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Yoga is an ancient Sanskrit practice that emphasizes connecting the mind and body to the world around it. It’s a way to calm the mind while keeping muscles flexible and the cardiovascular system in top shape. It’s a gentle form of exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Those who are 55 and up can see significant benefits by practicing yoga two or three times each week. With age, muscles begin to stiffen and range of motion wanes. The body becomes more susceptible to disease, and the brain may suffer the consequences of five or more decades of personal health neglect. Yoga can help slow down many of the effects of aging by increasing muscle flexibility and offering seniors the opportunity to relax their entire self.
The benefits of yoga for seniors include:
Seniors who’ve have experienced drug or alcohol addiction may benefit even further from yoga and meditation. The Treehouse Rehab explains that taking control of physical health is one of the first steps in a successful recovery. Self-awareness, one of the main focuses of yoga, can help you or your loved one learn how to focus thoughts and emotions as to best avoid negative behaviors. Substance abuse has a significant impact on the body and mind; yoga can help rebuild those aspects of self that were destroyed.
Where to start
It’s not difficult to find a yoga class, even for an older adult who may have difficulty with other forms of exercise. Currently, there are more than 14 million seniors in the United States that actively participate in yoga programs. If you’re looking for an entry-level class, start with your neighborhood gym. Many senior centers also have a full schedule of activities geared toward the mature members of the community. For inspiration, check out these flexibility in these yoga-loving seniors.
While yoga is typically considered a non-strenuous activity, different styles may be more intense than others. Seniors with limited mobility are encouraged to start off with one of the “gentler” forms of yoga. These include Iyengar, Kripalu and Hatha. According to Vive Health, each of these may be tailored to an individual’s physical abilities and poses modified as such.
In addition to the traditional floor-and-mat yoga, seniors may also wish to consider an adaptive version of the exercise. Seniors who have trouble getting up and down or may wish to include a chair in their poses. Many fitness centers also offer water-based yoga classes, which can be combined with aquarobics for a comprehensive workout that’s gentle on the muscles and joints. The Australian Seniors Insurance Agency explains that water yoga has been adapted for aged participants and may include breathing exercises to relieve aches and pains.
It’s important to note that senior should talk to their doctor before beginning any type of exercise regimen. Yoga is typically considered safe, but it is not without its risk. The Huffington Post explains that the most common injuries associated with yoga involve the shoulders, knees, neck and back. Overexertion and undiagnosed musculoskeletal conditions may also result in herniated discs or torn muscles. Common sense is the key to avoiding injuries.
Yoga, especially for seniors, is a viable alternative to high-impact exercise programs. It can help heal the mind, body, and soul in a safe, healthy and social environment.
The above article is created by a guest blogger:
Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.
When I was born, my head couldn’t turn. When I was young, this had been one of the most interesting life stories about myself. It’s so weird yet didn't cause too much trouble. When I am getting older, it’s not an interesting story at all. This is a physical condition I have to care about in life.
I had no memory about pain and physiotherapy treatment as an infant. My mum and dad told me I was screaming and crying in every physiotherapy treatment. I could imagine. The physiotherapist forcibly turned my head while my neck was completely stiff. Apparently 97% of babies turned automatically into a head-down position to get ready for birth, but I was one of the 3 % that I made a U turn just before birth. It’s been unknown why babies got torticollis (twisted neck). Doctors believed it could be related to abnormal positioning (being in the breech position, where the baby's buttocks face the birth canal). That’s what I did. Luckily my dad discovered my head couldn’t turn after a few months and it's almost healable.
It was just a story in my childhood and teenage hood. It didn’t bother my lifestyle at all. However, the issue exists. My neck has a range of motions but right side of the neck’s muscle is very tight. This muscle is called sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM). This large, rope-like muscle runs on both sides of the neck from the back of the ears to the collarbone.
In my late 20s, I started realizing there were some issues. My neck, shoulder and back of my right side was stiff, sore and tiring very easily. It also went down to my right elbow. I lost so much flexibility and I couldn’t tilt my head back. I was worried my neck couldn’t move one day. I also discovered my right shoulder is higher than my left. My right arm is longer than my left. My right side of my back is tighter than the left. It’s totally imbalance. I know it can cause big problems in the long run.
