Age: 71 (she adds, “old enough to know better and young enough to do it anyway!”)
Sun Sign: Aries
Pets: Two long-haired black cats, Amos and Pinkerton
Favorite Sweet Treat: anything chocolate
One thing I’ve noticed about Judy since I met her in 2016 (besides her lovely posture!) is her ability to open herself up to whatever she’s experiencing, and I can tell she’s really listening inward during class. She has been a fixture in my group classes since then, adding her special brand of graceful goodwill and lightheartedness.
Judy’s been practicing on and off since 1998, but in 2000, she needed spine surgery in her neck to repair a serious bone spur that was interfering with her range of motion and causing numbness down her arm. They took the discs out of C6+C7 and replaced them with bone from her left hip. While she suffers from arthritis throughout most of her joints, Judy has learned that she feels much better if she keeps moving.
Currently, she practices yoga about 2-3 hours each week, which has also helped strengthen her bones as we reported earlier this year. (Her improved Dexa Scan scores contributed to the blogpost I wrote on Yoga for Stronger Bones.) In fact, I blame Judy and another student for getting me interested in yoga for osteoporosis, and I’m only at the beginning of that journey, so thank you…
Judy came to my house for a special one-on-one session – or an osteocyte party as I like to say! Osteocytes are important building blocks of bone synthesis, but we need to practice the right poses with proper alignment and work hard within the pose (hold for at least 30 seconds, for one!) in order to put enough stress on the bone to get that bone-building party started. She even got into an Extended Side Angle Pose, great for stimulating the femurs and spinal vertebrae – the areas where Judy has thinning bone.
With her weak ankles and neuropathy in her feet, Judy’s toughest challenge is balancing poses like Tree. “Balance is hard for me, and it makes me feel less successful, though it does get somewhat easier with practice!”
Because of Judy’s regular yoga practice, she experiences less arthritis pain, stronger bones, and feels more centered in her daily life. Yoga class provides her with a social connection with like-minded people. I’m so grateful to have Judy’s beaming smile in my classes, along with her humor and present-moment insight into her own practice. I hope she will consider the yoga dose response study with Dr. Fishman and keep those BMD scores improving!
January/February Classes: These winter classes have flexible attendance: buy a class card and attend any session that works for your calendar!
Tuesdays / Jan 7th – Feb 11th / 9-10am
Thursdays / Jan 9th – Feb 13th / 10-11am
Saturdays / Jan 4th – Feb 8th / 11-12pm
Join us for an all levels Gentle Flow class. We’ll breathe, stretch, and move to restore precious vitality. This class is safe for all levels: whether you’re a total beginner, haven’t gotten to the mat in a while, or have a regular practice.
Show up in whatever state you’re in, and be guided through an accessible fun sequence designed to connect mind, body, and spirit. Blocks and straps provided, and some extra mats available as well.
When: Saturday December 14th and Saturday December 21st / 11am-12pm
Join us for 2 Saturdays in December for an all levels Gentle Flow class. We’ll breathe, stretch, and move to restore precious vitality. This class is safe for all levels: whether you’re a total beginner, haven’t gotten to the mat in a while, or have a regular practice.
Show up in whatever state you’re in, and be guided through an accessible fun sequence designed to connect mind, body, and spirit. Blocks and straps provided, and some extra mats available as well.
2 for $25, drop in for $15. First class is free if you’ve never attended a Team Sun Wellness class before!
Living to be over 100 isn’t uncommon at all in regions known as the blue zones. In these areas, life expectancy isn’t just higher; centenarians are generally also healthy in mind and body. Author Dan Buettner teamed up with a team from National Geographic to study these groups, and whittled their longevity down to 9 common denominators. We found their recipe for wellness extremely interesting and wanted to share it with you.
As yoga and mindfulness teachers, our own blueprint for wellness always needs refining and fine-tuning. Whether we have time for a long yoga practice or a 5-minute mindfulness meditation, there is one daily constant, and that’s our high-energy dog, Lucy. She crosses a few things off the wellness list – she’s the reason we get up in the morning, she helps relieves stress (she loves snuggles,) and keeps us moving!
1. Move NaturallyThe world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.
What do you do to move naturally and stay active? How can you bring more natural movement into your everyday routine?
2. PurposeThe Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy A reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile.
What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning, what makes your life worth living, or gives your life value? Would you like to find more meaning in your life?
3. Manage Your Stress / Down ShiftEven people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.
What do you do to actively manage your stress? Can you add a few new stress-relieving habits like yoga or meditation to your list?
4. 80% Rule“Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in the blue zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.
When do you eat your biggest meal? Do you continue to eat until you are past full? Can you be more mindful of your hunger levels at the next meal?
