FOREVER YOUNG: Seniors Who Practice Yoga

 FOREVER YOUNG: Seniors Who Practice YogaMore and more American Seniors are taking up yoga than ever before. A recent study shows that over 16 million Americans practice yoga and 3 million are over 55. Since yoga honors the ageing process and is a lifetime journey many of the poses are modified to every body type making yoga accessible to anyone willing to step onto the mat.  Yoga is also empowering, regular practice boosts energy, increases flexibility and strength, decreases aches and pain all of which leads to a feeling of looking and feeling younger and more vital.  Research has shown that a regular practice offers tangible results to lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, helps keep weight gain and depression to a minimum and eases chronic conditions like arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia and protects against some major killers like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

NEVER TOO LATE

The best news of all is that it is never to late to start a yoga practice.  Seniors have found that the improved mobility they experience in the practice works to make them more joyful and pain free.  It is a guarantee that everyone will feel better after a yoga practice. Not only feel better but have better balance, more strength, flexibility and the mental dividends are numerous since focus and concentration are improved.  Many people don’t realize what a boost it is to the quality of their lives until they have come to the mat and experienced the process of transformation. 

For many newbies, the venturing into a yoga class is and act of courage; they come with trepidations about injuring or embarrassing themselves. But the Beginners or Introductory classes are slow and methodical with explanation of the poses and description of what the practitioner should be feeling in that particular pose.

BREATHING IS EVERYTHING

Breathing is the biggest problem as we age, the basics of yoga are breath connected to movement in a rhythmic manner.  Restoring good posture is one of the focuses facing seniors since poor posture compresses the functioning of the lungs causing breathing to get shallow. Therefore one of the first things we teachers emphasize is mindful breathing and lifting the chest. The student immediately begins to feel better, lighter and more vital.

YOU ARE ONLY AS YOUNG AS YOUR SPINE IS FLEXIBLE

The gains of a regular practice don’t take long to manifest. In as little as one class a week the spine relaxes, the muscles stretch and strengthen the mood lifts and the chest opens.  The special poses gently bring back the ability to bend, twist, turn and a of feeling lightness of step. This is the great gift of the practice of yoga.

As a teacher, it is rewarding to see the smiles of the students as they leave class in their new image of themselves having turned back the aging process step by step with their weekly practice. www.GoYogaAmelia.com for class times

Gianna R. Suarez, Owner, Instructor

Go Yoga Amelia Island

The Surprising Health Benefits  of Yoga  January 2013

Over the past several years among medical professionals and psychologists, yoga has experienced an upsurge in popularity in the western medical world. Yoga has become more than new age mysticism or the latest fad at the gym, yoga has been documented as providing numerous benefits to the body, psyche and mood. Some of the many proven health benefits associated with it’s regular practice are listed below. The many benefits of incorporating yoga into a patient’s fitness program has become recognized as an invaluable adjunct to the process wellness and healing.  

Health Benefits Within The Body

From lowering blood pressure to decreasing pain, to lower spine relief these health benefits can all be discovered within the body.

Decreases Blood Pressure. A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body.  Forward Bends, Gentle Twists & Pigeon Poses can help lower blood pressure and release the lower spine compression.

Slows Pulse Rate. A slower pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood with fewer beats. Regularly practicing yoga provides a lower pulse rate.

Improves Circulation. Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain through Forward Bends, Downward Facing Dog, Head & Shoulder Stands.

Efficient Respiratory. Like the circulatory system, a lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness.

Cardiovascular Endurance. A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance.

Massages Internal Organs. Yoga practice massages internal organs, thus improving the ability of the body to prevent disease. Additionally, an experienced yoga practitioner becomes better attuned to her body to know at first sign if something isn’t functioning properly, thereby allowing for quicker response to head off disease.

Improves Gastrointestinal Functioning. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga due to twists while breathing and abdominal compressions during forward bends.

Enhances Immunity. Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system. Many of the poses stimulate the immune system and the Thymus gland regulating the release of immune bodies through out the circulatory system, in some poses specifically work on areas of immunity.

Decreases Pain. Pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly AND in some instances of chronic pain, such as back pain, are lessened or eliminated through yoga.

Balances Metabolism. Having a balanced metabolism results in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling hunger. Consistent yoga practice helps find the balance and creates a more efficient metabolism by awakening the body energy centers through breath and movement.

 Health Benefits Outside the Body

From better sleep to more energy and strength, there are many benefits that can be experienced outside the body.  The following lists several benefits found on the outside of the body.

