Yoga for Healthy Aging

Swarthmore Public Library – February 5th 2-3pm – FREE – Join us for a combined lecture and movement session, safe for all bodies. 

Age is not a disease. It’s a state to which we aspire. Yet slow-moving age-related changes such as loss of muscle mass, kyphotic posture, and lack of flexibility can leave us feeling frail, off balance, and unable to live as independently.

photo by Ben Zuckerman

Often the very thing that many of these age-related changes react positively to is activity – and the RIGHT activity. And when we make lifestyle changes to counteract the effects of aging, it helps us find a sense of control over what may seem like an overwhelming decline. Yoga is one such activity, found to counteract many age-related changes that reduce your health span.

Whether you’re looking to strengthen bones + muscles or improve flexibility and balance, there is a safe yoga practice for every level of fitness and mobility. While we may not have control over certain aspects of the aging process, we do have control over our lifestyle and activity levels. Beyond the physical postures, the mind/body connection created during yoga helps foster awareness and acceptance towards our aging bodies so we can practice safely and with compassion towards ourselves. 

Ann and her grandmother, Ellie

About the instructor: Ann Grace MacMullan, E-RYT 200, has been teaching yoga to older bodies for almost 5 years. Her oldest student was her grandmother – at age 98, she was one of the most active participants of her chair yoga class! She now teaches a range of ages and mobility levels in her Gentle Yoga, Chair Yoga, and Balance classes in the Wallingford-Swarthmore community.

Yoga Gift Cards

Looking for that last minute gift? Why not give the gift of yoga to a loved one – or better yet, to yourself!

Personalized virtual gift cards can be created within a few hours of your purchase, along with instructions on where and when classes meet or how to set up a private session. Here’s an example:

Whether it’s chair yoga, mat yoga, or private sessions, we have you covered. Shop our gift card collection:

Gentle Flow Yoga – December

When: Saturday December 14th + Saturday December 21st / 11am-12pm

Connect mind, body, and spirit during a series of accessible yoga poses linked together with breath and focus. Blocks and straps provided, extra mats available as well.This class is safe for all ages and bodies: whether you’re a total beginner, haven’t gotten to the mat in a while, or have a regular practice.

FIRST CLASS IS FREE if you’ve never attended a Team Sun Wellness class before! Hold your spot by emailing: info@teamsunwellness.com / 2 for $25, drop in for $15 / Class size limit: 35.

Where: Wallingford Presbyterian Church 110 E. Brookhaven Road
Wallingford, PA 19086 Free Parking on the premises

____________

About the teacher: Ann MacMullan Jeans, E-RYT-200, has been teaching a range of community driven yoga classes in the Wallingford Swarthmore area for almost 5 years. Here is what one student says: “I have been a grateful student in Ann’s yoga classes for a couple of years. As an older yoga practitioner who has worked with other teachers in the past, I have especially appreciated her non-judgmental and very encouraging approach. Her classes offer increasing challenges for students to stretch their bodies and their repertoire of yoga poses, but always in a compassionate, supportive, and peaceful atmosphere. In addition, her subtle humor and intention to connect personally with her students makes practicing yoga just plain fun. As Ann expands her teaching opportunities, I hope to follow her for as long as I can move my body!”

Student Spotlight: Judy

  • Name: Judy
  • 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

Interoception

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.

Grace

Warrior Two Pose

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.

“If it hurts, it means I’m still alive.”

-Judy s.

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…

Effort

Extended Side Angle Pose

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.

Centering

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!”

“Let go of your judgments and just do what you can, but make it a regular part of your routine.”

-Judy S.

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!

It’s truly an honor, Judy!

Meet more of our students

Gentle Flow Yoga – Winter

“The posture of yoga is steady and easy. It is realized by relaxing one’s effort and resting like the cosmic serpent on the waters of infinity.”

– Patanjali, Yoga Sutras

January/February Classes: These winter classes have flexible attendance: buy a class card and attend any session that works for your calendar! 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.

When: 

Saturdays / Jan 4th – Feb 1st / 11-12pm

Tuesdays / Jan 7th – Feb 11th / 9-10am

Thursdays / Jan 9th – Feb 13th / 10-11am

Join one of the all levels Gentle Flow Yoga classes and explore:

  • Breath awareness and breathing exercises 
  • The connection between movement and breath
  • Stable alignment in classic poses, modified for your personal anatomy
  • Safe and fun transitions throughout gentle sequencing
  • The philosophy of yoga
  • Taking yoga off the mat into your everyday routine

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.

