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. REGISTER HERE.

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.

September is Seniors Month!

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.

CHAIR YOGA – YOUR FIRST CLASS IS FREE!

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.

BALANCE WORKSHOP – DONATION-BASED

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.

You can do Tree pose with a Chair!

More links for active seniors:

Stay tuned for Free Mindfulness Meditation in October in Swarthmore Town Center! Wednesday October 3rd, 6pm.

Balance

Our sense of balance is something most of us take for granted. Behind the scenes, three complex systems work together to keep us upright.

  1. Visual:  The eyes supply information to the brain about the objects surrounding the body in the physical environment. To better understand the role of this system, try balancing on one leg with the eyes open and then again with the eyes closed.
  2. Auditory:  Our inner ears contain a series of canals filled with fluid and fine, hair-like sensors. These monitor the position of the head in relation to gravity (in an elevator or airplane) and linear space (in an automobile).
  3. Proprioceptive:  Sensory nerves in the muscles, tendons and joints provide awareness of the body’s posture and position in space. For instance, the ankles, knees and hips help us to recover after tripping on a crack in the sidewalk.

 

It is important to note that these three systems rely upon the core muscles as well as the joints, particularly the hip, knee, and ankle, to perform the physical adjustments required to maintain balance.

Hospital corridor and doctor as a blurred defocused background

The consequences of suffering a fall can last a lifetime and affect not only individuals, but families, workplaces and communities. A fracture can bring pain, financial strain, loss of mobility, and many challenges that come with adapting to new daily routines.

FALL PREVENTION

  • Build strength and flexibility through regular exercise (see below.) This is particularly important for those with injuries in their past who avoid exercise due to their fear of falling. This decreased mobility further weakens muscles and bones.
  • Be aware of tripping hazards such as pets, area rugs, electrical cords, wet surfaces and objects on stairways.
  • Address unsafe conditions in the home or workplace such as inadequate lighting, open drawers, cabinet doors and furniture obstructing walking pathways.
  • Correct any vision/hearing issues, which can impact reaction time.
  • Use caution with medications that can interact, causing loss of balance.

EXERCISES TO IMPROVE BALANCE

Just like any other physical activity, balance can be improved through building strength, flexibility, mental focus and overall body awareness. Simple exercises like these can be safely practiced daily at home or the office.

First, start with the Seated Abdominal Crunch.

  1. Sit with a straight back and ankles below the knees.
  2. Inhale and lift arms up and out to the side like a goal post or the arms of a cactus.
  3. Lift the left foot 12” off floor.
  4. Exhale and bring right elbow down toward left knee, maintaining a straight back.
  5. Switch sides

Next, take a break and stand up. We love practicing the Calf Raise to improve balance,  stretch the calves, and strengthen the arches of the feet. It’s also an effective foot massage! Over time, try this exercise without the chair, or for an added challenge, with the eyes closed.

 

Now you’re ready to try Tree Pose.

tree_chair_together

  1. Use a wall or chair if need be.
  2. Put all your weight on the right foot.
  3. Lift your left leg with a bent knee, opening your knee out to the right.
  4. Place the sole of your foot inside the right leg above or below knee.
  5. Bring first one palm up at heart center, and then if you feel steady, try pressing both hands together. Find a place to gaze that is not moving.
  6. Switch Sides.

We love practicing Tree Pose outside, grounding down through the standing foot in order to actively rise through the chest and uplifted arms, while pulling the belly up and in.  Check out our Tree Pose video– shot at the Philadelphia Navy Yard!

BALANCE AND EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES

Active attention to improving our balance can be easily integrated into daily routines and activities. Remember that both the posture and breath are closely tied to our sense of balance. Many exercises focused on improving posture and breath will also improve balance. Refer to the Posture and Breath pages for more details.

  • Keep Moving! Find opportunities to integrate several short walks into the day. Even basic movement is key to maintaining balance, as it keeps the muscles and bones strong while also relieving stress and anxiety.
  • Strengthen the Core While Sitting: Squeeze a yoga block or folded pillow between the thighs while working at your desk,  watching TV or speaking on the phone. The inner thigh and hip muscles are critical for stability when standing, walking or running.

CORE MUSCLES

The muscles of our core provide the stable foundation for all our daily activities, from brushing our teeth to lifting weights at the gym. “It doesn’t matter how strong your arms and legs are if the muscles they’re attached to aren’t equally as strong.” (Steven Ehasz, MES, CSCS). Pictured here are the stabilizing hip and abdominal muscles: Psoas, left, and Rectus Abdominus, right.

Ease of movement and injury prevention are two critical factors in maximizing our quality of life. It’s never too late to begin improving your balance!

Yoga for Every Body

If you can breathe, you can practice yoga! No matter your age, level of mobility or fitness, there is a yoga practice for you. In all of our classes, we explore a variety of postures and the transitions between those poses, adapted to your level. In addition, we learn more about the limbs of yoga beyond the physical postures, such as meditation and breath-work. A consistent yoga practice can:

  • Improve your posture, flexibility, strength and balance.
  • Help you manage your stress and anxiety.
  • Deepen your awareness and acceptance of self.

We are passionate about bringing the principles of yoga to atypical populations outside of the classic yoga studio space; and offer our classes in community, corporate, and private settings where participants can feel supported while safely finding their own practice. Feel free to explore our Class Calendar for more details on when and where.

Yoga is the cessation of the turnings of thought.

-Patanjali, Yoga Sutras

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

CHECK OUT OUR VIDEOS TO PRACTICE!