I am lucky to meet Maria Kirsten in my yoga teacher training in Byron Yoga Centre. Her yoga session is anatomically and functionally based, and she advised that as my right arm/shoulder is longer/higher, I had to focus on the left side when I practice yoga to bring back the balance. When I do plank pose, my right arm is working harder than the left. I had to put some more body weight to my left side consciously. So, my left side of the body is working. This helps loosen tense neck muscles and tighten the loose ones.
I notice that it’s so important to listen to my body, understand my limits and accept whatever it is but still work on it to get better. There are hundreds of yoga poses. The government of India formed a team to collect yoga poses from 35 ancient texts, and identified 900 yoga poses. There are also many inventions of yoga poses/ variations as it evolves. I like the idea that yoga is the journey of the self. We do what we feel good. For me, yoga practice is a self-healing process, both body and mind. I stretch every part of the body yet focus on my neck, shoulder and back.
There are many types of yoga that suit different people needs. I must admit it takes a while to find what suits you best. I love the idea of yoga that is a journey rather than a destination. When I roll out the yoga mat, it’s a time for me to travel to my heart, understand what I need, what I don’t need and take good care of myself. At the end of the day, I gradually build my inner strength and physical strength to face the practical aspects of life.
If you have any physical conditions, you are not alone. In my group class, everyone has some sort of issues. However, we feel better and we are stronger after yoga practice. If you want a private yoga session to follow your own pace, please contact me.
Thanks for reading.
In 2014 winter, I quitted my banking job in Hong Kong and opened to all possibilities. I did google search with keywords ‘Yoga teacher training’, ‘Asia’, ‘Pacific’ (I liked summer) and found out one of the highest qualifications of yoga teacher training course at that time. It was a Certificate IV in Byron Bay. I didn’t know what Byron Bay was about but I decided to go. In the first day, I was amazed by no traffic lights in town. It solely relies on roundabout to manage traffic, cars and pedestrians. In the entire 7 weeks, I couldn’t imagine how much I changed.
I become vegetarian/ pescatarian
My 7 weeks training course only served vegetarian meals. I thought I would be hungry all the time then. Surprisingly, I feel energised. I met an amazing vegetarian chef wongyogafood and discovered benefits, flavours, subtle flavours and international gourmet food of plant-based diet. The first question was ‘Will I get enough nutrition?' I basically eat what my family eats in my whole life and don't think about alternative diet too much. Not until I had this offer, I learned to eat a rainbow. Find Nutrition Australia for more details. We had Mexican Tacos, Malaysian Laksa, Japanese sushi and many more. It’s amazing. I felt my tongue has been more sensitive to taste the subtle flavours of food. After 7 weeks, I thought it’s great that I could eat meat again. However, I found out my digestive system had been changed gradually. My stomach was bloated after eating my first teriyaki chicken sushi roll after 7 weeks.
I then read more about plant-based diet articles/books. We spend lots of energy to pass the nutrient and waste from the mouth to anus. Our ancestors only ate meat whenever they hunted an animal successfully. They occasionally had meat so our bodies didn’t adapt to eat lots of meat.
Deep release and relaxation
I had never done so much yoga in a day. Everyday we woke up at 5am for 6am class, either teaching as a trainee or participating classes so other classmates practiced their teaching skills. After breakfast, we learned how to teach every pose, how to organise sequences and apply basic anatomy. After lunch, we learned different styles of yoga, Hatha, Yin, prenatal, yoga for special needs, chair yoga for seniors and kids yoga. After dinner, it was self-study for online test and teaching. From 5am to 9pm, it’s all about yoga! In the first week, some classmates could not bear and quitted the course. I stayed in but I threw up after a week. Not sure if I had a deep detox by non-stop yoga practice and vegetarian food. A few other classmates started having different sorts of symptoms, dizziness, headache, etc. I didn’t take any medication. After a couple of hours, I was ok and started practicing yoga again.
Apart from throwing up, I cried. During some of the sessions I couldn’t stop crying. What’s going on? I realised as we age, we accumulated not only stress but also grief and frustration beyond control. I felt restless. I thought when I reached to the point I felt released and liberating, I cried.
I didn’t expect the yoga teacher training made a U turn in my life. It’s not just about the beginning of mastering a craft as a Yoga Teacher. However, this is a great way for me to connect to inner self, people and nature. I am conscious about how I spend my time and energy, setting boundaries for myself. What is important? What isn’t? It really helps direct my mind to what truly matters.
