Yoga for Functional Mobility
I first became interested in the practice of yoga in my early twenties. It naturally came along with an in-depth study of eastern philosophy - specifically an exploration of Buddhism, The Holy Science and The Bhagavad Gita. I began a daily practice of Hatha yoga stretches along with sun salutations that I performed everyday without fail. I did not own a yoga mat and I couldn't afford a yoga class. I practiced in my living room on the rug or outside on the grass - even when traveling. I seldom missed a day of practice. I also practiced several different forms of meditation (influenced by my Native American cultural explorations as well as my study of eastern philosophy). Around the same time, I began to watch my maternal grandmother - a woman who had always been active, even an athlete - struggle with mobility. It had a lasting effect on me to watch someone who was so independent gradually lose her ability to be mobile. Fast forward to my forties and I had the opportunity to work with the elderly in a retirement community for 3 1/2 years and see and hear about their daily struggles as they tried to maintain their independence while dealing with not only loss of mobility, but loss of hearing, sight, dementia and a host of other illnesses that adversely affect the elderly. Not to mention conditions like depression and anxiety which also affect older people as they lose their spouses and friends and deal with their own loss of independence.
Not long after I started teaching yoga, I decided to explore yoga as therapy, especially for the conditions of aging and the diseases and restrictions that affect us as we age such as arthritis, loss of balance, back pain, joints wearing out - knee and hip replacements, etc.
There is a growing body of evidence supporting yoga's benefits among the older generation. I find the blogspot, http://yogaforhealthyaging.blogspot.com/ particularly inspirational, with contributors such as Baxter Bell, Nina Zolotow and Beth Gibbs (one of my own teachers) - it offers lots of supportive information for the older yogi! And it's never too late to start! My mom started practicing with an Iyengar style teacher when she turned 70 and it helped her to ease through hip replacement surgery 2 years later, by strengthening key muscles around the hip joint and making her recovery much quicker. (Check out more information on yoga's role in healing here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/avital-scharf/yoga-therapy-the-newest-h_b_11777622.html) I teach mostly older adults in my regular weekly yoga classes. If I have a "signature style", I would say that it is finding ways to move creatively through a practice - challenging students while also keeping them safe - protecting joints and helping them to increase mobility. Helping people keep their independence and mobility as their bodies age. Yoga can be profoundly helpful in keeping us healthy and mobile longer. I have also taught chair yoga to seniors in long term care and dementia care and had some success with simple movements, focusing on connecting to the breath as well as relaxation and chanting mantras for the throat muscles, voice and memory!
If you are looking to start a yoga class or would like to bring gentle yoga, chair yoga or yoga for better balance classes to a senior center or retirement community, please feel free to contact me. I'd be happy to see if I can assist you myself, or help you to find a practitioner trained in working with seniors in your area! Namaste! (Photo is of me with Edith Jason, an inspiring yoga teacher on Long Island who has been teaching for over 30 years at Edith's Feel Good Yoga!)