(originally posted November 2012)
What now? Last year, I noticed that everything in my body was tightening up like the sticky lid on a honey jar. The doggerel lyrics of that old song about how the toe bone’s connected to the foot bone and the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, etc., blasted away in my brain. A cruel reminder that I was coming of age.
All pain, no gain: Every morning, my stiff joints and rigid spine felt like they would crack wide open if I moved too quickly. Well, I wasn’t happy about this decrepit state of affairs. Yes I was Living with Lupus, but I was swimming and walking regularly, so what more could I possibly do and why wasn’t my exercise routine working?
Out of the blue: Then my doctor recommended yoga classes…which in itself was a refreshing thing for a doctor to do! Thank goodness for our new younger female doctors who know how to think outside the pill-box. But seriously…could yoga really help me?
Well-kept secret: What is it about the word “yoga” that conjures up images of skinny contortionists in leggings, eating raw carrots and tree nuts…while standing on their heads? Think again! Yoga is becoming a serious contender for seniors – to improve strength, endurance, balance, joints and spine. In my experience, it’s nothing short of amazing.
Scaredy Pat: At first I was reluctant because it had been 25 years since I uttered the Ommmm mantra. I would make a fool of myself without a doubt, and I wasn’t even sure I could get down on the floor – or more importantly – get back up again. But fear notwithstanding, I strapped my new yoga mat over my shoulder and hit the yoga scene with my aching bony knees a knockin.’
A big relief! Thankfully my yoga instructor was excellent and he modified each pose to the comfort level of the participants. It wasn’t pretty at first. I initially had to do some positions with the help of a chair and some poses were easier if I leaned against the wall, instead of getting down on the floor. But that was only in the beginning. There was a natural process from there to feeling stronger and eventually finding my way down to the mat.
Tempus fugit: Now here I am one year later, still attending yoga classes twice a week and loving every minute of it. And listen up! The improvements to my knees, back and hips is nothing short of amazing. This is serious stuff! I still have some neck problems, but I’m working on that. And although I will never perform advanced yoga postures, my progress to date is remarkable. But most remarkable of all is how good I feel and how much I look forward to every class…the postures, the deep breathing and the meditation.
The secret’s out: I simply wanted to tell you and pass it on. And do I recommend yoga to everyone out there who wants to slow down the aging process? Absolutely! And not just for flexing your arthritic joints, or lubricating your dried out vertebrae. Yoga also teaches us relaxation techniques and everyday coping skills for life in general.
Things I learned: But before you run out and book your class – here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Do your homework: Start by researching the different kinds of yoga in your area…at community centres, YMCA or yoga studios. You may not be up to trying a “hot yoga” class where you sit in a 105 degrees Celsius room and sweat out the garlic from last night’s dinner. Instead, I suggest that you look for a yoga class with the words, ‘gentle’ or ‘beginners’ or ‘therapeutic’ or even ‘chair’ yoga if you have more serious disabilities.
2. Speak to the instructor: Before you book your classes, make sure the instructor is willing to modify the poses as you go along, to accommodate different levels of ability. Ask if you can attend a trial class to see for yourself how that will work.
3. Choose the right class: While there are many places offering yoga for the 50+ crowd – as long as the instructor is open and accommodating, a beginner’s class for all ages should be fine. You might want to avoid the ersatz yoga classes – where the attendees are all lulu-lemoned-up and the focus is more about image than the practice of yoga principles. Use your good sense to sort out the fakes.
4. Don’t compete: Don’t worry about your abilities to keep up with the class, if others around you are more flexible. It’s not about who can twist themselves into the tightest knot, or do the most impressive downward dog while trying to locate their third eye. Push hard, but pay attention to your body and don’t go beyond the edge of your ability. Go at your own pace and I promise you – the benefits are awesome at any level.
5. Ignore the scale: Yoga classes are all about relaxation, stretching and toning. Your motivation should not be weight loss, but overall good health and healing from the inside out. This is the greatest gift from you to you.
6. Be committed: Try to go once or twice a week. But if a live class is not available to you, there are many level-appropriate DVD’s out there you can purchase. And while this is a viable option, nothing can replace the positive energy you get from a class of like-minded people and a qualified instructor.
7. Stick with it: Don’t get your yoga pants in a pretzel if you don’t get instant results. Be patient and committed, even on those days when you’d rather stay in your stretchy sweats and eat a tub of rocky road. And although you should feel results in 6-8 weeks, please give it a good year. I promise you a better, more flexible body, with less pain and a noticeably improved sense of well-being. Have I ever lied to you before?
(Okay maybe i-Lied once about being i-Crazy…but only that once.)
8. Be brave, be bold and be healthy: You may want to google “yoga for seniors” and read more about this important emerging trend. Yoga should be safe for everyone. However, if you have specific health issues, you may want to check with your doctor before beginning.
Final word: This has been my story. I know it’s easy to dismiss all the reasons why you need yoga. But all I can say to that is, blah, blah, blah! We boomers and zoomers need all the help we can get! Our aging bodies are going nowhere but down that long mudslide to perdition. (I’m just thankful wrinkles don’t hurt!) So get off your sorry excuse, stuff your chakras into your sports bra – and give it a try! You won’t ever be sorry you did.
This message brought to you by Pat,
Was dreamed up on her yoga mat,
For this, she doesn’t charge a fee,
‘Cause bloggers do it all for free.
See you between the lines and on Twitter @Pat Skene
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