Thursday December 19th 10-11:15am / Wallingford Presbyterian Church
Prevent or Reverse Osteopenia + Osteoporosis with Yoga!
54 million Americans, half of all adults age 50 and older, are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health. The usual prescription for osteoporosis is “weight-bearing and impact exercises.” However most people over 55 also have osteoarthritis, and impact exercise is exactly what the doctor did not order. So, how to prevent and treat the ever-threatening loss of bone without damaging joints? In order to stimulate bones to grow stronger, force must be applied – in the form of compression or tensile stress. Yoga is a safe and impact-free way of applying that force! In fact yoga also exerts a positive influence on arthritic joints.
Did you know that the right yoga, done the right way, has been proven to strengthen bones? More than 80% of steady practitioners of the Fishman method of yoga increase their bone mineral density scores – they actually gain bone!
During this 75 minute workshop, we’ll:
Learn more about the science behind bone synthesis
Discuss bone quality and measuring bone mineral density (how to read your DEXA scan results)
Learn about lifestyle changes you can actively make to support better bone health
Practice the Fishman Method of yoga, designed to specifically strengthen the parts of the body most vulnerable to fracture: the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, the hip, and the thigh.
Dr. Fishman’s carefully selected and trialed poses offer variations for differing levels of ability. When performed consistently, for at least 30 seconds, and with the proper alignment of joints, they’ll put compressive and/or tensile strength on the bones, so that new bone is stimulated to grow. And they are also safe for those with arthritis.
Beginners welcome. We will guide students through versions of each pose according to their abilities and what is safe. Bring a yoga mat if you have one; props such as blocks, straps, and chairs if needed will be provided. Extra mats also available. Pre-purchase your spot – credit card and PayPal accepted. Or bring a check or cash to class, but email to hold your spot: email@example.com
No one can entirely halt the aging process, but we can control lifestyle, which can affect bone density and increase or decrease your risk of fracture in as little as two years. Yoga also improves your balance, posture, strength, range of motion and coordination, and lowers your anxiety—all factors that further reduce your risk of fracture.
About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, E-RYT 200, is a certified yoga teacher and registered to teach Yoga for Osteoporosis through Dr. Loren Fishman, MD. She is qualified to guide students through the poses for the dose response study as per Dr. Fishman. She will be Certified once she has taught yoga for 5 years, in August 2020.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org / 2 for $25, drop in for $15 / Class size limit: 35.
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!”
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.
“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
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!
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!
“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.”
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.
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
Attend 3 of any of the scheduled yoga classes meeting at Swarthmore United Methodist Church.
6 Summer Yoga Classes
Attend 6 of any of the scheduled yoga classes meeting at Swarthmore United Methodist Church
12 Summer Yoga Classes
Attend 12 of any of the scheduled yoga classes meeting at Swarthmore United Methodist Church.
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 email@example.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.