Where: Wallingford Presbyterian Church 110 E. Brookhaven Road
Wallingford, PA 19086 Free Parking on the premises

Note: Gift Certificates Available, just add a note to the seller and a virtual card will be created and emailed within 24 hours of your purchase.

Student Spotlight: Carol

We feel really strongly that yoga is for everybody, and yet the images of people doing yoga don’t tend to represent our own bodies or those we teach. So we decided to start a new blog series highlighting our own students, in an effort to shine light on regular people doing yoga and what that might look like. Plus, we wanted to learn more about our wonderful students outside of the classroom! Our first spotlight is on Carol, who was kind enough to come into our home so that we could get to know her a little better. Carol is so motivated and consistent in her practice, she inspires all of us to show up!

C is for Carol and Consistency

  • Name: Carol
  • Age: 68
  • How Long Practicing Yoga: 4 years consistently, 20 years sporadically
  • Favorite Pose: So many feel good!
  • Most Challenging Pose: Boat Pose
  • Sun Sign: Pisces
  • Pets: 2 cats, Diva and Misty
  • Favorite Sweet Treat: Dried Fruit
Carol holds her plank pose for 2 minutes every day!

I first met Carol L. in the fall of 2017 while teaching a Hatha Yoga series run by the Wallingford-Swarthmore Community Classes organization. Since then, she has attended roughly 115 yoga classes with me and a few workshops!!

“Compared to most other exercises, yoga is the best for allowing you to move at your own pace and accepting your limitations. It gives the best benefits without stressing joints and muscles. And it helps with self acceptance.”

-Carol L.

Carol gets to the mat about 5 hours a week and on top of that, logs a lot of miles on her treadmill for cardio.

“Yoga just makes me happy. Even thinking about doing yoga makes me happy. I’m more flexible, stronger and my balance has improved. I also have reduced much of my stiffness and back pain. I experience sciatica much less often, and when it does come on, it lasts a much shorter time.   My balance has improved.

-Carol L.

See you soon on the mat, Carol! Stay tuned for more Student Spotlights!

Joyful Yoga – All Levels Yoga for Everyday Well-Being

When: 10 Thursdays from 10:00-11:00am from September 19th – November 21st / Last Class 12/5

During this group mat yoga class, we’ll find joyful freedom within our bodies while exploring a variety of reclining, seated and standing postures, with the breath at the foreground of our experience. These gentle hour-long sessions are accessible for all levels, and blocks and straps are provided to help deepen and achieve poses. Reconnect with your natural flexibility, innate strength and core balance – to bring your yoga practice off the mat into everyday well-being!

Where: Wallingford Presbyterian Church 110 E. Brookhaven Road
Wallingford, PA 19086 Free Parking on the premises

Payment Options: credit card, check, cash, PayPal, venmo (@Ann-MacMullan)

“How are we going to spend this brief lifetime?…Could we start to train as a warrior, aspiring to reconnect with the natural flexibility of our being and help others do the same? If we start to move in this direction, limitless possibilities begin to open up.”

-Pema Chodron

Yoga for Stronger Bones

Yoga practiced on a regular basis could help strengthen your bones! Certain poses including Warrior II, Triangle, and Tree are considered weight-bearing exercise, often recommended along with a healthy diet for optimal bone health.

“Yoga puts more pressure on bone than gravity does. By opposing one group of muscles against another, it stimulates osteocytes, the bone-making cells.”

-Dr. Loren Fishman, author of study Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss”

Recently, I’ve had several students approach me after yoga class to talk about their bones. “I just got the results from my most recent DEXA scan, and there’s been an improvement in my bone mineral density score in my spine!” says one 73-year old student who started practicing yoga consistently about two years ago in my classes. Another student, who just turned 70, reported a similar result on her latest scan. Both were kind enough to share their results with me, pictured below.

The DEXA or DXA scan is today’s established standard for measuring bone mineral density, and helps to estimate the density of your bones and your chance of breaking a bone. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “a bone density test is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs.” If you’ve got osteopenia or osteoporosis, it’s reflected in the numbers.

