The Value of Practicing Yoga with an Experienced Yoga Instructor

practice with an experienced yoga teacher, experienced yoga teacher, yoga for middle age, yoga and injuries
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 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 increasing numbers of students practicing yoga following many years of other exercise disciplines or very limited exercise habits.

Are physical injuries increasing with yoga’s popularity

The study by the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine examines injuries over thirteen years starting in 2001.  This is a period of time that also coincides with a large increase in yoga teacher trainings and 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 yoga instructor, 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.  It’s just that 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 research online or chat with other staff and students at the location where you attend class.  Most yoga teachers, regardless of experience, welcome questions as no teacher would want to knowingly hurt a student.  However,  inexperience or limited knowledge about a condition could unintentionally cause injury.

The benefit of continuing yoga study for experienced yoga instructors

Depending upon the yoga school or tradition the teacher follows, many 200hour graduates may continue in their studies with an additional 300hour teacher training.  Others may diversify and focus on a particular school of yoga or facet of practice.  These trainings provide practicing teachers with an opportunity to study 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.






Yoga to Support Bones & Joints in the Middle Years

Yoga for middle age, middle aged yoga, yoga for bone & joint health, yoga benefits in the middle years, yoga as we age, yoga for aging bodies
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.  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.  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.  There are ways, through the practice of yoga, that we can support our bodies through these changes.  A little self care now can go a long way later.

Three of the major conditions affecting bones & joints

Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are three of the more common skeletal conditions.  All of these feature in the list of chronic conditions of the bones & joints that we may come to experience in older age.

  • osteoporosis – is the most common chronic condition of the joints and according 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.  RA 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 bones & joints 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.  His study discovered 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 to learn more.

Regular exercise is key

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,  often 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.

The other benefits

Another great benefit of yoga, often 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 making 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.   Low mood or depression sometimes occurs as our physical bodies change with age.  Relaxation can reduce the stress and anxieties we may experience making 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!










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 🙂



Book Review – Your Middle Years

Your Middle Years
Your Middle Years

Not every woman’s favorite topic, I know, but the menopause (eek! there, I said it) is an inevitable phase of any woman’s life.

Culturally, here in the West, we are so conditioned to value youth and beauty above everything else that the menopause is considered a taboo subject not to be discussed in polite conversation.

Have you every looked for a book on the topic of the menopause?  If you have then there is a good chance you are familiar with the array of lackluster choices out there.  The covers for many are jam-packed with too many words in a dull font and accompanied by the stilted photo of a menopause expert or flower.  (What is it with the flowers?)  So many of them have the same kind of text book appeal you get from a computer programming manual.

Not that the content isn’t relevant and probably very helpful but does it really have to be presented in such an uninspiring way?

Each topic is discussed in a fun and informative way with a bunch of contemporary colorful illustrations, lots of easy to read bullet points and simple to understand charts.

So, in my desperate search I resorted to some internet digging and unearthed ‘Your Middle Years’ written by the author partnership of Paula Mee and Kate O’Brien.

Paula, from a health, beauty and spa background and Paula from a nutrition background have partnered up together to create a book about menopause that is unlike any book on the topic I’ve seen so far.

Broken down into 12 chapters it delves into topics from food to bone & heart health to beauty, sleep, stress and sex issues.

Each topic is discussed in a fun and informative way with a bunch of contemporary colorful illustrations, lots of easy to read bullet points and simple to understand charts.

If you’re looking for well researched information presented in an easily digestible and upbeat way, I can’t recommend this book enough.

Embrace the changes and “love them, live them, own them”.

It approaches the topic of menopause in a very ‘self care’ oriented way.  All of those important things we already know about including diet, exercise, mindfulness and sleep.  Full of sensible, down to earth and achievable tips that will help with the myriad of menopausal symptoms that arise, Your Middle Years also includes a bunch of easy to create recipes – even for the non cook like me.

I love this book.  What else can I say?  It is a down to earth, practical and fun read covering a big topic in a very positive way.

As Paula and Kate say in the book – embrace the changes and “love them, live them, own them”.

You’ll find the book at in printed and digital format at all of the usual online booksellers!


Ask an Instructor – Alison Scola

Alison Scola

Alison Scola

Alison is an E-RYT 500 yoga instructor,  C-IAYT Yoga Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Lead Teacher Trainer 

ask an instructor – 10 questions

the very first yoga class you attended?  Ohio in 1994, seeking relief for debilitating back pain.  Divine guidance led me to my mentor & yoga therapist’s Hatha yoga class.

what is it about yoga that inspires you? The opportunity to heal on physical, emotional, energetic, causal, & spiritual levels. A yogic path offers limitless tools for continuous growth & ultimately, to identify as only Love.

what yoga item(s) could you not be without? My mat, blanket, & bolster.

your favorite post yoga class snack?  Water or tea is always nice.

which book would you recommend to a brand new student of yoga?  Moving into Meditation by Anne Cushman.  She articulates beautifully the relationship we are building with ourselves during practice.

if you could teach a class anywhere in the world, where would it be? A  sunrise class at Hanalei Bay on the island of Kauai, my favorite place on earth.

type of class you like to attend when you are not the instructor? Those classes that keep a focus on holding space for healing & self discovery.

favorite thing to do if not doing yoga?  Outside of asana practice I love dancing, running, swimming, hiking, & singing.

if you weren’t a yoga instructor?  If I wasn’t a yoga therapist/massage therapist…. I would devote myself wholly to music & dance.

and finally……

as a yoga instructor, what do you hope a new student takes away from your class?  

My greatest wish is that a new student finds a place where they can feel safe, get quiet, & begin to hear & sense the voice within.

Alison is an experienced yoga teacher, yoga therapist and teacher trainer.  E-RYT 500, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master & Lead Teacher Trainer.

You can contact Alison by email

Or find out more about her schedule via her website