Have you brought into tears in yoga class? Do you feel emotional in some yoga poses?
Today is my birthday and I am 38 years old (already!). Time goes so quickly that I don’t want to waste time anymore. I used to do things what I felt like but after living 38 years on earth, I truly understand I have limited resources, i.e. time, money and energy. I need to structure my day so as to keep me well. This may be a moment of mid-life crisis. Anyway, here it is my lessons at 38.
Enjoy awkward conversations
After I left Hong Kong, almost all friendships started with awkward conversations. I have an urge to fit into a new community but I think this is really good for everyone. Start talking with people with different cultural backgrounds, professions, anything different from your life. They will open your eyes and take you to different perspectives that you could ever imagine. While I was in Fiji, I met a lady who worked in Afghanistan for United Nations. She said all UN staff worked in a compound. If they have to leave the compound for a meeting, they must go with a police officer. Their stress is not about workload but the risk of kidnapping. While driving in the desert, you could never stop the car for whatever reasons. Small terrorists want to sell you to big terrorist groups to earn lots of money. My jaw was dropping! When she could manage this stress level, I don't want to complain anything, I know I have to keep my chin up. While I am in Perth, I meet a young lady who has 2 horses. From my point of view, having a horse in the backyard is as special as having an orangutan. She was a vaulting championship. She can do a headstand on a horse’s back and she can stand on the horse’s back while the
horse is galloping!!!
I couldn’t count how much money I spent that was a waste of money. I guess it is a learning process to figure out what you really pay for when you decide to buy something. While I still worked in a bank, I travelled to Europe for a holiday and bought a handbag, costing $5,000. I bought this because I would have to pay $7,000 for the same bag if I bought it in Hong Kong. I thought I saved $2,000. I forgot $5,000 dollar can be spent for another exotic experience that I can learn and explore. Then,... I hardly use it. After using it, I had to massage the surface of the bag with a special leather cloth so it keeps shiny. What a burden! I still like this beautiful handbag, but I’d rather just stare at it for a few minutes when I read fashion magazine.
Sometimes I still pay extra for convenience or what I love but most of the time I assess how I can better use of the money. It’s all about balance. I learn to be a rational buyer and know what I pay for. Is that what I need, or what I want? How am I going to use it or will it be just sitting in the house forever? Do I pay for a symbolic image, and its operating cost? Just need cool down and analyse, rather than impulse purchase and let the emotions run over my head.
Health is wealth
Everyone wants a healthy life. Who is looking for pain? Nobody.
Not until I lost a range of motions and had serious neck and back pain, I realized it has to take an effort consistently for a vibrant health and being able to age gracefully. I forgot about keeping myself well by a balanced diet and workout, but I reached out to gain something else. When I focused on something then I neglected some other things. One day, my muscles and joints just stopped working properly. It’s so important to step back and review how I spend my day. Did I earn money for paying medical bills? Yes. Did I feel unfulfilled and emptiness? Yes. I knew that I had to make a change in my lifestyle. I still enjoy working very hard. I run my yoga business, and it is interesting and challenging. However, I do take good care of my body and mind for a sustainable living.
Today I am blessed. I am grateful I’ve met many interesting people, stay-at-home mum with a PHD., a paediatrician who can swim from Cottesloe to Rottnest, a diplomat who is a good cook, and many others who are committed to be a better version of themselves. I am grateful I live in a country that I can enjoy liberty rights of having all the access to gain wisdom around the world and not being brainwashed.
Have you learned something interesting that you want to share with me? Leave me a comment below.
By the way, thank you for all the Birthday wishes.
It’s been 2 years since I move to Perth. I still find it quite challenging to settle in. I am not sure if I am getting older and less adaptive. Or else, it is because this move is not for study, or work, or travel as I used to. It is solely a family reunion. That means it is full of possibilities, and lack of directions. In 2016, it was crazy. I was in the process of getting driving license, finding a place to live, seeking employment or study opportunities. In 2017, it is still crazy, but I re-establish VAI YOGA, meet lots of interesting people at both work and community events, and learn lots of new things. I am glad I get a bit more understanding of Perth too. It is time to reflect on my 2017:
1. Understanding Perth
I find out everyone loves Bunnings. I feel really isolated in Perth before I know Bunnings. Everyone likes DIY and gardening in his/her houses. They are so excited about their projects, fixing toilets, building steps, etc. I used to live in a tiny apartment in Hong Kong. We don't have energy left to DIY after working long hours. We also don’t live with front yards as well as backyards. Many of us see mangos but never see a mango tree in our life.
