6 Interesting Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

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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.

Move Like A Child

Copyright : maximkabb (courtesy of 123RF.com)

Have you ever given any thought to how children move? The most fidgety of kids will move constantly, and will exhibit a freedom of movement. Children as a whole are far more active and naturally athletic than most adults. Movements such as swaying from side to side, swinging arms, fidgeting, jumping, and skipping are all the dominion of the child. Ordinarily, if an adult dares to move in that manner, he or she would be regarded, and often rightly so, as bonkers.

So what happens to an adult when he or she is allowed to move freely like a child, allowing whatever impulse emerges to direct movement of body parts?

There is one yoga instructor at the yoga studio I frequent who has a habit of encouraging the students to move and shake their limbs, wiggle their hips, and just let loose during one portion of her kundalini yoga class. Do students feel silly when they begin to move? Absolutely. Does everyone begin to enjoy the freedom that such movements can confer on the body, mind and spirit? Oh yes. It is incredibly liberating to be able to shake it like you just don’t care, all in a comfortable and non-judgmental environment.

I think the next best thing to being in a kundalini yoga class with a cool yogi like the one I mentioned, would be to take a dance class, or take part in freestyle dancing at a local club. It’s a great way to de-stress and have fun in the process.

“But I Just CAN’T Meditate…”

The concept of sitting with oneself in a meditative pose seems to frighten many non-meditators. People will make all sorts of excuses why they “can’t” meditate, from stating that their thoughts will distract them too much, their home environments aren’t conducive to sitting quietly, or that they have back or hip problems and can’t sit still long enough to meditate. They will also state that they simply don’t have the time to meditate, an excuse which I find to be the weakest one out of the bunch.

For people who complain of physical restrictions which prevent them from sitting in easy pose (lotus position), there are meditations in which one can lie down, stand, or even move around to explore how the body is feeling at that moment. If thoughts keep flying around, that’s all right. Regular meditators know that the thoughts can come and go like clouds, and that allowing them to move in and out without having the mind engage those thoughts becomes easier with practice. And as for having no time to meditate, one can always find time to meditate. Even setting aside two minutes to pause, breathe, and let go of the myriad of thoughts and activities which keep us occupied is enough to reset the spirit.

When I counsel patients to meditate, I often discover that letting go is something they just don’t want to do. After all, aren’t we defined by our jobs, our family roles, our relationship roles, the cars we drive, how much money we make, and where we live? In the whole grand scheme of things, the elements which define us in the outside world simply distract us from the life force which we carry within us. One of the main reasons why anxiety and depression are so prevalent in the modern world is because people are too afraid to walk away from the craziness for a moment or two.

When you meditate regularly, you may get to a point in which you understand that the important moments are the spaces between thoughts, and the spaces between words. It is incredibly liberating to be able to let go of all the concerns and feelings which may be floating around in your head and just focus on your breath. Inhale, exhale. Just that and nothing more.

Lastly, you shouldn’t feel intimidated by the practice of meditation. If you regard it as a very welcome morsel of time for yourself, you will learn to look forward to your sessions.

If you need help getting started, check out yoga centers for guided meditation classes, or download a phone app such as Insight Timer to guide you through thousands of different meditations. I highly recommend Insight Timer for everyone, from those new to meditation, to individuals who have been meditating for years.

My Just Float Experience

What is Floating – Just Float, The World’s Largest Float Therapy Center

Yesterday I had a pretty remarkable experience, floating for an hour in a room devoid of light and external noise. The 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt which saturated the pleasant, tepid water caused my body to float effortlessly. Since I meditate daily, I welcomed the release that came with being untethered by my senses, gently hovering in a state of incredible relaxation.

For those of you who are wondering what the process is, you shower before entering the chamber to remove oils, lotions and pollutants from your skin and hair. Then you step into the tub which is softly illuminated. Once you lie in the water and adjust to your body’s buoyancy, you can turn off the lights and allow the soothing music to lull you into a state of stillness. The music fades away, leaving your breathing as the only steady sound.

