7 Reasons Why I’m Happy to be a Middle Aged Yogi….

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7 reasons I’m happy to be a middle aged yogi

As a yogi embracing the middle years there are many yoga trends I’m happy to let pass me by.  Here are 7 of them…


  • Any yoga class that has been heated to a temperature worthy of an industrial laundry.  My own body creates that heat spontaneously so why would I consider turning up the temperature…..on purpose?
  • Any yoga class that has the word ‘burn’, ‘boot’, ‘butt’ or ‘bust’ in the description.  Need I say more?
  • Any type of yoga clothing design that incorporates large cut out panels or swathes of mesh.  Worse still, not enough fabric to make a handkerchief from.

    Any yoga class that has the word ‘burn’, ‘boot’, ‘butt’ or ‘bust’ in the title.  Need I say more?

  • Any pose that involves contorting myself into the shape of a badly twisted pretzel.  I know Madonna managed to get both feet around her neck and good on her, but me?  With these hips?
  • Any yoga cleansing programs that involve a diet of foods I can’t pronounce and the need to perform four hours of acrobatic poses every day.  Just the thought of it makes me pine for a lie down…..when’s savasana?
  • Achieving a one armed handstand in the middle of the room/beach/park/any other random open space.  Didn’t happen for me at the peak of my yoga fitness so I’m happy to practice acceptance in the knowledge that it won’t happen now.
  • The trend for posting multiple yoga pose photographs to social media on a daily basis.  Can I go get a coffee instead?

How are these trends working out for you?

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The Value of Practicing Yoga with an Experienced Yoga Instructor

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A recent report by the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine discovered a rise in yoga related injuries for older students

Yoga is popular, it’s as simple as that, and today more and more older people are embracing the practice attracted by the wealth of health and self care benefits it offers.


However, as the number of yoga students has grown, so too have the number of yoga related injuries being treated.  Bad news whichever way you try to spin it.

A recent article published on the leading website yoga journal.com has found that there has been a marked increase in yoga injuries, particularly for those in the age categories 40 and upwards.  This could be seen as a reflection of the growing number of older students led to yoga on the advice of healthcare professionals or following many years of other exercise disciplines or, for some, very limited exercise habits.

The study by the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine examines injuries over thirteen years starting in 2001, a period of time that also coincides with a large increase in yoga teacher trainings and in the number of opportunities to study and teach yoga.

Although most trainings cover a spectrum of yoga topics, in many cases, only around 20 of those hours are dedicated to anatomy study.

This growth is great news for everyone as it increases choice and accessibility along with employment and experience for yoga teachers. However, currently, the only criteria that needs to be met in order to teach (in most cases) is the completion of a 200hour training.  There are many 200hour yoga trainings around which, like most things in life, can differ in style and quality.  Although most trainings will cover a spectrum of yoga topics, in many instances only around 20 of those 200 hours are dedicated to anatomy study.

Even for an experienced teacher, a class that provides safe sequencing for a large group of students with an array of physical & medical issues can be challenging.

It is unfair to suggest that any brand new teacher would intentionally cause anyone harm but it takes experience, study and understanding of the physical body and a broad range of conditions to safely and effectively lead a class.

With aging bodies comes the inevitable wear and tear of joints, weakening of connective tissues such as ligaments and other musculature changes as well as the range of physical conditions that spring up in later life.  These are all important aspects to consider when teaching an older group of students.

Even for a very experienced teacher, a class that provides safe sequencing for a large group of students with an array of physical & medical issues can be challenging.

This is not to say that a recently qualified teacher does not have the ability to teach a class well, but older students need to be mindful and responsible for their own self care too.

Listen to your own body and be selective about the classes you attend particularly when starting out.  Yoga is all about losing the ego so don’t let your own ego dictate that you attend that fast moving, level 2 class.  Take time to build up your practice with a well informed, experienced teacher making gradual progress to the faster, stronger classes if that appeals.

From a student’s perspective, the more yoga experience and study that a teacher has, the more it will also benefit their own learning. Doing some research to find a class that combines your choice of instructor with the appropriate level is important.

 Inexperience or little knowledge about a condition could unintentionally cause injury.

Although it may be uncomfortable for you to ask an instructor directly, you can take a look online to find out more or chat with other staff and students at the location where you attend class.  Most yoga teachers, regardless of their experience, welcome questions as no teacher would want to knowingly hurt a student but inexperience or limited knowledge about a condition could unintentionally cause injury.

Depending upon the yoga school or tradition the teacher follows, many 200hour graduates may also go ahead and continue in their studies with an additional 300hour teacher training.  These trainings provide practicing teachers with an opportunity to study the whole topic of yoga in more depth including aspects of injury management and yoga therapy.

So take a little time to research further and consider experience, qualifications and ongoing study to find your perfect yoga match.

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Yoga to Support Bones & Joints in the Middle Years

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Yoga to Support Bones & Joints in the Middle Years

Knee bone’s connected to your thigh bone.……so the song goes.  As we age, we can anticipate the structure of our bones and joints changing but there are ways, through the practice of yoga, that we can support our bodies through these changes and a little self care now can go a long way later.


