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The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors: A Guide On Getting Started

The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors: A Guide On Getting Started.
Guest Post by Harry Cline.

image1Photo via Pixabay by Brenkee

Of all the different types of exercises out there, yoga has become one of the most popular in recent years, partly because of its inherent flexibility. It can be done just about anywhere, by people of many different ages and abilities, and can be adapted for those who have mobility issues. For seniors, yoga is one of the best workouts around for those very reasons, but there are other benefits, as well, including a boost to mental health that can help ease the symptoms of depression and prevent stress and anxiety.

Fortunately, there are several simple ways you can get started with a yoga routine of your own, but it’s important to start slowly to avoid injury and to get adjusted to the movements. It’s also a good idea to make sure you adapt the poses to meet your specific needs, especially if you have a disability or limited mobility.

Keep reading for some great tips on how to get started with yoga and to learn more about the benefits.

Improve your overall health

The many benefits of yoga are evident in the way they help seniors improve balance and coordination–which helps prevent falls and other injuries–and builds up muscle tone, aids in joint health, and reduces stress and anxiety for better mental health. By combining physical exercise with a mental health boost, you can ensure that your overall health is well taken care of.

Aid in your recovery

Yoga can be hugely beneficial for individuals who are in recovery because it combines physical activity with meditation. Learning to look inward and connect with your spiritual self can help speed up your recovery and will allow you to learn how to cope with stressors and the effects of depression and other mood disorders in a healthy way.

Adapt

If you’re living with a disability or have limited mobility, it’s important to find a workout that you can adapt to your needs so you can stay safe. Yoga can be done in the water or with the assistance of a chair, so you don’t have to get down on the floor if doing so would be painful or awkward. Consider taking a class with an instructor who understands how to adapt yoga poses for different needs. You can even do yoga and meditation at home. Set up a calm, relaxing space away from noisy areas of your home.

Make sure it feels right

It’s important to make sure that as you’re practicing yoga, you learn to emphasize feeling over the poses. If something doesn’t feel right, move out of the pose immediately and get into a comfortable position. While yoga is a mostly safe exercise for seniors, there are still ways to become injured if you aren’t careful. Take things slowly and consult a doctor immediately if you feel pain.

Start with a class

If you’ve never experienced yoga before, it might be best to start with a class so that you can see how the poses are supposed to be done. There are likely several local classes to choose from, but if you aren’t comfortable with attending one in person–or if you have limited mobility–look for a tutorial online that you can follow at home.

Getting started with your own yoga routine doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult; start slowly and remember that these exercises can be adapted to fit your needs, whatever they may be. If you have existing health issues, consult with your doctor before starting any new routine. Having a good plan and keeping your own safety in mind will help you create an exercise plan that will keep you healthy for a long time.

Strange Bodily Happenings

My Terrible Book of Happiness… Love, Anxiety and Everything
by Margaret Lesh. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51DM674eXbL._SY346_One of the things I greatly appreciate about My Terrible Book of Happiness, is that Ms. Lesh doesn’t claim to be an “expert”, or have all the answers, but simply shares what she has experienced, and what has helped her in her life, when anxiety, hopelessness, and depression are present. The very first line says, “There is no one-size-fits-all cure to sadness, but it helps when we share our life experiences – the stumbling parts, the dark places – so we know we are not alone. The end of 2016 and first half of 2017 found me mired in a trap of anxiety, worry, and depression: three things I happen to be good at.”

These essays, antidotes, stories, and trivia, includes four sections (Anxiety, Peace, Love, and Hope). One of suggestions is to take a break from social media and the news, and only take it in in small amounts. There is also a chapter with a great title “Swiss Cake Rolls, Other Strange Bodily Happenings, and Walking”, where she shares the affects that having a child and going through menopause have had on her belly and health, and the benefits of exercise to not only make one fit, but to also ease anxiety. This essay is called “Move It, Baby”. The author speaks frankly, and insightfully, about the benefits of meditation in her section called “Meditation for the Meditatively Challenged (Like Me)”.

After a number of entertaining, and enlightening stories and events, Ms. Lesh summarizes what she has learned by saying, “Unplugging, turning inward, reassessing, and refocusing on my mental and physical health were what I needed to do to pull myself out of my long slump. Walking, yoga, meditation, prayer, active gratitude, mindfulness, music, laughter, and spending time in nature are all things that helped me through the dark times.” The postscript includes a list of what has helped her the most, resources available to readers’ and numbers to call for help. My Terrible Book of Happiness isn’t sad, or depressing, but hopeful, honest, and perhaps a lifeline for someone reading the words within.

I Couldn’t Breathe

Anxiety Girl by Lacy London.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Some people’s reality as fiction, and fictional fears may become reality. Anxiety Girl is told by Sadie Valentine, as her world feels like it is falling apart. She describes her symptoms to the pharmacist. “My chest became really tight like someone was squeezing me from the inside. My head started to pound and I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t catch my breath, it was like I was drowning. I really thought I was going to die.” Ms. London’s imaginary character is a reflection of what many experience.

