yoga after 50 (or starting yoga at any age!)

“Is yoga good for the aging population? My answer is yes.”

Dr. Loren Fishman recently answered questions in the NY Times about starting a yoga practice later in life. It starts by describing the cognitive and physical fluidity in which Mr. Iyengar himself moves through the world…

“I think Mr. Iyengar is an example of what yoga can do for an aging human. To me he seemed like a man 30 years younger. And, in a way, beyond age.”

In the past, there has been a general lack of information, representation and immediate options out there for new midlife yogis … but they are finally getting some attention (we can’t let the nonagenarians have all the fun!)

dr. fishman (www.cnn.com)

dr. fishman (www.cnn.com)

Here are some highlights!

  1. Advice on how to start a yoga practice after 50 and the best style(s): “find out what your liabilities are … [make an] appointment with an experienced and smart yoga teacher, one on one… chronic conditions are cumulative, by definition: when you’re older you need the individual attention that yoga has traditionally offered.””I believe the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar are the most anatomically sophisticated and therapeutically oriented, but there are many other good types of yoga… Also the former Anusara program is good, as is Integral Yoga… You’ll need a resourceful and sensitive person to get you started, and to introduce you to an appropriate yoga practice that you can do every day. Then, after a month or two or three, you should go back to that person for a reassessment and suggestions about how to progress to the next step. Yoga, practiced consistently, does good things to your temperament and perceptions”
  2. Age-related risk factors: “arteries become more brittle, and are more easily injured… Shoulder stand, plow, and gate pose should be trimmed back… Our sense of balance can also be degraded with age, decreased sensitivity to changes in direction and momentum … proprioception … and less acute vision.”
  3. Thoughts on slowing metabolism: “[yoga] lowers blood pressure and reduces atrial fibrillation and in general calms things down. Yoga [trim’s your weight]… by stretching the organ, the stomach, which will then send turn-off signals to the appetite centers in the brain.
  4. Osteoporosis and yoga spinal movement: “forward bending does produce more osteoporotic spinal fractures … So forward bends should be done only with a straight back, or … lying on your back and raising your straight legs as far as possible… twists appear to be safe, provided you keep your back straight.”

“I think yoga is a perfect match for us as we grow older, because it’s no-impact, good for flexibility, balance, coordination, strength and attitude.” … and it’s never too late to start!

And for more inspiration to start yoga, no matter what your age… who says you can’t start something new in your 90s?

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Embedded-Only/News/Must%2Bwatch/ID/2339274525/

much love.

Some other resources:

NY Times

Yoga Dork

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Tutorial: teaching an old (downward) dog new tricks

Teachers can get stuck in how they explain yoga postures and students can get stuck in patterns of holding. Yoga is like learning a new language (uhh, sometimes it is… sanskrit!) and it make take years to translate from mind to body.

Teachers have the opportunity to examine how they are using language and presenting postures… it’s up to them to notice if students are getting “lost in translation”

forearm downward facing dog *great modification if you suffer from wrist pain

forearm downward facing dog *great modification if you suffer from wrist pain

Arguable, downward facing dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana (pronounced: AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna) is one of the most practiced and taught asanas (i.e. yoga pose) in yoga studios around the world… thus, likely, one of the most misunderstood. Here are a few tips to try next time you find yourself in an inverted “V”.

Stabilize the shoulder: externally rotating the upper arms in relationship to the shoulder joints while pronating the wrists to root the hands solidly on the ground. External rotation of the upper arms allow the back to extends. The lats, traps, erector spinae and intercostal muscles awaken and elevate towards the hips and tailbone.

Establish your roots: contacting the quadriceps and lengthening the hamstrings lift the knees upward and move the femur heads (top of thighbones) back. This helps root the feet/heels down, allowing the lower back, sacrum and gluteus muscles to extend.

Balance ‘effort’ and ‘ease’: lightness and freedom of downward dog comes from strong grounding from the legs into the feet.

When yoga students are “lost in translation”, this can result in compression, forced movement, overextension and possible injury! Keeping in mind these slight adjustments will help you (and/or your students!) move towards a downward dog with a sense of groundedness and lightness. much love.

Adapted from: Shelley Piser for Yoga Dork

a yoga/wellness retreat for parkinson’s

This past week I attended “A Wellness Retreat for People Living with Parkinson’s and Their Care Partners“. This retreat was sponsored by the National Parkinson Foundation and hosted by Kripalu, health living program.

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We attended sessions on integrating yoga and meditative practices into your life.

DSC_0312We learned about disease/symptom management, exercise, communication and care planning.

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We practiced yoga together.

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We learned how to integrate some of this knowledge and make sustainable transformation in our lives.

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And we spent as much time as we could exploring the Berkshires (which was very limited by the rain all week!).

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I was so excited to be back and assisting the faculty, thank you to Kripalu and especially NPF for making this happen for me! If you want more information, check out this link or contact NPF. much love.

p.s. read about my Kripalu experiences last year, in Living Your Yoga with Parkinson’s disease!

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may YOU be happy: a book review

I recently read “May I be Happy: a memoir of love, yoga and changing my mind” by Cyndi Lee.

This inspiring memoir reflects her lifelong struggles with body image and insecurities. It has a great message about being kind to oneself and how we can use our yoga practice to change our relationship with our body and the life choices we make.