At the end of your session, the music and lights slowly return. You exit the tub and rinse off the salty water.

Forty dollars (intro price) and an hour later, I definitely think the experience was well worth it.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, and you would like to try floating, please click on this link: http://justfloat.com/

The Fifty-Something Zone

 

Today I transition from being a 50 year old to being a 50-something.  It’s such a strange reality for me to move past the half-century mark, despite the fact that my joints ache more, my skin is losing its firmness, and rogue gray hairs threaten to disrupt the mass of dark brown hair on my head.  My mind and spirit are stuck in an early 30’s zone, so I am constantly in a strange disconnect between how I feel mentally and where my body is chronologically.

Since my 50th birthday last July, I have received promotional mail from AARP and Forest Lawn Mortuary, which is extremely disconcerting.   In valiant protest, I have increased my involvement in aerial arts, dabbled in other pursuits like fencing, and have maintained a 5 to 6 day weightlifting schedule each week.

To be honest, turning 50 caused me to fret a bit about my overall health, so I decided to obtain a full medical workup, including bloodwork, MRI’s of my injured left shoulder and neck, a mammogram and colonoscopy.

 

These were the results:

  1. Bloodwork results were completely normal, and as always, my HDL was over 70 and my LDL was under 100.
  2. MRI of my left shoulder revealed moderate bursitis, widespread inflammation, severe biceps tendinitis, and widespread tendinopathy.  The good news is that my shoulder issues don’t warrant surgical intervention.
  3. MRI of my cervical spine revealed dessication of multiple intervertebral discs and osteophytes at multiple levels.  Basically, my neck reveals that I am a dried up old bitch.
  4. Screening mammogram revealed a suspicious 5mm mass on my right breast, which was further evaluated with more views.  It turned out to be a small cyst.
  5. The colonoscopy prep was definitely not enjoyable, but my days of water loading for contests made drinking the vile electolyte prep solution (bastards gave me the unflavored version…blech) a bit more tolerable.  Aside from a small polyp, my colonoscopy was unremarkable.

Evidently, my body is doing a pretty good job of fending off aging.  With a clean bill of health, I will continue to engage in my physical pursuits, eat clean food, meditate daily, and be thankful.

 

How Social Media Has Messed Us Up

The majority of us can’t even imagine being without our cell phones. The relatively tiny devices we carry around with us now function as GPS devices, marvelous computers which connect us to every part of the world, tie us into a massive information network which we have become entirely reliant on, and also happen to function as the basic communication aids which were originally invented by Italian inventor Antonio Meucci in 1849 (Alexander Graham Bell won the credit in 1876 as a result of winning the first U.S. patent).

Cell phones have become a necessity in modern society, but they have also caused us to develop compulsive behaviors which feed into the irresistible distraction which they present. Though you may deny it, I am willing to bet that you experience a certain level of anxiety if your cell phone battery power winds down, if you lose reception, if you lose a Wifi signal, or are somehow locked out of a website you need to access immediately. We have become so reliant on the immediate gratification which comes with doing a Google search on our Smartphones or iPhones that we have turned into petulant children when glitches occur. We are so dependent on our cellular devices that they have become security blankets.

Whether we like it or not, our reliance on cellular technology makes us less productive and less attentive to ordinary daily tasks. We could be sitting at work, cooking a meal, walking our dogs, or driving to work, while still concerned about what supposedly vital information we are missing by not staring at our phones. God forbid we miss our friends’ Facebook updates or allow our email inboxes to pile up as we try to navigate through a typical day! We are accustomed to having our phones close by at all times, and every time it makes a notification sound, we stop what we are doing to attend to our phones, which draws attention away from what we should really be focused on. Time ticks by, and suddenly, we are distracted from viewing a beautiful sunset. Even if we view that beautiful sunset, we tend to feel a compulsion to record the sunset by taking a picture of it with those confounded phones.

Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.

It’s no wonder that the incidence of anxiety in our society has increased dramatically.