5. Plant SlantBeans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month. Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards.
How often do you eat meat, and how big of a portion size do you put on your plate? Can you substitute beans at your next meal?
6. Wine @ 5People in all blue zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.
Are you able to drink moderately? We cannot condone drinking, as many Americans have a problem relationship with alcohol, but if you are able to enjoy a glass of wine without any negative consequences, cheers!
7. Belong / CommunityAll but five of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.
Have you found a community where you feel you belong? If you have, can you reach out to someone who seems like they might need help finding theirs? If you haven’t, make a list of possibilities.
8. Loved Ones First/Family Successful centenarians in the blue zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home (It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.). They commit to a life partner (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes).
Can you create more quality time with your family? Can you commit more fully to your life partner if you have one?
9. Right Tribe / Social LifeThe world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.
Can you set up a phone call or lunch date with a friend this week? Even casual social relationships are important when it comes to longevity. Who is on your best friend list?
We are all our own best teachers, of course. What works for someone in Okinawa might not work for you. So listen to your own mind and body as you reach for new ways to be your best self. We continue to wish you health and well-being, and all the vitality you desire!
“The ability to stretch our toes like fingers and to create a wide, healthy, open space between each and every toe is not some vestigial ability available only to a chosen few.”
-Mary Dunn, quoted in Yoga for People Over 50
Toe Exercises – Start Your Practice
Students often laugh in disbelief when I ask them to do these Toe Exercises, since many of us have really lost a lot of coordination in our toes. By creating space, strength, and flexibility in our toes, we are both widening our base for increased stability and using the whole of our foot for better agility. Try it by watching the video above, or following these guidelines:
Take off your shoes.
Pick all your toes up off the ground and spread them as widely as you can. Is there space between each toe? You can practice creating space between the toes in any yoga pose. While you’re off the mat, you can intertwine your fingers between your toes and manually create space.
Now, try pressing just your big toe into the earth, and lift up all the little toes. If the big toes want lift up too, manually override that by using your fingers to keep the toes down.
Now try pressing all the little toes into the earth, and lift up the big toes. Again, if your toes are not cooperative, use a manual assist with your fingers.
Go back and forth between lifting just the big toes, and just the little toes. Keep practicing every day and notice the difference!
Advanced Toe Exercise – try pressing the big toes down and the little toe, and lifting all the toes in between!
Finish up by bringing as much space between your toes as you can.
Got Foot Problems?
By age 40, about 80 percent of the population has some muscular-skeletal foot or ankle problem. By age 50 to 55, that number can go up to 90 or 95 percent. Walking and yoga may help reverse foot problems. According to Suza Francina, author of The New Yoga for People over 50,“the combination of walking and yoga is the supreme way to rehabilitate your feet.” She recommends walking barefoot as often as possible, as well as doing various toe stretches like the ones in our video above that encourage opening space up between the toes where we have lost dexterity due to the confinement of wearing shoes. In addition, many poses done in a regular yoga practice stretch and strengthen the feet and legs too, and experts say they can provide benefit beyond treating common foot problems like plantar fasciatis, fallen arches, bunions, and many more.
“I recommend that all my patients start yoga immediately. When you treat foot problems with yoga, you end up treating back pain, hip pain, all kinds of structural problems. Not only does it stretch out the muscles and lead to a greater range of motion, but it helps heal the root issue of inflammation as well.”
Robert Kornfeld, holistic podiatrist
The anatomy of your foot is a marvel, a miracle. Da Vinci called the human foot a “masterpiece of engineering and work of art.” With 200,000 nerve endings, 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles, and 107 ligaments in each foot, we mere mortals are able to execute highly precise movements.
“The sole of your foot has over 200,000 nerve endings in it, one of the highest concentrations anywhere in the body. Our feet are designed to act as earthward antennae, helping us balance and transmitting information to us about the ground we’re walking on.”
-Adam Sternberg, New York Magazine article “You Walk Wrong”
Mountain Pose – The Foundation
The feet are our foundations, our basic connection to the ground upon which we stand. When we “root down” during various yoga postures such as Mountain Pose, it is an invitation to bring awareness to your feet first, and then legs. Walking upright, we need to feel the ground in order to feel balanced. With every step we take, healthy feet allow us to move with confidence throughout the diverse terrain of our daily lives.
You can do this pose anywhere. I prefer to practice it on a yoga mat with bare feet, but try Mountain Pose while standing in line at the grocery store or talking to a friend. Stable, alert, and upright, this foundational pose begins with a sharp awareness of our feet. Start with your feet and work your way up the body.
Enhance Your Balance – Calf Raises Exercise
Bringing movement into our Mountain Pose, we rise up onto our tip toes, and rock back onto our heels.