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Here are a few quotes that inspired me…

On being kind to oneself:

“being kind to other has to start with being kind to ourselves. And isn’t that the very first teaching of yoga, ahimsa, which means non-harming of self and others?”

On the mind-body relationship:

“I was always getting mad at my body but, in fact, my body has been fine. It’s my relationship to my body that is hurting me, and my mind that is the real troublemaker… Clearly, it’s my mind that needs to change… I needed to examine my habitual ways of thinking… The first step to finding the answer to that question was to take a closer look at the problem.”

On asana, or yoga poses:

“Asasa means to sit with what comes up when you put your body in a particular shape. Our bodies … are the vehicles we livin in as we move through the world.”

On how yoga practice helps you know yourself and make better life  choices:

“The body is the perfect vehicle for getting to know yourself better… Part of the practice is not running away from discomfort, but learning to work with it… That’s actually what we’re practicing in our asana class. We’re consciously tying ourselves up in knots and then sitting with whatever arises. If you stay steady, relax, and pay attention to what’s happening, then – theoretically- you can make more skillful choices.”

On Savasana, or Corpse Pose:

“Savasana, Corpse Pose, [is] traditionally one of the most important asanas of yoga practice… Savasana allows the physical body to cool down and thoroughly digest the benefits of practice. In this position, the earthly body absorbs the seeds planted in the previous pose and starts to bear fruit. At a more profound level, corpse pose gives us an opportunity to practice, what we will all face, the experience of becoming a corpse… we acknowledge that we are temporarily renting this body, and that some day we will have to let it go. Ironically, Savasana is about embodying the experience of no longer having a body. … [It is] a good time to reflect on the seeds I had planted… [and to] embrace more fully the understanding that I am meant to age and change.”

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… so give yourself a big hug and read this book if you need any ahimsa-inspiration! much love.

Self-care strategies for caregivers

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I did a wonderful Time Out for Caregiver workshop with 51 amazing Parkinson’s caregivers, sponsored by the Parkinson Society BC on May 25th. We not only discussed  how to be a resilience caregiver (see post HERE), but also some self-care strategies.

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• Find ways to sustain yourself. You are like lifesaving equipment… you don’t want it to burnout!
• While no one has the time or energy to do everything for everybody, find the time to do things that are most important to you. By establishing priorities, the most important needs are met and tasks are done.
• Set boundaries and decided what you are able and willing to do as a caregiver. By setting limits and standing behind them, you can help reduce guilt.
• Act from love, not debt. Think of caregiving as one person helping another out of love.
• Celebrate the small steps, accomplishments and victories!
• Take an active role. Develop  new skills/attitude – be assertive (or get an advocate)! Learn about PD, treatment options, ask questions, be involved! Ask for help, ask for second opinions, plan for your future, together. Know your options and make some decisions together.
• Take breaks. Do stuff that inspires you, excites you and truly de-stresses you.
• Talk, without judgment. No advice, feedback, just listening.
• Don’t let the disease define you. Remember that you are more than PD and are still the individuals you were before the diagnosis; but respect each others experience with PD… the PWP and CG have different experiences with PD and try and respect each others feeling/decisions etc.
… are there 1 or 2 of these you could put into action to help you live better as a Parkinson’s caregiver? much love.
References:
—Parkinson Society Canada/British Columbia
—National Parkinson Foundation
—Parkinson’s Disease Foundation
—Kripalu Centre for Healthy Living
—Susan Impke FNP GNP
—Maria Sirios
—Alexis Abramson, PhD

graduation: then and now.


June 1988
: Kindergarden graduation. There was a procession, music, fun hats, good friends and getting your photo with the teacher.1988 June Kate and School Friends 1

1988 June Kate and School Friends

1988 June Kate at School with Madame Wakeling

June 2014: Doctoral graduation. There was a procession, music, fun hats, good friends and getting your photo with the teacher.

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Well that’s about it as far as graduations go. Thank you to everyone who supported me throughout this PhD … and MSc … and as far back as kindergarten! I’m lucky to have a lot of love and support in my life!

Wish me luck as they set me loose on this big wide world! much love.

Characteristics of a resilient caregiver

“The ultimate measure of a man/woman is not where he/she stands in moments of comfort, but where he/she stands at times of challenge and controversy” Martin Luther King Jr.

Resilient caregivers know they have control over themselves in the present moment – they acknowledge other risks but know where to ask for help.

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I did a wonderful Time Out for Caregiver workshop with 51 amazing Parkinson’s caregivers, sponsored by the Parkinson Society BC on May 25th. One of the things we discussed was how to be a resilience caregiver.
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Some characteristics of caregivers who are resilient…
1.Able to adapt to change healthfully as disease progresses
2.Feel in control of one’s life
3.Know and rely on your own strengths
4.Have close, dependable relationships
5.Know where to turn for help, and ask for help
6.Remain optimistic
7.Persevere
8.Savor the small joyous moments that occur in the day
9.Be ok with uncertainty
10.Find meaning in what happens
11.Come to like challenges
… how do/will you incorporate some of these qualities into your own caregiving experience? let me know how you are resilient in the comments below! much love.
References:
—Parkinson Society Canada
Parkinson Society British Columbia
—National Parkinson Foundation
—Parkinson’s Disease Foundation
—Kripalu Centre for Healthy Living
—Susan Impke FNP GNP
—Maria Sirios
—Alexis Abramson, PhD