Delays Aging. Yoga stimulates the detoxification process within the body. Regular Detoxificationhas been shown to delay aging, among many other health benefits. When we free the body from build-up of toxins the regular elimination of these toxins gives the body a chance to heal while it slows down aging process, improves mental function, increases vitality. This is accomplished through twists, and perspiration during practice.

Posture & Lengthening. The very nature of yoga teaches the practitioner how to hold and control one’s body in a more healthful position. Through consistent practice, your posture will improve creating more confidence and spine strength along with a lengthening process that comes from releasing tension in the spine, shoulders and hips.

Strength. One of the premises of yoga is that you are using the weight of your own body for overall strength. Yoga works as an excellent method of strengthening of legs, thighs, arms, back and shoulders by bearing your own weight. This also enhances bone density.

Energy. Regular yoga practice provides consistent energy. When you perform your yoga correctly, in alignment and with your breath, you will feel energized and renewed after your yoga session rather than tired.

Weight. The benefits of a better metabolism along with the exercise of yoga work to keep your weight in check. Additionally, the stretching of muscles longwise helps to reduce the amount of cellulite that can build around muscles.

Sleep. Because of the many benefits to both body and mind that a yoga routine can provide, many find that their sleep is much better. Read here for more on sleep and yoga, as well as some positions for helping induce sleep.

Balance. An integral part of the yoga practice is balance and control over your body. With a consistent practice, you will find that your overall balance will improve outside the yoga class because you are building muscle strength, focus and acclimation to standing while engaging your muscles.

Integrates Function of the Body. Yoga is derived from Sanskrit and means ”to join together and direct one’s attention.” This is exactly what happens to your body after you start practicing yoga. Yogis find that their body works together much better, resulting in more graceful and efficient body movements.

Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.

Core Strength. With a strong body core, you receive better posture and overall body strength. A strong core helps heal and reduce injuries. This is why a lot of athletes do yoga as cross training (boxersMMA fighters, etc). Read how this swimmer uses yoga to strengthen her core and improve her swimming.

Sexuality: Yoga can improve your sexuality through better control, enhanced libido, more relaxation, and increased self-confidence. Read more about the yoga and sexuality connection here.

Emotional Benefits

Due to the strong mind-body connection of yoga, there are many emotional benefits to be gained from a consistent yoga practice. 

Mood. Overall well-being improves with yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, deep breathing and focusing inward can all lead to startling  improvement in your mood.

Stress Reduction. The concentration required during yoga practice tends to focus your attention on the matter at hand, thereby reducing the emphasis on outside distractions and what may have been putting stress in your life. Yoga leaves one more radiant and clear thinking to be able to cope and find solutions. Read more about yoga and stress management here.

Anxiety. Another benefit to the controlled breathing used in yoga is a reduction in anxiety because the rhythm of the body is relaxed and coincides with the breath. Learn more about how you can use yoga breathing to reduce your anxiety.

Depression. The negative feelings that you may be repressing are brought to the surface during some types of yoga exercise. When this happens, the negative energy is no longer stuck within you, but released through exercise. Regularly releasing this negativity leads to a reduction of depression in most people.

Joyful Self-Acceptance. Focusing inward and realizing through your yoga practice that perfection is not the goal, then self-acceptance begins to take over. One is freed from the suffering of comparing ourselves to the advertising and entertainment media impression of perfection.  This post describes how success is not measured by perfectionism in yoga.

Self-Control-Mindfulness. The controlled movements of yoga teach you how to translate that self-control and discipline to all aspects of your life. Looking inwards creates a sense of self value, self worth and preservation of one’s energy.

Mind-Body Connection. Few other exercises offer the same mind-body connection that yoga does. As you match your controlled breathing with the movements of your body, you retrain your mind to find that place of calm and peace that long-time yogis know. This is a tool that during stressful encounters can be called upon to create your own peaceful perspective.

Positive Outlook and Contentment. Continued practice of yoga results in a balance of many hormones and the nervous system, which brings about a more stable, positive approach to life. When the practitioner realizes the value of “acceptance” and “non-judging” then room for a grateful attitude ensues creating joy and contentment.

Hostility Lessens. Most yogis report a huge reduction in the amount of hostility they feel as well as a sense of control when anger flares. This calm effect is likely from the relaxation and meditation that is incorporated in their yoga practice that leads to an overall calming of the nervous system. Less hostility means lower blood pressure and stress and a healthier approach to life.

