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.
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.
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.
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.
Our sense of balance is something most of us take for granted. Behind the scenes, three complex systems work together to keep us upright.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Sit with a straight back and ankles below the knees.
Inhale and lift arms up and out to the side like a goal post or the arms of a cactus.
Lift the left foot 12” off floor.
Exhale and bring right elbow down toward left knee, maintaining a straight back.
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.
Use a wall or chair if need be.
Put all your weight on the right foot.
Lift your left leg with a bent knee, opening your knee out to the right.
Place the sole of your foot inside the right leg above or below knee.
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.
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.
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!
If you can breathe, you can practice yoga! No matter your age, level of mobility or fitness, there is a yoga practice for you. Yoga is generally low-impact and safe when practiced appropriately under the guidance of a well-trained instructor.
“Whether you’re a couch potato or a professional athlete, size and fitness levels do not matter because there are modifications for every yoga pose and beginner classes in every style,” Dr. Natalie Nevins, D.O., on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association.
We truly believe yoga is for everyone, that’s why we offer mat and chair sessions for all levels. We are passionate about bringing the principles of yoga – physical postures, meditation, and breathing – 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 Calendarfor more details on when and where.
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! This is not just a self-aggrandizing claim from some yoga teacher, this is from an evidence-based study, the first study to demonstrate improvement in both cardinal and metabotrophic biomarkers of cellular aging and longevity in apparently healthy population after Yoga and Meditation based lifestyle intervention.
Gentle Yoga: Our largest class, you’ll find an age range from twenties and thirties all the way into the eighties! The sessions are accessible for all levels, and blocks and straps are provided to help deepen and achieve poses. “Gentle” refers to an attitude of taking exquisite care of ourselves in each moment throughout the class. We explore a variety of reclining, seated and standing postures (asana) and the transitions between those poses, adapted to your level. In addition, we’ll learn more about the limbs of yoga beyond asana or the physical postures, such as meditation (dhyana) and breath-work (pranayama.) See Classes for more info.
Yoga for Men with Brian: This class is specifically designed for men of all shapes, sizes and ability levels to build strength and flexibility in a comfortable informal setting. Men tend to have greater muscle mass and less range of movement and may be intimidated by a traditional yoga studio environment. We’ll work on how to build our core muscles to manage old injuries and prevent new ones, expand the range of movement in our shoulders, backs and hips, use the breath to improve posture and balance, and learn simple techniques for managing stress and developing work/life balance. See Classes for more info.
Hatha Yoga: 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. Whatever your age or level of fitness, you’re welcome to join this accessible yoga class with a real group spirit. Come practice with strangers and leave as friends! See Classes for more info.
Chair Yoga:Pull up a chair! 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. We underline the importance of focusing on the breath, as breath-connected movement is essential for health and well-being, fusing mind and body. Come refine your posture, improve balance, strength and flexibility – in a supportive and relaxing community environment. It’s called a “practice” because there is no “perfect” in yoga. See Classes for more info.
Chair Yoga at Assisted Living Facilities: We have been doing this since 2015, at first as a way to bring activity into Ann’s grandmother Ellie’s life. Teaching chair yoga to those who are between seventy and a hundred years old quickly became something we are very passionate about, and currently offer different yoga programs for all levels throughout the Philadelphia area. Contact us for more info on bringing chair yoga to your community! We have seen the benefits firsthand – our students report that yoga has helped them remain independent longer.
Private Sessions: We adapt each session to your individual needs so you can participate safely in a comfortable environment, scheduled at a time that is most convenient for you. We can work in your home, or feel free to visit us in our studio in South Philly. We are often in the Wallingford-Swarthmore area and work with individuals, couples, and small groups. Celebrate the moment with a special group session! Mats, blocks and straps provided. Contact us or more info.
Corporate Yoga: We love bringing the tools of self-care into the workplace! Contact us to set up a special event or weekly session.
Check out the Feedback Page to hear what some of our students of all shapes, sizes, ages and mobility levels say about practicing yoga with Team Sun Wellness. Our full line up can be found on the Class Calendar!