In sharing yoga to people my age, I offer what I have learned through my yoga therapy training and from the experiences I live every day in my aging body. I emphasize 4 pillars of self-care including movement, breathwork, stillness and connection. And welcome every "body" where you are at. No pressure to 'do' anything but be yourself, be curious, and show up. And occasionally laugh.
Why yoga? I was in my early 40's when I started yoga because frankly some days getting moving in the morning felt like a chore. I learned the poses, then stopped. Life gets in the way. If I thought about my body I focused on the parts I disliked most. 'Working out' was running or resistance exercises. I even tried, then taught, spin and group weight lifting classes for almost a decade! And, something was missing.
At age 50 just one Sunday morning yoga class with Christine was all it took to change the trajectory of my life. After only a few weeks my body craved the release yoga provided! And the rest is my journey to today.
Yoga emphasizes three types of movement:
Joint freeing gently moves each joint in the body. It is done standing, seated or laying down. Think here about they kind of movements your joints like! Flexing and pointing the foot, doing circles with the ankles or wrists, opening and closing the hands, rolling the shoulders, smiling.
With yoga poses, or asana, therapeutic yoga will have us moving gently into and out of a shape three or more times before we hold it for a stretch. Moving before we ask our body to hold a shape is based in neuroscience. I like to say we are preparing our brains to collaborate. Gentle movement says to your brain 'I am going to ask you to work with me here to stretch deeply into this shape shortly!'. And it works! You can find a deeper or more satisfying stretch if you make this important mind body connection first.
Yoga works with the movement of the breath too. Connecting with the breath makes yoga different from other exercise. Notice how your ribs open and expand up when you take in a deep breath. Maybe even the shoulders move up a bit. And perhaps it all softens again on the exhale. In yoga we also work with that subtle movement inside our bodies.
Yoga cultivates our ability for stillness. Not an easy task when we first start out. As we stick with a practice stillness starts to feel more natural.
Stillness helps us nurture the mind body connection somewhat like movement does. In a stretch we may stay for 3-5 breaths, observing our breath, or noticing the very subtle sensations we are experiencing in our body. Stillness is also cultivated in yogic deep relaxation and it may even help off the mat when we find ourselves in a long grocery check-out line!
Yoga nourishes us on a number of levels.
For general wellness we put healthy things into our body and we need rest and we need to sleep! In learning to love the bodies we are in we also nourish opportunities to learn about ourselves.
You may know about the yogic diet, but did you know that yogic deep relaxation has been shown to be the equivalent of a few hours of sleep! And a regular night time routine starting half an hour before sleep can signal to your body and mind it is getting close to bedtime.
Yoga done outdoors or with natural light streaming into the room also can tap into that great nourishing effect of being in nature.
Connection is key in yoga.
We work on our own mind-body connection in movement and stillness practices and we often do yoga classes in groups. When we find a group of kindred spirits, this lends us the opportunity to connect with the instructor and also with new and other people that we may not regularly interact with.
The world that cares about us is actually a lot larger than we think it is. Sometimes we just have to reach out and give somebody the gift of our full attention We all have value to bring to the world. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States