child.

It’s MY Image And MY Branding

I have been struggling to assemble various elements of my personal branding on my own, but this task has proven to be extremely challenging. One of the first things I worked on was a logo, but after seven months, I still have nothing to show for it. Part of the problem is that I only have ideas of what I want to convey, and I have to rely on the creative vision of a logo designer to interpret my ideas in a way that is cohesive with my brand. This project has dragged on and on, and I am now beginning to doubt whether I will have a logo before the end of the year. There are countless other things on my to-do list, such as compiling an email list, revamping my three websites, designing a newsletter template, etc. I don’t have the expertise, nor do I have the time to do all of these things on my own. So I have been sitting on these projects as well.

Another thing I was hoping to get into place was a public relations person to help me with my image and to increase my exposure. Here’s where I ran into another wall. I had a meeting recently with a very competent and talented PR person but as we continued to discuss my goals and my vision, I realized that there was a disconnect. This person went through my images online and explained why certain images fell outside the realm of certain goals I was trying to achieve. While I understood that some images were less conservative than what a typical physician would take, I also felt attacked and restrained. Part of what I love about being who I am right now is the fact that I AM atypical, that I am defying the odds, and that I am challenging stereotypes.
black tassel beach logo only 2
One thing this person told me was that I needed to consider what a certain television show producer would think of me if he saw how I portray myself on the internet. With all due respect, I don’t live my life for others, and I will NOT conform for the sake of being invited on someone else’s TV show. I have enjoyed my personal freedoms and feel that as long as I honor the boundaries of common decency, I am NOT going to start doing photo shoots in business suits. That is simply NOT me and I would be miserable if I was FORCED to do that. I will never be the kind of person who will fit in a neat little conservative box. Try doing that to me and I will rebel.

In an era where the more outlandish and crazy someone is on television, the more popular they are, why is it that I am expected to remain on the straight and narrow path, with the reins pulled tight against my expression and my personality? I honestly don’t want to EVER sell out and become what a TV network or what middle America expects me to be. Perhaps Dr. Oz’s popularity stems somewhat from his conservative vibe, but I can tell you that when it comes to image, I will never be a predictable female version of that guy. No way. Don’t expect me to wear scrubs on a national TV show or dress in conservative garb just to appease the viewers. I am an IFBB Bikini Pro and very proud of it. So what if I model swimwear and fitness apparel? So what if I like to look sexy? Since when is that a crime?

My plan is to keep doing what I am doing, remain true to myself, maintain my integrity and keep moving closer to my ultimate goals.