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The author states in the prologue that she wanted to write a fictional story that dealt with a real-life situation, one that she has experienced herself. She does so with insight, interest, and flare. Sadie is lucky to have a close friend, Aldo, who is also her roommate. He sticks by her through thick and thin, as she begins to feel as if her world is turning upside down and she’s going to fall off. She thinks everything is fine, and that it is the breakup with her boyfriend that triggers her intense fear and helplessness. It’s not.

Characters in the story seem like people you might know if you live in Chelsea (London), and have the luxury of time on your hands to be creative, hang out with friends, and go out dancing and drinking every night. That is what Sadie attempts to do after the breakup, with one man after another, and one drink following the last one. No matter what she does to avoid, or numb, her feelings, takes a toll, and it doesn’t work. After a scene in a restaurant, she begins to spiral downwards, and doesn’t know what to do.

Degrees of anxiety and depression are experienced by countless individuals throughout the world. It is nothing to be ashamed of, yet too often we are. Ironically, we have no problem telling someone, or seeking help for, a broken arm or flu, but when it is our mind and emotions that are effected, it becomes hush hush. Mental health is just one aspect of our overall health. With Anxiety Girl, Ms. London gives us a story that can help us know what anxiety feels like, that we aren’t alone, and that help is available.

RESOURCES:
Anxiety Anonymous
Work of Jodi Aman
Book by Constans

Yadda Yadda Yadda

Just Sit: A meditation guide for people who know they should but don’t. By Sukey Novogratz and Elizabeth Novogratz. Illustrations by Niege Borges. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

412a0ezS86L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_If the writers of Just Sit could do so, they would reach out from the page (or screen) grab you by the throat, wrestle you to the ground, and hold you there until you started meditating – metaphorically speaking. That is what it seems to take for us to stop with all of our excuses (real and imagined) and actually do it. The Novogratz’s do everything in their power to convince us – joke, explain the benefits, teach us the fundamentals, and answer every possible question. “10 million Americans meditate, 6 million of them because their doctor told them to.” Let’s just pretend our doctor told us to and start doing it.

Whether you are just beginning, or are the oldest living meditator on the planet, the insights and instructions within make a lot of sense. It includes steps for how to meditate, questions that arise once we’ve started, and why we are reluctant to begin in the first place. “Meditation is a way of training your mind to slow down, to be responsive, not reactive, to bring you into your life and out of the constant chatter that’s going on in your head.” It is often this chatter, and mind-fuck, that keeps us from paying attention to our selves, or side-tracts us once we’ve begun. One of the most practical, and enlightening aspects of this book, is how to work with such thoughts, feelings, and actions. How to “observe” our experiences without believing we “are” our momentary experience.

Here are some of the questions people ask. If some of these sound familiar, join the crowd.  “I feel like a fool. How do I get past it?” “How does just sitting there help me train my mind?” “My mind is sharp already. So why would it need training?” “Can anyone meditate?” “What can I or should I expect?” “I understand prayer, but meditation seems a little out there for me.” “Can I do meditating wrong?” Here’s the crazy part. The answer to most of these questions is, “For meditation to work, you actually have to do it.” Go figure. What a wild idea. “The biggest secret to meditation is all you need to do is show up.” Like exercising the rest of the body, the mind needs attention. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes practice.

The introduction says, “Meditation Is Not for Sissies”, which reminds me of another book “Growing Old Is Not For Sissies”. In other words, it’s not always a bed of roses (though that could be quite thorny). One of the reasons people avoid meditation is because we begin to see what’s going on, and what we are telling ourselves about what’s going on (with our body, emotions, and thoughts). It isn’t always pleasant, but it is what it is. Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz invite readers to watch whatever arises. “In order to deal with your shit and have a way better life, you’ve got to be willing to show up and sit in the much.”

So, there you have it. Grab yourself by the scruff of the neck (gently), get a copy of this book and Just Sit. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s hard. It’s difficult. I don’t have time. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t know what to do.” Yadda yadda yadda. Stop believing you are what you think (or feel), and take a chance. What have you got to lose? As the author’s state so simply, and brilliantly, with one of the headings, “WARNING: Conditioning impairs freedom.”

P.S. The illustrations, and layout, match the words, and greatly enrich Just Sit with clarity, wit, and wisdom.

A Series of Events

51ABoAle4SLHope & Possibility Through Trauma by Don Shetterly. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This is an insightful collection of essays, combined with a workbook and discussion guide, of how to live with hope and possibility after experiencing trauma. The trauma that Mr. Shetterly experienced was sexual, physical, and verbal abuse from his father and brother as a child. This trauma is spoken of briefly at the beginning of the book, but is not the focus of this work. It is primarily, and gratefully so, concerned with how we can heal, understand, and care for ourselves after having experienced such events.