There should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. Be sure to set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media, then PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. Trust me, your brain needs a break from the constant influx of technology.

Another disturbing reality about our attachment to cell phones is the false sense of community we feel as a result of social media notifications and texts. The perception is that we are part of a vast network, but the ironic thing is that we tend to access our cell phones while alone. This isolation from actual interaction can actually trigger loneliness and depression. From the moment we wake up until we rest our heads to sleep, our cell phones are always on. They even serve as our alarm clocks now!

There’s Always Time To Breathe

breathing

As I was speaking with one of my patients earlier today, I was struck by the fact that she said she had no time to do anything, and that her work schedule was so stacked that she felt like she was unraveling. I suggested that she take a moment at some point in her day to just sit still and BREATHE, without any task or agenda. Her reply? “Oh, I don’t even have time for that!”

It seemed unreasonable to me that this woman wouldn’t even take a few SECONDS for herself just to breathe, take momentary break from the maddening rush of her life, and just be in the moment. It’s not that people can’t stop and breathe, they WON’T, because they have been led to believe that remaining on the hamster wheel of life all the time is a necessary sacrifice for all the success they hope to achieve. The sad truth is that those brief moments of stillness enable the spirit to reset and restore balance to mind and body as well.

If you are like my patient, you are doing yourself a major disservice by constantly moving and not allowing yourself to rest, even for a few seconds. Even the most creative and driven people in the world find time to enjoy their surroundings, pause in the midst of chaos, and realign with themselves. All you will do if you insist on going full guns all the time, without a moment to rest, is burn out your adrenal glands, damage your immune system, and set the tone for depression and anxiety.

For only a few seconds a day, you can enjoy the gift of being in the moment. What’s even better is that you can indulge in such moments throughout the day, between projects, meetings and chores. You can even do it upon waking, right before you start the ignition in your car, while standing in line at the grocery store, or just about anywhere.

The Magic Of Meditation

meditation-cognitive-bias

Meditation is something I have engaged in regularly for over ten years, but my practice had dwindled in the past two years to a session every few months. This was partially due to the fact that the death of my meditation teacher had rattled me so deeply that I was unable to sit in a meditation without being distracted at some point by my own grief.

It took a major life event from early April to wake me up and make me realize that by neglecting my meditation practice, I had made my spirit weary and unbalanced, Since the cadence of my life had changed rather dramatically and suddenly, I decided that adopting regular habits like meditating would be good for me. I have been able to carve out time in my schedule to meditate daily over the last few weeks, and the effects have been profound and positive. On some days, I only have a few minutes to set up my zafu (meditation cushion), light incense and the candles on my meditation altar, and sit in the moment for mindfulness meditation, but I still make sure I meditate before crawling in bed each night. I am not joking when I say I think more clearly, feel more calm, and experience less anxiety after meditating daily over the last few weeks. I now look at my daily meditation sessions as important daily workouts for my mind and spirit. I swear that even my gym workouts are better as a result of meditation, because I am more focused and calm during gym time than I used to be. Things which used to irritate me sort of glide off me now.

Regular meditation has made a tremendous difference in my general demeanor and my outlook on life, and now I honestly look forward to my sessions. I strongly encourage everyone to meditate regularly, especially anyone who feels beaten down by life or who deals with constant stress. Meditation provides an excellent outlet for stress, and can lessen symptoms of depression, reduce blood pressure and boost immunity.

Before you say that there’s no time to meditate, I am willing to bet you that there are a few minutes each day you can spare to nurture your spirit. You can either take a few minutes first thing in the morning to sit and meditate, or do it right before you go to sleep. If you feel intimidated by the idea of sitting on a meditation cushion, you can simply sit on the floor comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Each time you inhale, allow your chest to expand, and pull your shoulders back. When you exhale, imagine pushing away all of the stress of the day, out of your body, and into the air. Keep breathing slowly and deeply with your eyes closed, and try to empty your mind of any random thoughts or feelings which may come up.