Concentration. Researchers have shown that as little as eight weeks of yoga practice can result in better concentration, focus and more motivation is achieved.

Memory. Improved blood circulation to the brain as well as the reduction in stress and improved focus results in a better memory.

Attention. The attention required in yoga to maintain the structured breathing in conjunction with yoga poses sharpens the ability to keep a sharp focus on tasks. This spills over to the outside world and allows the practitioner to be calm during times of outward calamity.

Social skills. In yoga, you learn the interconnectedness of all of life. Your yoga practice soon evolves from a personal journey to one connecting to the community where you practice as you share the energy of the room with others.  Your social skills improve along with your yoga practice and self confidence.

Calmness. Concentrating so intently on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing calmness. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching how you breathe and disengagement from your thoughts, which help calm the mind.

Body Chemistry

Several aspects of body chemistry such as glucose levels and red blood cells are affected by yoga. Learn how you can improve your body chemistry through yoga.

Cholesterol. Yoga practice lowers cholesterol through increased blood circulation and burning fat. Yoga practice is a great tool to fight against harmful cholesterol levels.

Lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system boosts your immunity and reduces toxins in your body. The only way to get your lymphatic system flowing well is by movement. The specific movements involved in yoga are particularly well-suited for promoting a strong lymphatic system.

Glucose. There is evidence to suggest that yoga lowers blood glucose levels.

Sodium. As does any good exercise program, yoga reduces the sodium levels in your body. In today’s world of processed and fast foods that are full of sodium, lessening these levels is necessary to a balanced metabolism.

Endocrine functions. Practicing yoga helps to regulate and control hormone secretion and many of the  poses ignite the gland so that once dormant or mal functioning glands are regulated. An improved endocrine system keeps hormones in balance and promotes better overall physical and emotional health.

Triglycerides. Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat in the blood, and elevated levels can indicate a risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. A recent study shows that yoga can lead to “significantly lower” levels of triglycerides. Read more about the results of that study here.

Red blood cells. Yoga has been shown to increase the level of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood, and too few can result in anemia and low energy.

Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps boost immunity, helps produce collagen, and is a powerful antioxidant; and a yoga regimen can increase the vitamin C in your body as well as distribute the vitamin. 

Exercise Benefits

As a form of exercise, yoga offers benefits that are sometimes not found among other exercise regimens. Check out these reasons to include yoga in your health program.

Low Risk of Injury. Due to the low impact of yoga and the controlled aspect of the motions, and the focus on alignment, there is a very low risk of injury during yoga practice compared to other forms of exercise.

Parasympathetic Nervous System. In many forms of exercise, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, providing you with that fight-or-flight sensation. Yoga does the opposite and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system lowers blood pressure and slows the pace of your breathing, which allows relaxation and healing.

Muscle Tone. Consistently practicing yoga leads to better muscle tone through weight bearing and balancing, while elongating the muscles.

Sub-Cortex. Subcortical regions of brain are associated with well-being, and yoga dominates the sub-cortex rather than the cortex (where most exercise dominates).

Enhanced Oxygen Consumption. Yoga focuses on breath control more than traditional exercise routines, thereby allowing the body to work more efficiently in conjunction with the breath. Since the inhale  during chest opening exercises deliberate inhale of oxygen  sent directly into the lungs during this movement thereby creates the most efficient use of oxygen. The exhale functions to release toxins, deflate the core so that a deepening of the pose can occur.

Breathing. With yoga, breathing is deeper and controlled during exercise. This type of breathing provides more oxygen-rich air for your body and provides more energy with less fatigue. Every pose has an accompanying breath procedure so that the body always moves in harmony with the breath.

Balanced Workout of Opposing Muscle Groups. As with all of yoga, balance is key. If a muscle group is worked in one direction, it will also be worked in the opposite direction to maintain balance. This balance results in a better overall workout for the body placing both sides into correct alignment .

Non-Competitive. Because yoga is introspective and self-building in nature it removes any need of competition. With the lack of competition, the yogi is free to work slowly to avoid any undue injury as well as promote a more balanced and stress-free workout.

Joint Range of Motion. A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine indicated that joint range of motion was noticably improved by participants who practiced yoga. Not only is joint range enhanced but the rebuilding of cartilage is a side additional benefit. When cartilage is rebuilt the effects of arthritis are lessened and increased flexibility of joints is the result.

Eye-Hand Coordination. Without practice, eye-hand coordination diminishes as one ages. Yoga maintains and improves eye-hand coordination.