“It is not a book with scientific facts and research,” states the author. “This book is about life and the struggles we face. It is also about the healing, hope, and possibilities that exist within us.” Some of the chapters included in this recipe for insight, and growth, are: “Self Acceptance”, “Rewiring the Brain”, “Personal Growth”, “Our body Connections”, “In the Moment’, and “Listening”. There are clear explanations of different issues that arise when we decide to stop running, or numbing, the pain of abuse, and a clear path on how to make it out of the valley of darkness and despair.

“Life is a series of events, choices, reactions, and growth. While one event can impact our future, it does not mean that it will control our future.” To take the step of acknowledging what has happened, can be terrifying, and the reality of not acknowledging what has happened, can fill one’s life with constant fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion. The author also speaks about healing the body, emotions and mind, by including body work, music, and affirmations. Some of the sections I found especially helpful were those that involved a guided relaxation exercise (body scan), how to calm one’s self, be mindful, and focus on the breath.

There is a lot of personal resonance with this book, and the author’s words. I have nine foster sisters that were all sexually abused in their biological families. Our adopted daughter experienced a variety of traumatic events with her birth family. I have written extensively about grief, loss, and trauma, and worked as a bereavement and trauma counselor with hospice, in hospitals, mental health facilities, prisons, and overseas with survivor’s of multiple traumas. Hope & Possibility Through Trauma, by Don Shetterly, is a welcome addition to the resources now available for those most in need of such sustenance, insight, and inspiration. Do not hesitate to get a copy for yourself or another.

Breathe Through the Story

51Zxe5MHNvL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAnxiety & Panic Workbook: Stop Stressing, Start Living by Jodi Aman. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

It’s one thing for friends, books, family, TV, counselors, or others, to tell us what we should do or not do about a problem, and something entirely different when they show us “how” to do it. Changing our habits, conditioning and fears, isn’t easy. If it was, we would have done so on our own a long time ago. Enter Jodi Aman and her Anxiety & Panic Workbook, which not only clearly defines anxiety, but shows us how to overcome it.

Ms. Aman has lived with anxiety herself for many decades, thus she is speaking from experience, and not some theoretical therapeutic idea about what it is like, or how to live with it. The National Institute of Mental Health has shown anxiety to be the number one mental health problem in the U.S. Thus, there is a large audience of people who can readily relate to how difficult anxiety/fear can be and how often it stops us from living a complete fulfilling life.

There is lots of space in the workbook for readers to answer the thoughtful, and important questions that are asked, and help clarify and identify how anxiety effects us personally, and to what extent. Ms. Aman talks about the importance of motivation, and having a vision of what life can be, as opposed to simply wishing to be free of what is. She says, “‘Want’ and ‘can’t’ are ideas, not truths.'” The book helps us get to know anxiety, as opposed to trying to avoid it or get away from it.

The Anxiety & Panic Workbook is laid out in an easily accessible manner, is clearly well thought out, and can help many. Her five rules for a happy life are: 1) Make people important. 2) Step back. 3) Have fun. 4) Be Creative. 5) Practice doing hard things. It is, of course, easy to come up with five “rules”, and another to learn how to practice them. That is the gift of this book – it shows us how, and not just why. The following was especially poignant, in referring to anxiety, and what we tell ourselves about it. “It is all just stories. The story is not over. It continues to change. Breathe through the story.

It’s In Your Hands

515gry9akYL._AC_US218_Tapping Success Scripts: EFT SECRETS to Create Wealth, Work, Weight Loss, Physical & Emotional Well Being For You, Your Loved Ones & Pets. By Colleen M. Flanagan. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

So, yeah, the title is a mouthful, but the book covers every one of the aforementioned subjects, and beyond. If you’ve tried one thing after another to deal with fear, anxiety, and other emotional difficulties, without any relief, consider Tapping Success Scripts, and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).

“Stanford engineer Gary Craig founded EFT after learning Dr. Roger Callahan’s taping acupressure algorithms to relieve emotional distress (called TFT – Thought Field Therapy). Mr. Craig simplified the Callahan method by creating one simple acupressure procedure for relief of all conditions.”

I was interested in Tapping Success Scripts to see how it differed from TFT, which I’d learned from Dr. Callahan years ago, and have been using and teaching others for many years, especially those experiencing trauma and grief. Like TFT, many practitioners of EFT claim that it works for everything from fear of loss, to curing cancer, or becoming wealthy. In my experience, TFT has been helpful for anxiety and trauma, but not as much for depression and other issues.

Ms. Flanagan describes the EFT process; what to say to yourself for an issue (such as fear); and where to tap on the body for each specific ailment, be it emotional or physical. I especially appreciated her top 10 tips to make EFT more successful, and her awareness of what we tell ourselves, and getting to the core of our concern, such as the thought that we often think we need to be perfect to be loved, accepted, or obtain something we desire.

The advantage of EFT (and TFT) is that it does no harm, you can do it yourself, and though there are a variety of steps to take for each specific ailment, or issue, they are well explained and described throughout, and repeat many of the same actions for each. You do not have to “believe” these techniques work, or have some magic explanation for why they do. Simply give them a try and if you notice any difference, then you (and others) will be better off in every aspect of your life.

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