In fact, more than 200 million people suffer from osteoporosis. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 and 1 in 5 men will experience osteoporotic fractures in their lifetime.

We reach peak bone density by our late twenties, and then it’s maintained by a continuous process called remodeling, in which old bone is removed and new bone is created. The renewal of bone is responsible for bone strength throughout life. Certain factors like age, genetics, lack of exercise and poor diet can slow down bone renewal, and then our bones might thin to such a degree that we develop osteopenia or osteoporosis. Happily, there are lifestyle changes you can make to maintain and build bone density.

Bridge Pose (Setu bandhasana) stretches the spine

Of course we’d love to attribute the slight improvement in our yoga students’ bone mineral density scores to the practice of yoga. The only real change they’ve made has been adding a regular yoga practice, and neither of them are on medication. So just how effective is a regular yoga practice for building stronger bones?

According to one study, “there is qualitative evidence suggesting improved bone quality as a result of the practice of yoga.”

The study is pretty much the only one of its kind, and its revelations are being touted in Harvard Health and The New York Times. Researchers prescribed 12 yoga postures held for 30 seconds each, practiced on a daily basis by 221 participants. They measured bone density at the beginning and end of the study, and concluded that yoga “actually builds bone significantly in the spine and the femur, the two most frequent sites of fracture.” You can find out more on Dr. Fishman’s site, Sciatica.org.

The 12 yoga poses included in the study:

Image from Dr. Fishman’s Study
  1. Tree (Vrksasana)
  2. Triangle (Uttitha Trikonasana)
  3. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II
  4. Extended Side Angle (Parsvakonasana)
  5. Reverse Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)
  6. Locust (Salabhasana)
  7. Bridge (Setu Bandhasana)
  8. Supine hand-to-foot I (Supta Padangusthasana I)
  9. Supine hand-to-foot II (Supta Padangusthasana II)
  10. Straight-legged twist (Marichyasana II)
  11. Bent-knee twist (Matsyendrasana)
  12. Corpse (Savasana)

We do most of these poses in our classes on a very regular basis, as they were covered extensively in our 250-hour teacher training certification. It’s been eye-opening to learn that not all yoga poses are good for someone with bone loss issues, and could actually increase risk for a vertebral fracture – as in poses with extreme spinal flexion (as in, forward folds.) Yoga should be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher who provides safe alternatives to classic poses, with an emphasis on proper alignment.

A gentle modification of Extended Side Angle (Parsvakonasana)

I’m so excited for my students who have committed to a regular practice and seen some heartening benefits show up in the very fabric of their bones! They continue to do the work, and it’s wonderful to witness firsthand what could be part of a relatively low cost and low risk answer to maintaining strong healthy bones and avoiding broken ones. Yoga also comes with some pretty great “side effects,” such as better balance, improved posture and strength, and reduced levels of anxiety. Hope to see you and your beautiful bones on the mat soon!

For best bone health, Harvard Health recommends:

  • eating foods rich in calcium, such as low fat dairy products, sardines, salmon, green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods and beverages.
  • getting more vitamin D from the sun or a supplement
  • doing weight-bearing exercise every day
  • not smoking
  • not drinking too much alcohol

Note: if you are under 30, building bone so that your peak bone density score is as good as it can be could help you tremendously later in life! All of the above recommendations apply to those who are still building bone density.

Resources:

Six Weeks of Summer Yoga in Swarthmore!

There’s a new way to practice yoga – with even more flexibility in our class attendance. Sign up for 3, 6, or 12 classes and attend whichever classes work best for your summer schedule. Stay mindful and strong throughout the summer months as we move our group classes to Swarthmore United Methodist Church, right in downtown Swarthmore. Classes start July 16th and go until August 22nd.

Attend whichever classes work best for your summer calendar! All levels welcome; blocks and straps are provided. Please bring your own mat.

Gentle Yoga Tuesdays 9:00-10:00am “Gentle” refers to an attitude of taking exquisite care of ourselves in each moment throughout our classes. We’ll explore a variety of reclining, seated and standing postures and the transitions between those poses, adapted to your level. 6 sessions from July 16th-Aug 20th.

Gentle Yoga Thursdays *10:00-11:00am* New later time for sleepyheads! “Gentle” refers to an attitude of taking exquisite care of ourselves in each moment throughout our classes. We’ll explore a variety of reclining, seated and standing postures and the transitions between those poses, adapted to your level. 6 sessions from July 18th-Aug 22nd.