The adult human body is comprised of 206 bones – there’s a useful fact to log for your next game of Trivial Pursuit – and these bones are cleverly hinged and connected across a range of joints to form the human skeleton.

As we age, we can anticipate the structure of our bones and joints changing but there are ways, through the practice of yoga, that we can support our bodies through these changes and a little self care now can go a long way later.

Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are three of the more common skeletal conditions all of which feature in the list of chronic conditions we may come to experience in older age.

  • osteoporosis – is the most common chronic condition of the joints and ccording to the National Osteoporosis Foundation 54 million Americans are suffering from osteoporosis.  As our bones get older so the living tissue inside them loses density causing them to weaken.  The closely packed honeycomb look of a young, healthy bone gradually changes creating a more loosely packed honeycomb that is far more brittle and prone to breaking.  Most of us reach our peak bone mass between the ages of 25 & 30 but by the time we’re celebrating our 40th birthdays we have already begun to lose that bone mass.
  • osteoarthritis – is a form of arthritis that can be genetic but can also be caused by previous injury, overuse or misuse of a joint and excess weight.  Osteoarthritis occurs as the smooth cartilage lining where bones meet one another at a joint, begins to break down losing its smoothly gliding properties which ultimately compromises the range of movement within the joint.  Research conducted by the Arthritis Foundation found that those with osteoarthritis can be more at risk of having balance issues simply because of the decreased function, physical weakness and pain they experience in arthritic joints.
  • rheumatoid arthritis – is another common form of arthritis which is an autoimmune disease caused by the individual’s own body mistakenly attacking the joints causing bone and cartilage damage.

This little trio of conditions makes for grim reading but the physical and meditational aspects of yoga alongside other healthy life choices can help reduce, limit and, in some cases, improve symptoms.

How Yoga Can Help

Firstly, we can help ourselves stay healthy by regular exercise.  Something you’ve read many times before, I’m sure.  The affects of osteoporosis can be improved through a regular yoga practice.  Often described as ‘weight bearing’, the standing yoga poses such as the Warrior poses and chair pose are great ones to practice as they create movement in the joints as well as being excellent muscle strengtheners.

Strong muscles support and protect the joints as we move.  By keeping joints fluid and open by working through their full range of motion we help to prevent joint stiffness and discomfort.  In a yoga class we may recline and use a strap looped over the foot in hand to foot pose to help maintain hip joint flexibility, for example.

A recent study by yoga loving physician Dr Loren Fishman MD, a life long practitioner and teacher, showed interesting results suggesting that the daily practice of a twelve minute yoga routine could help with osteoporotic bone loss.  He started a similar study again this Fall.  Go to sciatica.org to learn more.

With osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis, regular exercise is also recommended.  In both cases keeping the body moving to preserve flexibility and maintaining a healthy physical weight are key.

Another great benefit of yoga, which can’t be overlooked, is the relaxation and mental focus of the practice.  Whether in the form of a regular meditation practice, mindfulness techniques or simply enjoying an extended savasana at the end of class, the benefits are enormous.

These are two common conditions which many of us may be confronted with further down the line, but research shows that exercise can help minimize and help with symptoms.

Yoga poses often practiced in a class include cat/cow, to warm up the spine, and triangle to strengthen the lower back and stretch the hip joints.  Reclining poses are helpful too.  Poses such as bridge work to strengthen the back body and gentle twists open the shoulders, mobilize the spine and work abdominal muscles.  Furthermore, a regular yoga practice is particularly helpful for stability and improving our sense of balance which, in turn, makes us less prone to falling.

Another great benefit of yoga, which can’t be overlooked, is the relaxation and mental focus of the practice.  Whether in the form of a regular meditation practice, mindfulness techniques or simply enjoying an extended savasana at the end of class, the benefits are enormous.

Relaxation can reduce the stress and anxieties we may experience and, in turn, make our physical challenges easier to embrace and live with. 

These aspects of yoga assist with dealing with physical pain and offer support in coming to terms with a diagnosis.  Additionally, the community element of joining a class cannot be underestimated.  Practicing with others who may have conditions in common provides the perfect social environment to help with low mood or depression that sometimes occurs as our physical bodies change with age.  Relaxation can reduce the stress and anxieties we may experience and, in turn, make our physical challenges easier to embrace and live with.

So, make yoga part of your self care routine.  Go join a class and your joints will thank you!

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How yoga can help with perimenopause symptoms

 

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How Yoga Can Support in Perimenopause

The time leading up to the menopause, known as the perimenopause, can be challenging and full of physical and mental changes but news flash – or should I say hot flash – yoga can help!


There is a long list of symptoms that may be associated with the perimenopause –  ‘yippee!’ I hear you cry.  Three of the most common are hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disruption but don’t lose heart as yoga can help.

Starting with the whole heating issue.  Some research estimates that almost 80% or women are affected by hot flashes.  Thought to be caused by the combination of unbalanced over and under active hormones bouncing about there are a number of yoga poses that can support you and inversions can be particularly helpful.

