Yoga Teacher – “The latest research shows that how we age has more to do with our mindset than any other factors,” says 67-year-old certified yoga teacher Cheryl Aiello. Teaching yoga since 1998, the North Salem, N.Y. resident began practicing the ancient discipline in the mid-’70s. In addition to running classes for younger students, The Yoga teacher instructs four group classes for seniors weekly plus a number of 50-plusers in private classes. Some of her students are in their 80s.
It’s becoming commonly accepted, says the yoga teacher lately in one of the interviews, that seniors should perform all the activities of their youth so they don’t lose skeletal tissue. When people say they’re too old, too inflexible, “none of it is true,” she adds. “You just come to the mat with whatever you have, and start from there.”
Seniors Should Check Out Different Yoga Teacher
Cheryl suggests senior yoginis try classes led by different instructors familiar with issues like osteoperosis, hip replacement and high blood pressure and adept in modifying the practice. Those over 50 do not have a greater chance of injury than younger folks provided they don’t push past their limitations, she says. “If someone has a low-back issue and goes to a power yoga class with 40 students with the idea this is the kind of practice they want to do, they may get injured because it is not suited for them.” (As with any exercise regimen, seniors should get an okay from their doctor before starting yoga.)
To help those with physical limitations modify their practice, Cheryl suggests the addition of certain props. While props are useful to people of all ages, she says they are particularly helpful in giving older students deeper experience of a posture and improving body alignment. When you’re younger, she explains, you can push really hard. But when you’re older, you don’t bounce back as quickly. “Be gentle and honor where you are; don’t push yourself, and allow your practice to unfold at its own rate.”
Yoga Mats/Straps/Blocks are Valuable Props in a Senior Practice
Cheryl suggests props such as rolled-up yoga mats or towels for neck support while lying down. Using a rolled mat under the tailbone while sitting crosslegged on the floor helps tip the tailbone forward to improve comfort. Other props include straps to aid in lifting and straightening legs for a good hamstring stretch. The use of yoga blocks is also encouraged for those who cannot touch the floor. The block brings the floor up to them,” she explains.
Chairs, another great support, can be used for almost any standing posture. “Being in a chair helps circumvent some of the limitations people have in doing yoga,” she says. “When I think of people aging, they can still do a yoga practice using a chair, even do advanced yoga postures that a lot of younger people can’t do.”
Yoga Relieves Stress, Helps Balance and Prevents Joints from Locking
Carol Benerofe, 75, of Rye Brook, N.Y. has practiced yoga weekly with Cheryl for the last three years. Her doctors recommended she take up the discipline to relieve stress brought on by stomach ailments. “Yoga with the breathing and stretching exercises really helps me relax,” she writes in a recent e-mail. “I can’t think of anything I don’t like about yoga.” Although she first encountered problems with balancing exercises, with more practice, she can now maintain her balance. “I really need to practice more at home; once a week is not enough,” she adds.
Myra Spector, 66, also of Rye Brook, joins Carol at Cheryl’s weekly class. While osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia restrict her capabilities, Myra says the sessions bring relaxation and tranquility despite her painful ailments. “I think yoga is the one thing every senior should do, especially if they are limited as to other physical activities,” she responds recently by e-mail. “I can’t emphasize enough,” she adds in a later message, “how important the right teacher is.”
Cheryl says another of her senior students suffering with back and knee problems credits yoga for keeping her loose and preventing joints from locking. “It increases blood circulation to your body,” she explains. “More blood to the area is always healing.”
If you are a senior interested in taking up yoga:
Talk to your family doctor first before starting the yoga teacher program.
Check out a number of classes with different instructors to get an idea of what practice is best suited to your needs/ medical issues.
Be honest with yourself, and do not overestimate your capabilities. Classes unsuited to your skill level may result in injury.
Make sure your yoga teacher knows about all your maladies and physical constraints and is familiar with modifying a practice as needed.
Discuss with your yoga teacher which props will make your practice easier.
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