Dexterity. The strong mind-body connection and flexibility gained from yoga leads to grace and skill in mobility. A fall that at one time might have caused serious injury is usually free of harm when one is accustomed to regaining dexterity and balance through yoga.

Reaction TimeResearch done in India shows that reaction time can be improved with specific yoga breathing exercises in conjunction with an already established yoga practice. The improvement was attributed to the faster rate of processing and improved concentration gained from yoga.

Endurance. Working the entire body, yoga improves endurance and is frequently used by endurance athletes as a supplement to their sport-specific training.

Depth Perception. Becoming aware of your body and how it moves, as one does in yoga practice, leads to increased depth perception. 

Disease Prevention

Doctors and nurses refer patients to yoga because studies indicate that it can help prevent or diminish the effects of many chronic diseases.

Heart disease. Yoga reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, keeps off weight, and improves cardiovascular health, all of which lead to reducing your risk of heart disease. There are specific heart opening poses that focus on stretching the thoracic area along with breathing to enhance heart functioning.

Osteoporosis. It is well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis, since many of yoga poses are weight bearing it follows that yoga contributes to bone density when done regularly. Additionally, yoga’s ability to lower levels of cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones.

Alzheimer’s. A new study indicates that yoga can help elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels. Low GABA levels are associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s. Meditation like that practiced in yoga has also been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Type II diabetes. In addition to the glucose reducing capabilities of yoga, it is also an excellent source of physical exercise and stress reduction that, along with the potential for yoga to encourage insulin production in the pancreas, can serve as an excellent preventative for type II diabetes.

Symptom Reduction or Alleviation

Medical professionals have learned that the following diseases or disorders can all be helped by maintaining a regular yoga practice.

Carpal tunnel syndrome. Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who practiced yoga showed greater improvement than those who wore a splint or received no treatment at all. Researchers saw improved grip strength and reduction of pain in the study participants.

Asthma. There is evidence to show that reducing symptoms of asthma and even reduction in asthma medication are the result of regular yoga.

Arthritis. The slow, deliberate movement of yoga poses coupled with the gentle pressure exerted on the joints provides an excellent exercise to relieve arthritis symptoms. Also, the stress relief associated with yoga loosens and lubricates muscles that tighten joints. The rebuilding of cartilage is also possible with yoga.

Multiple sclerosis. According to this article, “yoga is now recognized as an excellent means of MS management.” Additionally, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is funding a clinical trial of yoga for treating multiple sclerosis. Currently there are many MS patients who find relief with yoga.

Cancer. Those fighting or recovering from cancer frequently take advantage of the benefits that yoga provides in terms of regulating stress, calming anxiety and focus in healing. Cancer patients who practice yoga gain strength, raise red blood cells, experience less nausea during chemotherapy, and have a better overall well-being. Positive affirmations and meditation through yoga also bring relief and encouragement to cancer patients.  There are hospitals that have dedicated Integrative Healing Centers whose goal is to provide the benefits of yoga and other modalities to cancer patients.

Muscular dystrophy. Using yoga in the early stages of muscular dystrophy can help return some physical functions. The practice of Pranayam yoga helped one teen regain many of his abilities lost to muscular dystrophy. Learn more in this article.

Migraines. Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce the number of migraines in chronic migraine sufferers by loosening the neck, shoulder and spine muscles. Also, yoga triggers the healthy functioning of organs like the liver and pancreas which have been known to contribute to migraines. This post describes how yoga can reduce migraines.

Scoliosis. Yoga can straighten the curvature of the spine associated with scoliosis by many of the back release and stretches that yoga provides along with guided alignment by a qualified instructor. Find out how this yogi cured her scoliosis and continues to help others as well.

Chronic bronchitis. Exercise that does not elevate respiration, yet increase oxygen levels in the body is ideal for treating chronic bronchitis. Luckily, yoga can do this, as well as aerate the lungs and provide energy.

Epilepsy. Focusing on stress reduction, breathing, and restoring overall balance in the body are the focus of how yoga can help prevent epileptic seizures.

Sciatica. The intense pain associated with sciatica can be nearly instantly alleviated with specific yoga poses. Here are 10 great ones to help relieve pain.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Studies of people with OCD have shown that practicing yoga has lead to a reduction in symptoms, resulting in less medication or that medication no longer needed.

Constipation. Due to the practice of yoga and overall better posture, the digestive and elimination systems work more efficiently. If the practitioner also has a healthy diet, any constipation will be eliminated through yoga.