Whether you incorporate simple arm movement, or hold onto a chair for this simple exercise, you may start to feel the structure of the foot more acutely.
Notice where you place most of your weight as you rise up – is it on the inside edges of the feet, where there is more structural support, or on the outside edges? Can you rise up and hold for a beat?
Try connecting your breath – inhale as you lift, exhale as you ground down – and relax into any micro-movements that show up in order to find the edge of your balance.
Doing this easy exercise every day, I have developed strength in both my feet and lower limbs, and brought a newfound awareness to my feet that has greatly enhanced my balance.
Try Tree Pose
Tree Pose (Vrkasana) is one of our favorites poses, so we were thrilled to learn that Tree Pose may help slow advancement of a common foot problem – bunions. According to Robert Kornfeld, “Yoga can’t reverse bunions that have already formed—only surgery can—but practicing certain poses can slow their advancement.” He recommends practicing balancing poses like Tree pose in which the foot with the bunion is grounded and the other foot is lifted (of course we have to do both sides if we’re practicing any standing pose!) He says this will engage and strengthen the peroneal muscle of the standing leg that runs all along the outside of the lower leg, and tucks under the sole of the foot. That “grounding force” can help override instabilities that make the bunion worse. And Tree Pose can have many other benefits too, such as improving overall balance and focus. Check out our video:
Going Barefoot – for Optimal “Grounding”
“The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections.”
– Walt Whitman
One study concluded that prior to the invention of shoes, people may have had healthier feet. I like to joke that one of the reasons I became a yoga teacher was so that I could go barefoot. In truth, I do need all the grounding I can get, and feeling my naked feet touch the earth provides me just that. According to one of my favorite books on the Chakras, much like a lightning rod protects a building by sending excess voltages into the earth, grounding protects our bodies from becoming overloaded by the tensions of everyday life. So, take off your shoes, root down, and practice as much Yoga for Your Feet as you desire. I’ll leave you with this poem I penned on the feet:
Ode to My Feet
Hello feet! I haven’t paid you much heed And yet there you are, my two trusty steeds Bearing my weight day in and day out In today’s class, I’d like to give you a shout out.
Each foot contains 26 bones, And has not one but three arches! I learned through my Iphone. The 107 ligaments spread throughout its base Allow us to balance, to spring and to pace.
Such precision required to move through our days Is often ignored until there is pain Whether bunions, arthritis, or gout, we may know That an injury in the metatarsals is likely to grow.
Without proper care, the offset is dire And can travel to knees, backs, and hips like wild-fire.
If your arches have fallen, walk barefoot they say And try grabbing things with your toes – start today! Build strength in your feet and your ankles with cues To distribute weight evenly - stability rules!
The foot is a marvel with its myriad bones Each doing its job to carry us home. So appreciate yours, take good care and be smart, Like Da Vinci who pronounced them “a work of art.”
Try picking things up with your toes
Distribute your weight evenly as you walk or in any yoga pose
Go to the doctor if you notice new pain in your ankles or feet
“I always feel better after a yoga session than when I started.”
Length of Practice: 18 months
Most Gratifying Pose: Warrior 1
Most Challenging Pose: Transition out of Down Dog
Pets: 1 Cat, Pumpkin (who invariably appears to encourage us during triangle pose!)
Favorite Excursion on Bike: FDR Park & the Philadelphia Navy Yard
I count Ben among those students I most enjoy teaching. He never takes a
pose off. His combination of enthusiasm and discipline allows us to
explore the healing and revitalizing power of each posture. He
epitomizes the ancient yogic principle of tapas, the inner fire that inspires us to “leave it all on the mat”
Life without tapas is like a heart
without love.” – BKS Iyengar
Ben’s consistency in no small part can be attributed to an understanding of his own thresholds and range of movement on any given day. He stays within himself and is comfortable making adjustments to account for “the usual suspects” in his knee and hip. He works with what he brings to the mat and his calm focus provides a solid foundation for building strength and flexibility. He offers this advice to students just starting their journeys on the yoga path, “You would be surprised at how beneficial practice can be if you give it a chance and stick with it.”
Ben enjoys regular time on the bike and tennis court and believes yoga facilitates his active lifestyle. I believe his mindset here is critical. Yoga is not an end into itself, but rather a gateway through which we can continue doing everything it is we love doing AND with greater awareness. Beyond building strength and flexibility, simply paying closer attention to our breathing can help us perform almost any physical activity more safely and efficiently. After all, we don’t stop breathing when we roll out of Savasana!
It has been an honor to join you on the path, Ben!
