One of my very best traits as a human is the ability to harmonize with others (vocally and otherwise!) However, recently I’ve begun to realize that inner harmony is an even greater skill, and definitely one needing honing in me. Balancing my own inner energies requires the skill of awareness on a deep, deep level. Learning to heed the need for rest, and recognize when something is not good for me are two biggies.
Letting go of the need to do everything, be everywhere at once, and get it all done requires constant effort (or ease, actually.) And then there is cultivating the ability to ask for what I need from others, clearly and compassionately. Setting boundaries has never been easy for me, but now that I realize their importance I’m getting better at it.
When I’m harmonizing on the inside, not pushing myself through pain or low energy to try and “get it all done,” my emotions are calmer and my mind is also more tranquil. It’s then that the harmony of being with others and really listening (without interrupting) – and connecting with that divine flow of life energy that surrounds us every single minute becomes an absolute joy.
Achieving this state of inner and outer harmony is only possible for me through a very regimented self-care routine. If I stick with my routine, I can really GO WITH THE FLOW so much better. And the type of yoga that is best for me is actually NOT the vigorous vinyasa that I used to do, but a more gentle type that helps me cultivate this constant awareness both on and off the mat. And that’s what I like to teach, too.
I think that’s the great journey of our lives: getting to know and heal ourselves, learning to listen, and striving for balance every single day – both within ourselves and with others around us.
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!
“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!
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.
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
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
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 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.
See you soon on the mat, Carol! Stay tuned for more Student Spotlights!
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.”
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.
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:
Triangle (Uttitha Trikonasana)
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II
Extended Side Angle (Parsvakonasana)
Reverse Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)
Bridge (Setu Bandhasana)
Supine hand-to-foot I (Supta Padangusthasana I)
Supine hand-to-foot II (Supta Padangusthasana II)
Straight-legged twist (Marichyasana II)
Bent-knee twist (Matsyendrasana)
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.
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 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.
Create balance between mind, body, and spirit by connecting the breath with slow movement during gentle reclining, seated and standing postures. Calm the mind and focus inward with guided breathing and meditation techniques. Great for increasing flexibility, improving strength and balance, and reducing stress. Bring a yoga mat and an extra large towel. Blocks and straps provided. All levels welcome!
Tuesdays: March 6th through April 24th – 9:00am-10:00am, 8 week session!
Wallingford Presbyterian Church – Fellowship Hall
110 E Brookhaven Rd, Wallingford, PA 19086
$45 for 8 sessions: Sign up through Wallingford Swarthmore Community Classes website, spaces fill up fast!
Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans is a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) and believes in the healing power of yoga and meditation for everyone, no matter what age, level of fitness, or life circumstance. Ann has also completed Adaptive Yoga Teacher Training, Trauma Informed Yoga Training, and the 8-week foundational course in Mindfulness through Penn Medicine. She is insured and registered through Yoga Alliance.
If you can breathe, you can practice yoga. Yoga is not just for the young and bendy. In fact, 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.
Unfortunately, many of the older people practicing yoga are also getting injured. “Participants aged 65 years and older have a greater rate of injury from practicing yoga when compared with other age groups,” states a study published last year in the Orthapaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. Injuries may arise from trying to fit into yoga classes or styles of yoga that do not take into account the possible health challenges that middle aged or older bodies are faced with, such as arthritis, heart conditions, and high or low blood pressure.
At Team Sun Wellness, we teach many beginning adults over the age of fifty, whether on a mat or in a chair. The principles of posture, breath, and balance can be applied to any yoga practice no matter what level of fitness or mobility.
What are the things to look out for if you’re an older adult either starting or continuing your yoga practice?
1-Listen to your body. You’ll hear this a lot from us, and it’s not always the easiest idea to understand. While we don’t want you to push past any pain, we do want you to challenge yourself and test your limits. By connecting your breath with movement, you’ll start to gain clarity of what your body is asking for, what you really do need in any given moment. Silencing the mind that can compare and judge too harshly is sometimes the hardest part of our yoga practice. Be wherever you are, not where you think you should be!
2-Use props like blocks, straps, and even chairs. Props can help use achieve and deepen poses we could never otherwise perform in their full expressions – aligning the joints and muscles safely to avoid injury. We modify poses and adapt poses and sequences for your particular range of motion. Trying to attain a pose that we are not ready for can cause injury, particularly to areas like the lower back, shoulders, hamstrings, and hips. There’s no reason to be embarrassed by using props in a yoga session!
3-Stop making excuses and focus on the positive. 95% of the effort of your yoga practice is actually just getting to the mat or chair! When you make a consistent effort, you begin to tap into the well of yoga’s benefits, such as increased vitality and better quality of life. Available scientific literature suggests that the regular practice of yoga can improve physical, mental, emotional, social, and vital planes of elderly individuals, offering a better quality of sleep and quality of life.
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.
You’re never too old, it’s never too late, you’re never too inflexible to start a yoga practice! We provide chairs, mats, blocks and straps to help you find the yoga practice that’s right for you – so you can start reaping the benefits of yoga. Avoid injury, manage stress, and get more joy out of life!
About the Instructors: We are Ann and Brian Jeans, certified yoga instructors (RYT 200) who have also trained in mindfulness practice (Penn Medicine). We teach people of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability levels, both in group and private settings. We are familiar with a wide range of the traditional Hatha yoga styles including Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Bikram (Hot Yoga), Iyengar and Restorative.We love helping people of all ages and walks of life take care of themselves through mindful movement and focused breathing. It’s truly a blessing to be able to share the tools we have discovered on our own paths to health and well-being with others. And we have fun doing it!
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 Calendarfor more details on when and where.
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. You can also Meet Our Students and hear what yoga means to them.