For a more detailed description of a great breathing meditation, read on. The original link can be found here: http://www.mindful.org/a-five-minute-breathing-meditation/

A 5-Minute Breathing Meditation To Cultivate Mindfulness

Reduce stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, cool yourself down when your temper flares, and sharpen your concentration skills.

By Greater Good Science Center | February 26, 2016

How do you cultivate mindfulness? One way is to meditate. A basic method is to focus your attention on your own breathing—a practice simply called “mindful breathing.” After setting aside time to practice mindful breathing, you’ll find it easier to focus attention on your breath in your daily life—an important skill to help you deal with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, cool yourself down when your temper flares, and sharpen your ability to concentrate.

Time required:

15 minutes daily for at least a week (though evidence suggests that mindfulness increases the more you practice it).

How to do it

The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale. You can do this while standing, but ideally you’ll be sitting or even lying in a comfortable position. Your eyes may be open or closed, but you may find it easier to maintain your focus if you close your eyes. It can help to set aside a designated time for this exercise, but it can also help to practice it when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Experts believe a regular practice of mindful breathing can make it easier to do it in difficult situations.

Sometimes, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Otherwise, simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils. As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever it’s comfortable.

Notice and relax your body. Try to notice the shape of your body, its weight. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here—the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Just breathe.

Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.
Be kind to your wandering mind. Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it is not a problem. It’s very natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath.
Check in before you check out. After a few minutes, once again notice your body, your whole body, seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.

One of the most beautiful things about meditation is that you can be fully in the moment, without holding onto the trappings of your day. Work obligations, chores, errands, and any other mundane distraction can wait. It’s a wonderful escape from the physical world and the ultimate way to attain balance and peace. Plus it’s free!

Give Your Brain A Vacation!

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Please check out my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/give-your-brain-a-vacation/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito, Physician and IFBB Pro

Leaving Work Behind

Americans have a bad habit of skipping much needed vacations, either because they cannot catch up with their workloads, or because they can’t afford the travel expenses. However, everyone needs to press the reset button and allow their bodies, spirits and minds to relax. The brain in particular needs a break from all the factoids and sensory input which assault it on a daily basis. Yet we often feel the urge to check emails and social media while on vacation in an effort to keep up with the hectic and exhausting to-do list which seems to always hang over our heads. Guilt sets in over being away from work, even though we truly deserve to a have a little time off. The problem with tending to emails and other work-related items is that the break is eradicated, with the only distinction being that we have taken our work with us.

Information Overload

Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.

So when we go on vacation, there should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. The best tactic while on vacation is to completely avoid electronic devices, but if you aren’t able to do that, set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media.

Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. This way, your brain will enjoy the fruits of the vacation as well.

When You Need To Get Away

california

I am the kind of person who burns the candle at both ends, not necessarily because I like to constantly feel like I am being run ragged, but because I always have an insanely busy schedule which has me switching gears constantly throughout each day. My usual response to the question, “What did you do last weekend?” is that I worked. I am ALWAYS working on something, and there is always something to do in my hectic life.

There is a bit which comic John Mulaney performs which captures the feeling which I feel whenever I get the rare chance to actually relax on a weekend. Here’s his bit:

Kids always want to do stuff, kids get angry. They go, “awww, we didn’t do anything all day!”
You ever ask an adult what they did over the weekend and they say they didn’t do anything, their faces light up. It’s like, “What did you do this weekend?” Ï, uh, (big smile across one’s face) I did nothing. I did nothing at all! Did we do anything? No, we didn’t do anything!”

I am definitely feeling the urge to get away so I can get a break from the constant movement which defines my daily life. I firmly believe that everyone should take vacations and go on weekend getaways every now and then to recharge the spirit and relax the body and mind. Though I won’t be able to take any big trips this year, I know that a weekend getaway needs to occur soon so that I can preserve my sanity! The telltale signs of burnout are showing, such as lack of concentration, irritability, and fatigue. The nice thing about living in southern California is that there are so many options available for weekend getaways, so I will make sure to plan something very soon.