Hatha Yoga Thursdays 6:00-7:00pm Unwind with this gentle but challenging ancient form of exercise. Learn basic yoga asanas or postures to improve strength, balance, and flexibility while focusing on the thread of the breath that “yokes” the mind and body together. 6 sessions from July 18th-Aug 22nd.

All classes meet at Swarthmore United Methodist Church in the air conditioning. The church is right next door to the public library and borough hall – 129 Park Avenue.  Metered parking can be found right out front and in the Borough Hall lot next door, and there is free street parking nearby.

Payment Options: 3 classes for $42, 6 classes for $75, 12 classes for $120.

  • Pay through PayPal or credit card (buttons below):
  • Checks: Ann MacMullan / 1809 S. Bancroft St. Philadelphia, PA 19145
  • I also accept and prefer Venmo (User: @Ann-MacMullan)

3 Summer Yoga Classes

Attend 3 of any of the scheduled yoga classes meeting at Swarthmore United Methodist Church.

$42.00

6 Summer Yoga Classes

Attend 6 of any of the scheduled yoga classes meeting at Swarthmore United Methodist Church

$75.00

12 Summer Yoga Classes

Attend 12 of any of the scheduled yoga classes meeting at Swarthmore United Methodist Church.

$120.00

About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, a native of Swarthmore, is a certified yoga instructor (EYT-200) and teaches in the Philadelphia area with her company Team Sun Wellness. Ann believes in the healing power of yoga and meditation for everyone, no matter what age, level of fitness, or life circumstance. For more information, email Ann at info@teamsunwellness.com.

“I have been a grateful student in Ann’s yoga classes for a couple of years. As an older yoga practitioner who has worked with other teachers in the past, I have especially appreciated her non-judgmental and very encouraging approach. Her classes offer increasing challenges for students to stretch their bodies and their repertoire of yoga poses, but always in a compassionate, supportive, and peaceful atmosphere. In addition, her subtle humor and intention to connect personally with her students makes practicing yoga just plain fun. As Ann expands her teaching opportunities, I hope to follow her for as long as I can move my body!” -Judy S.

Gentle Yoga – New Series

Gentle Yoga: “Gentle” refers to an attitude of taking exquisite care of ourselves in each moment throughout our classes. We’ll explore a variety of reclining, seated and standing postures and the transitions between those poses, adapted to your level. In addition, we’ll learn more about the limbs of yoga beyond the physical postures, such as meditation and breath-work And we’ll be adding more anatomy to our classes during the months of May and June!

These sessions are accessible for all ages and levels, and blocks and straps are provided to help deepen and achieve poses. Bring your own mat (or borrow one, supplies limited.) Classes meet at Wallingford Presbyterian Church, an exceptional venue with hardwood floors and stained glass windows, and a feeling of sanctuary for all kinds. Class size limited to 35. Either sign up for all 5 sessions, or drop in for $15 to one.

Gentle Yoga Tuesdays -May 7th – June 11th (no class on May 28th) 9-10am / $50 for 5 sessions

$50.00

Gentle Yoga II Thursdays – May 9th -June 6th – 9-10am / $50 for 5 sessions

$50.00

Payment Options:

  • Pay through PayPal or credit card (buttons above):
  • Send a check: Ann MacMullan / 1809 S. Bancroft St. Philadelphia, PA 19145
  • I also accept and prefer Venmo (User: @Ann-MacMullan)

About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, a native of Swarthmore, is a certified yoga instructor (EYT-200) and teaches in the Philadelphia area with her company Team Sun Wellness. Ann believes in the healing power of yoga and meditation for everyone, no matter what age, level of fitness, or life circumstance. For more information, email Ann at info@teamsunwellness.com.

“I have been a grateful student in Ann’s yoga classes for a couple of years. As an older yoga practitioner who has worked with other teachers in the past, I have especially appreciated her non-judgmental and very encouraging approach. Her classes offer increasing challenges for students to stretch their bodies and their repertoire of yoga poses, but always in a compassionate, supportive, and peaceful atmosphere. In addition, her subtle humor and intention to connect personally with her students makes practicing yoga just plain fun. As Ann expands her teaching opportunities, I hope to follow her for as long as I can move my body!” -Judy S.