Seated Meditation and Mindful Movement for All Levels
Wednesday October 2nd 6:00-7:00pm / Swarthmore Town Center / Fresh Air Fitness in Central Park ampitheater – Donation based
We invite you to “put on your own oxygen mask first!”
With the breath as the key to our self-care toolkit, we’ll be exploring simple tools to manage stress, become more present, and foster self-acceptance.
These include seated breath awareness and breath control exercises, breath-connected movement exercises, and a guided mindfulness meditation to finish it off.
Practicing these tools helps develop a mindset that encourages self-care. No experience in meditation or yoga needed. Bring a cushion to sit on, a blanket for your lap if we’re outside, and an open mind. All ages and levels of experience welcome.
Posture, breath, and balance are fundamental to wellness, yet few of us are actively incorporating them into our everyday lives. For example, how are you sitting or standing right now? Have you noticed taking a breath recently? Are you actively using your core muscles to stay upright and balanced? Bring greater awareness to these synergistic fundamentals and become less stressed, safer from injury and more self-aware in your environment. Indeed, physical, mental and emotional health all start with the Big Three.
We are offering special deals for seniors this month. Stay active, challenge your balance, and meet like-minded members of your community! At Team Sun Wellness, we teach many adults over the age of 65. Avoid injury, manage stress, and get more joy out of life by exploring some of our wellness offerings!
Aging gracefully: Our health and the rate at which we age entirely depends on our choices. We can actually reverse or slow down the pace at which we age by practicing yoga and meditation! We have seen improvements in balance firsthand with regular practice in our balance and yoga classes. Being more active seems to go hand in hand with maintaining or improving balance.
According to a 2016 study conducted by Yoga in America, 17 percent of current yoga practitioners are in their 50s, and 21 percent are age 60 and older!
TUESDAYS AT 11AM: All ages and mobility levels are welcome. Learn breathing techniques, easy stretches, and specific yoga poses adapted for the chair. Props like blocks and straps are used to help support, achieve, or deepen a pose. Improve your balance with standing poses that use the chair for support, if it’s in your practice. Come refine your posture, improve balance, strength and flexibility – in a supportive and relaxing community environment. First class is free for seniors! For more info: Chair Yoga. Swarthmore United Methodist Church.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 7th, 10-11:15AM:There’s a real “use it or lose it” component to maintaining your balance. Whether you’re looking to prevent balance issues or to reverse them, you need to challenge your balance on a regular basis. In our class we’ll be learning safe, effective exercises that can improve your balance, flexibility, and strength. With practice, almost anyone can achieve better balance. Participants of all ages and mobility levels welcome. Donation-based, pay what you can.For more info: Balance Workshop. Swarthmore United Methodist Church.
There’s a real “use it or lose it” component to maintaining your balance. Whether you’re looking to prevent balance issues or to reverse them, you need to challenge your balance on a regular basis. In our class we’ll be learning safe, effective exercises that can improve your balance, flexibility, and strength. With practice, almost anyone can achieve better balance.
While it’s true that our muscles, joints, and bones change as we age, and are no longer as elastic or strong as they once were, and we may also experience more issues in the vestibular system, or may be taking medications which affect balance, it doesn’t mean we have to blindly believe that our balance is only going to get worse.
I believe that if we have regular doctor’s checkups, stay active and mindful, have good posture, and continue to challenge our balance, we can maintain and even improve balance. I have seen improvements in balance firsthand with regular practice in my balance and yoga classes. Being more active seems to go hand in hand with maintaining or improving balance.
In this workshop, we’ll:
Evaluate our balance using a timed exercise.
Get mindful: create a mind-body connection by focusing on the breath to improve awareness.
Get in touch with our feet, the foundations of balance.
Learn new postural habits: good alignment means stability.
Stretch and strengthen muscles used for balance.
Learn new visual habits: lift the gaze to encourage use of peripheral vision.
Practice increasingly difficult balance challenges in a supportive, non-judgmental environment – such as: standing yoga balance poses, walking a balance beam, ball-handling, and other exercises that challenge our balance.
Explore the “edge” of our balance ability.
Celebrate our victories no matter how small by supporting and encouraging each other!
Participants of all ages and mobility levels welcome. Chairs will be provided, and if you have a yoga mat, please bring one. (Or borrow one from Team Sun Wellness, supplies limited) We will be placing chairs on the mats to create a non-slip surface. Class size limit 20. This is a donation-based offering, so please feel free to pay what you can. Suggested donation is $20, but if you have limited funds, don’t let that stop you from attending for free.
EMAIL OR CALL TO HOLD YOUR SPOT!
email@example.com / 917.837.2014
About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans is a certified yoga instructor (EYT-200) and teaches yoga, meditation, and balance classes in the Philadelphia area with her company Team Sun Wellness.