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.

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.

How I Stay In Shape These Days


Image shot by Tim Sevard in October of this year.

Since many people have been asking me about how I have been keeping in shape these days, I decided to devote a blog post to the subject. Though I am retired from competing, and am no longer bodybuilding stage-ready, I model frequently, and I also hold myself to very high standards when it comes to body conditioning. The most important factor in staying lean year round is FOOD, so I make sure to eat clean about 95% of the time. I consume about 100 to 120 grams of protein daily, all from whole foods rather than protein powders, and I drink plenty of water throughout the day. I limit my consumption of sugar and avoid processed foods.

Supplements are also an important part of my daily life. Most of the supplements I take have been in my daily regimen for many years, and I rarely miss a day’s dose. They are what I rely on to keep my body healthy at the cellular level. My goal is to maintain my health without ingesting prescription medications. In fact, the only prescription substance in my regimen is bioidentical progesterone cream.

I continue to challenge my body with frequent exercise, and still rely mostly on weight training for the bulk of my exercise. However, I incorporated aerial classes into my regular routine a couple of years ago for an extra challenge. At one point, I had been taking aerial classes 3 to 4 days per week, but my body was screaming out in agony. After a visit with my orthopedist, we discovered that I had arthritis in both elbows and my neck, and numerous issues in my shoulders, so I decided to back off from the intense aerial schedule I was following. These days, I only take a lyra class once every couple of weeks.

I have also been attending kundalini yoga classes on average of one day per week, and I love the unique physical, mental, and spiritual challenges which they present. Though kundalini yoga is a highly meditative form of yoga, the movements (called kriyas) are INTENSE, and I must often take breaks during these movements. I highly recommend this form of yoga for anyone who wants an intensely spiritual experience.

As for weight training, I train an average of six days per week when I am in town. I have adjusted my weight training to support aerial arts movements like straddle mounts, single knee hangs, pullovers and splits, and work my posterior chain (back, glutes, hams) more vigorously than my anterior chain. I usually follow a split consisting of three leg days and three upper body days which are further split (eg, back/arms, delts, chest/abs). I have also been changing the exercises, rep ranges, and lifting styles on a weekly basis to keep myself challenged. It’s definitely worked, because I am getting delayed onset muscle soreness from almost every workout.

The Magic Of Kundalini Yoga

I fell into kundalini yoga quite by accident earlier this year, when I decided to sign up for a class at a local yoga studio which was listed on ClassPass. From the first class, I was deeply moved, intrigued, and interested in continuing the practice. I hadn’t been aware of the fact that kundalini yoga is considered to be the most powerful and spiritual form of yoga, but I am grateful that it is now a part of my life. Kundalini yoga also complements my daily meditation practice.

How is kundalini yoga different from other forms of yoga? While it can be VERY physical, kundalini yoga is incredibly spiritual and meditative. You will spend a decent amount of time in “easy pose”, which is a standard pose for meditation. Kundalini yoga consists of chants, repetitive movements, and coordinated breathing techniques which are all designed to increase consciousness and activate the body’s energy centers. Because this type of yoga targets energy blockages, sessions can be emotional, intense, sacred, and filled with a sense of connectedness to everyone.

An article by James McCrae states that the objective of kundalini yoga is “decentralized and selfless – help people actualize their Higher Self”. The practice of kundalini yoga has been around since approximately 1,000 B.C. – 500 B.C. during the time in which the Upanishads were written. Kundalini, or “coiled snake”, refers to the energy of creation which sits at the base of the spine, and which can be activated and made to move up the spine and throughout the entire body. It was brought to the western world in the late 1960’s by Yogi Bhajan.

Kundalini yoga can be regarded as the fast track to spiritual enlightenment, and can bring about immense positive changes to one’s life. It increases awareness, brings a sense of well-being, and also creates a stillness and calmness which help to deflect the stresses of the modern world.

Two Breaths

Regular meditation practice has shaped my life for the past eleven years, and I honor and value all it has bestowed upon me in terms of balance, harmony, calmness and peace. When I began practicing meditation on a consistent basis, I was at a low point in my life as a result of a long-term relationship which had suddenly terminated. As fate would have it, I met a wonderful person who became my meditation teacher, my spiritual guide, and my dear friend. He invited me to become part of a local meditation group which met one to two times per week, and I gladly accepted. Within a couple of months, I began to learn how to sit in silence, let thoughts and feelings go, and focus on being completely in the moment. I quickly realized what a gift it was to fall into awareness during these sessions.

After my meditation teacher passed away in April of 2014, I went through a rough period in which I was so grief-stricken by his death that I was paralyzed, unable to meditate for several months. When I returned to meditation practice, it was alone, without the comfort of a group, but I was able to quickly fall into awareness during my sessions.

At the beginning of this year, I encountered another difficult life challenge, and instead of shying away from my meditation practice, I decided to sit daily. One tool which kept me accountable with daily meditation practice was a phone app called Insight Timer, which I still use. It is no longer a struggle for me to sit daily in meditation, and I have noticed profound changes in my demeanor and my general outlook on life.

In an effort to fortify my spiritual practice, I added kundalini yoga, and have noticed even more profound changes in my energy and my physiology, especially in my breathing. A few days ago, I had noticed that my respiratory rate had become much slower, so I decided to assess it while I practiced relaxation breathing. I was astonished when I discovered that I am now able to slow down my breathing to two respirations per minute. The breaths which I take during meditative and relaxation sessions are very slow, with a pause at the end of both the inhalation and exhalation phases.