Allergies. Using a neti pot to clear the sinuses is an ancient form of yoga to help reduce or eliminate allergy symptoms. Certain types of breathing can also help clear the nasal passages.

Menopause. Regular Yoga practice can help control the side effects of menopause. Learn how heart opening poses and bridge pose can help reduce hot flashes here.

Back pain. Yoga reduces spinal compression and helps overall body alignment to reduce back pain. Some of the best poses for back pain is found on the floor in Yoga, like knees to chest hug, Happy Baby and Wind Shield Wiper Knees. Find a yoga pose to help lessen back pain here

Adapted from: nursingdegree.net

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The Meaning of OM (AUM)  November 2012

Mantras, sacred chants, are very powerful. It’s believed that, just as a tiny seed contains a majestic tree, each sound contains vast amounts of spiritual resonance and creative force. One of the oldest and most widely known of these seeds is Om. 

Om is the audible expression of the transcendental and a call to the universe. It’s formal spelling is AUM, which raises up from the chest, then through the throat  and the humming of the last syllable brings the resonant sound out through a of closure of the M sound and then into silence.

Om is the “primordial seed” of the universe; it believed that this whole world is nothing but one vibrating sound of Om. It is considered to be the root mantra from which all other mantras emerge to encapsulate the essence of the many thousands of verses of Hinduism’s holiest texts.

In Christianity the sound is A..men, and if you drone the sound of Aaaa…..and then end with …men becoming a relative of Om. In the Hebraic texts there is Shal…om encompasses the seed sound Om once again, the closing “mmm…” sound creates a vibration in the chest or heart Chakra that reflects the center from which the Devine emanates within each of us. Hum the long “mmmm…” sound and feel the vibration yourself. In Arabic there is Sala…am, once again droning the ending double “a” sound. When sounding the word a vibration in the thoracic region of the chest revealing the will of the “heart”.

As such, Om is the meditative seed par excellence. Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutras and is the father of classical yoga, taught that when we chant this sacred syllable and simultaneously contemplate the meaning of it, our consciousness becomes ” prepared for meditation and thus prepared to connect with the Divine. The Yoga Sutra, noted that through chanting  Om, “the supreme soul is revealed.” In a similar vein, Tibetan scholars believe that Om leads to the “expression of the infinite within us.” Thus, chanting “Om” may be the easiest way to touch the Divine within your very self joining into vibrational harmony with the universe. The experience would be much the same if we lingered over and meditated upon Amen as we end our recital/chanting of prayer.

Yogis meditate on the three “measures,” or parts, of Om. Though commonly spelled Om, the mantra actually consists of three letters, a, u, and m. (In Sanskrit, whenever an initial a is followed by u, they coalesce into a long o sound.) Each of these three parts has numerous metaphysical associations, which themselves serve as meditative seeds. For example, a (pronounced “ah“) represents our waking state, which is also the subjective consciousness of the outer world; u (pronounced “ooh”) is the dreaming state, or the consciousness of our inner world of thoughts, dreams, memories, and so on; and m is the dreamless state of deep sleep and the experience of ultimate unity. 

By contemplating the meaning of each of these letters as we chant AUM, we are led through the three states of our ordinary consciousness to the mantra’s fourth part, the after-sound: mmm…. The vibration slowly dissolves into silence, symbolic of the transcendent state of consciousness, equated with (the Absolute) God and our connection through breath, sound and vibration then silence to Divinity. This silence is the crown of the mantra; it is described in the Upanishad scripture as “tranquil, soundless, fearless, sorrow-less, blissful, satisfied, steadfast, immovable, immortal, unshaken, enduring.”  When quietly we wait for the humming to end and then enjoy the stillness that follows we notice that the moment becomes a delicate meditative reflection.

Chanting Om (AUM) allows us to join the vibration of the whole universe as it moves—the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts, the in and out of our breath. As we chant Om, it takes us for a ride on this universal movement, through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy, and we begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.

There comes a sacred moment at the end of yoga practice when we have awakened from savasana and are completing our practice that we dedicate ourselves in unison to chanting Om (AUM) three times.  At that time we are tuning into the Devine of the Universe and also to each other’s vibrational key note of the Om sound. If one listens carefully to the collective harmony in the room during the chanting one will notice that without effort there comes a moment when all the voices join in the same key creating a powerful connection with all that exists.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!…Om Peace, Peace, Peace!

Gianna 

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