Gumtree is also a very interesting platform that you feel more connected with Perthians. When you buy or sell, someone's lifestyle is somehow exposed to you, which may be completely different from you. My husband bought a motorbike from a guy who lives in Rockingham. WOW,…His house is in the middle of nowhere, 13 acres bush land, with a few dogs, a few horses, a few motorbikes, a few cars, etc. The seller is an interesting person. Some others mark up a price of a second hand item higher than a market price of a brand new item. Some others put an ad up and it is free to good home. How funny! We never go to a stranger’s home in Hong Kong.
I used to be a public transport person and enjoy a convenient city life. In Hong Kong, we are able to access to almost all necessities in 20 minutes travel time. "I don't yet arrive" is now always in my mind when I need to go somewhere. Having said that, Perth is such a gigantic and multicultural city. Everyone has more choices if you are willing to travel and look for new experiences. I find more Asian cuisines here than in Hong Kong. I discover many beloved Asian dishes that I’ve never tried before, including Burmese noodle soup Mohinga (hot and sour fish based broth with intense aromatic ingredients) in Girrawheen, Cambodian Amok (diced emperor fish steamed in coconut cream, egg, lemongrass and lime leaves) in Mount Hawthorn. So yum!
Choices of lifestyle in Perth are beyond my imaginations. I’ve met people living in 10- acre bush land with horses and cows. Some others have caravans parked in their front yards and ready to go camping anytime, or live near the beach and enjoy all sorts of water activities. In Hong Kong, we all live in apartments, just a matter of bigger or smaller.
2. Improving English
I am embarrassed to tell you I learned English since I was in kindergarten. However, we never speak English in our daily life in Hong Kong. We are able to write and read, but not speak and listen. Since we don’t have an English-speaking environment, our English is from textbook. Now I know some words like ‘muffin top’, ‘sillybilly’, and so on. It’s funny. I did a few accent reduction trainings. Apparently it is hard to change our accent after 12 years old, but we are able to train our mouth muscles to pronounce some sounds correctly. For example, Cantonese, my first language, doesn’t have any sound you need to put your tongue between upper and lower teeth (the "th" sound). So I practice that. Lucky enough, Perth is very multicultural and they get used to communicating with others in different accent.
3. Meeting lots of people
This is the best part of my life in Perth. I feel alive when I interact with different people who share their life experiences with me. I am grateful I meet lots of interesting and nice people through my work as a yoga teacher. I do chair yoga for seniors in Bassendean 55 plus. One of my students, a 80 year-old man, takes the responsibilities of setting up the room with chairs. He told me in the old days, there are clear roles and responsibilities between women and men. Women do cooking and washing while men do heavy work. I like this gentleman very much. I met a lady who came to Perth by boat 30 years ago due to communism in Vietnam. She told me in those days, they knew they were very lucky to arrive in Australia, as many people could not make it and die in the ocean. After they arrived, they had a very clear goal to settle in Australia, learn English, and make a living. They didn’t waste a second to look back.
4. Learning new marketing skills
I used to work in credit card marketing in banking industry in Hong Kong. I am surprised my corporate marketing skills cannot apply to small business and I have to learn everything again. There are many free or low cost business workshops or business consultations from Business Stations / Business Foundations. I can learn social media marketing, how to write blogs, how to plan a marketing calendar. It is overwhelming when I wear so many hats at once as a small business owner, planning and teaching yoga classes, telling people my existence, managing finance and administration, etc. These workshops are a great platform to learn new skills. It is also important you meet other small business owners and I know I am not alone.
In 2018, sharing the joy of yoga with everyone continues to be my big goal. I am also eager to understand more about the culture of this gigantic city, and what Perthians value, and what they like to spend their leisure time. Could you tell me something about Perth and the people?
Wish you a Happy New Year!
Rachel is the founder of VAI YOGA. She follows her yoga journey from Hong Kong to Fiji and Australia. She is now sharing the joy of yoga and continues down this path in Perth.