Most people are so accustomed to shallow respirations in their daily lives that they assume that 12 to 14 respirations per minute is considered acceptable. As a physician, I regularly encounter a respiratory rate in that range, and am trained to consider that normal. However, in my spiritual practice, I know that in order to take 12 to 14 breaths per minute, the breaths tend to be quite shallow.

Modern society keeps us on the hamster wheel and fosters anxiety, but it is vital to step off the wheel, slow down, and allow the trappings of daily life to fall away so that we can truly let go. If you find yourself constantly wound up, try slowing down your breathing on a consistent basis. It has beneficial effects on your mood and blood pressure, and decreases muscle tension.

YogaClub.com Review

One evening at the end of May I watched three Facebook Live streams of women doing unboxings of YogaClub shipments. I was intrigued by how these women sang praises for the mystery boxes. Since I occasionally wear yoga leggings and a sport bra when I attend aerial or yoga class, I figured it was worth taking a chance by enrolling in the YogaClub program. I chose the intermediate $69 Karma level, which offered a hand curated outfit consisting of 2 or 3 items (the site now limits this to two pieces).

Approximately $74 and two weeks later, I got my first box and loved the quality of two of the items, a raspberry Columbia sport bra and a Magick Tarot Hot Pant from Teeki. But the hideous, boxy Luka-Lux top which completed the trio was so unflattering and drab that I had to return it.

This is where the problems began. You see, in order for me to return the Luka-lux top which I hadn’t even selected (apparently the curator has a horrible sense of style), I had to pay return shipping (incidentally, any returned items after the first return are subject to a $12.95 fee, plus shipping to cover the costs of restocking…never mind that you didn’t pick the items!). Well fine. About ten days later, I received an email confirming receipt of the item and informing me that an “Exchange Store Link” would be sent to me.

Skip ahead to the end of June. Still no Exchange Store Link. Oh, and look, I was charged $78 and some change for the June shipment. All right, fine. I got a second box for the next month which consisted of two nice items which I decided to keep. Incidentally, the leggings which they sent me were available for $32 online through other stores, which meant that YogaClub actually charged me MORE than the current retail on the order I received.

I contacted the customer service department regarding the Exchange Store Link THREE TIMES. I became exasperated and contacted them through Facebook. Suddenly, they paid attention, and they immediately emailed the Exchange Store Link. They explained that I was supposed to submit a tracking number for the returned item in order for them to furnish the link. Huh? Then explain the %@&#ing email confirmation of receipt to me!

I accessed the link, and of COURSE there was nothing comparable to the paltry store credit they gave me. So I had to spend another $26 on the item which I ordered in exchange for the ugly top.

As soon as I placed the order for the exchange item, I wrote to YogaClub via Facebook, stating I wanted my membership canceled immediately. Their response was that I was REQUIRED do it via phone call, due to the “sensitive nature” of the request. I HAD called, and had to leave a voicemail message, so I mentioned that. They insisted that it had to be done through the phone. By this time, I was so angry that steam was emanating from the crown of my head. I asked when the call would be returned. I was told that my call would be returned later that day. But of course no call came that day.

The next day YogaClub decided to call me so early in the morning that I was sleeping, and of course missed the call. So I wrote to them via FB and complained about the early morning call, and it was only then that they agreed to cooperate and ask me what time would be an acceptable time to reach me. I received a call later that morning, and was informed that my membership had already been cancelled, so there was no need to do anything via phone. The representative also informed me that a “free” top would be included in my exchange. Listen, a free top isn’t changing my opinion of a company which rips off its members and practices shoddy customer service.

This is NOT A GOOD DEAL. The items are from the clearance bins from the different companies, and can easily be purchased for less. Plus you are at the mercy of curators who may pick something you hate, and for which YOU get penalized.

Read their reviews on Facebook. Many women, myself included, HATE this company. Buyer beware!

What Are Chakras?

Chakra ChainWhile many of you may know have heard of chakras, many of you may not know what they refer to. Basically, chakras are energy centers which are located in our bodies and which often serve as focus points during yoga and meditation. It is strongly believed that blocked energy in these centers results in illness, so those who practice yoga and meditation seek a free flow of energy through the chakras to prevent illness and promote well-being and a connection to the energy of the Universe. There are seven main chakras, listed below.

The-Chakra-Wheel
1. Root Chakra – This chakra keeps us rooted to the earth and represents our foundation.
Location: Base of spine in tailbone.
Emotional issues: Financial security, food.

2. Sacral Chakra – This chakra represents our sense of connection to others.
Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below the navel and 2 inches deep.
Emotional issues: Abundance, well-being, pleasure, sexuality.

3. Solar Plexus Chakra – This chakra represents our sense of self.
Location: Upper abdomen near stomach.
Emotional issues: Self-worth, self-confidence, self-esteem.
More on Solar Plexus Chakra healing

4. Heart Chakra – This represents our interpersonal relationships with loved ones and our ability to love.
Location: Chest near the heart.
Emotional issues: Love, joy, inner peace.

5. Throat Chakra – This chakra represents our ability to communicate.
Location: Throat.
Emotional issues: Communication, self-expression, the truth.

6. Third Eye Chakra – This chakra represents our intuition and wisdom.
Location: Forehead between the eyes.
Emotional issues: Imagination, vision, ability to think and make decisions.

7. Crown Chakra – The highest Chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually.
Location: The very top of the head.
Emotional issues: Enlightenment, our connection to spirituality, pure bliss.