A great reference book with detailed yoga sequences for perimenopausal symptoms is ‘The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health’ by Linda Sparrowe & Patricia Walden.  Patricia, an experienced and respected Iyengar yoga teacher, recommends inversions as they can ‘jump start a sluggish system or calm an overly excited one by allowing fresh, oxygenated blood to flow into the head and neck’.

There is a long list of symptoms that may be associated with the perimenopause –  ‘yippee!’ I hear you cry.  Three of the most common are hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disruption but don’t lose heart as yoga can help.

Whether in the full form of the pose i.e. headstand or shoulderstand, or in supported versions using props and the wall, inverted poses will help as they are calming and soothing for the nervous system.  You may already have a strong inversion practice but if you haven’t or if you are completely new to yoga or have neck and back issues that prevent you doing inversions safely there are many alternative supported inversion poses to try.  (Although be mindful, it is not recommended that you do inverted poses when menstruating).

Mood swings are another aspect of the whole perimenopause journey. Seated forward bends can be good for mood as they are soothing in anxious moments but as they are ‘enclosed’ poses with the forward folding torso they will not be suitable if you suffer with depression.

Supported restorative poses are good alternatives as a restorative practice lying over bolsters and blankets offers the opportunity to quieten the mind and body at stressful, moody moments.  A great resource for restorative yoga is Judith Hanson Lasater’s book ‘Relax and Renew’.

Finally, sleep disruption, which can be impacted by the effects of the previous two symptoms.  Hot flashes become the night sweats and the root of insomnia can be the stress and irritation that comes from mood swings.

With a little time spent quietening the chatter of the mind and negative self talk the perimenopause can become an opportunity to embrace change.

There are various lifestyle changes that can be made in terms of eating and avoiding stimulants such as smoking, alcohol and caffeine.  Exercise is still important but if you are dealing with sleep issues then consider a more energizing and active yoga practice at the beginning of the day to avoid being too ‘wired’ closer to bedtime.

Besides the physical practice, mindfulness and the meditative practices of yoga are a great asset when dealing with perimenopause symptoms.

Being able to embrace physical changes with a more positive mindset will make these inevitable changes more manageable.  As Christiane Northrup, MD author of ‘The Wisdom of Menopause’ says ‘when all is said and done it is your attitude, your beliefs and your daily thought patterns that have the most profound effect on your health’.

With a little time spent quietening the chatter of the mind and negative self talk the perimenopause can become an opportunity to embrace change and benefit from a healthy and positive transition to the next life chapter.

As with all health related issues researched on the internet be sure to seek medical advice for any symptoms you experience.

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Yoga and Age Related Conditions

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Yoga & Age Related Conditions

It’s not the most uplifting piece of information you’re ever going to receive but as we get older there are, potentially, a few conditions and diseases coming our way.  However, on a much more positive note, by practicing yoga as part of our self care routine in some cases we can slow or prevent the onset of some of these. 


Heart – High Cholesterol & Heart Disease

How yoga can help. It has long been known that exercise plays an important role in keeping ourselves heart healthy.  Staying mobile and incorporating physical exercise into our daily routine is critical to our long term health.  Incorporating a yoga practice of asanas (physical poses) in to our daily routine can help.  A moderate vinyasa (flowing) class practiced a few times a week will keep the heart rate up for a cardiovascular workout but even a slower paced practice also has its benefits as it encourages physical activity.  The meditation element of a yoga practice can also reduce the effects of stress and anxiety and its impact on heart health.

Lungs – Chronic Respiratory Diseases

How yoga can help The breathing exercises which form part of a well rounded yoga practice can help to improve lung capacity.  With yoga’s attention to breath techniques and posture the ribcage becomes more expansive and the diaphragm moves more freely enabling the lungs to work more efficiently.

With a regular yoga practice we can support ourselves and, in some cases, slow or prevent the onset of some conditions and diseases.

Mind – Stress & Depression

How yoga can help.  Through the practices of mindfulness and meditation the mind can quieten and negative thought patterns that can fuel stress and anxiety may be managed more effectively.  Many yoga instructors will incorporate an element of mindfulness or guided meditation into a class or, alternatively, it’s well worth giving a dedicated meditation class a try.

Bones – Osteoporosis & Arthritis

How yoga can help.  There are many conditions that affect the bones as we age, the more common ones being osteoporosis and arthritis.  The weight bearing poses of a regular yoga practice can help reduce the risks of bone degeneration caused by osteoporosis.  Moving fluidly through physical poses helps keeps the body moving and maintains the range of motion in the joints which is beneficial for those who may be affected by arthritis.


Although this is just a small sample of yoga benefits in relation to some conditions it does illustrate the value of a yoga practice as a worthwhile health care investment.

Make 2017 the year you discover the life enhancing affects of yoga by        giving your local class or yoga studio a try.

As with all online health related research, be sure to get the ok from your doctor before embarking upon any new fitness regime 🙂

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