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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.


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.

Be A Brave Girl

downloadBrave Sophia: A Children’s Book sbout Bravery and Courage by Tamala Johnson, J.D. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This story reminded me of the tale about a man who fell asleep under a tree and dreamed that he was a butterfly. When he awoke, he didn’t know if he was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man, or a man who had dreamed of being a butterfly.

Brave Sophia is about a little girl who is scared to talk in front of her class. Her mother tells her she must be brave and do it anyway. Sophia goes into the backyard, dozes off, and dreams that she is a butterfly. In the dream she discovers that she must be brave in order to survive. She awakes with newfound strength and insight.

Be a brave girl,” Sophia’s mother said. “You have to go to school and give your best speech even if you are afraid.”

Sophia spread her arms wide and flapped them like they were butterfly wings. “Mom, don’t worry. I have decided to be brave. I know how to fly now. I am brave Sophia!”

This children’s story is simple, enjoyable, and shares one of life’s truths in a way that young and old can understand and put into practice. The illustrations match the words perfectly. It is a picture book that can be read to a child, or read by a child, the older they become. Let yourself fly and pick up a copy of Brave Sophia.

Celebrating in South Sudan

Women for Women International (WfWI) South Sudan

Despite the ongoing violence and worsening food crises in South Sudan, Women for Women International recently celebrated the first graduating class of women in South Sudan. The 277 program graduates, who began their training last spring, each received a graduation certificate at ceremonies in the Yari, Payawa, Longamere and Ronyi communities.


Women spoke of their personal success stories, and graduates who were trained in bread-making offered mandazi, a popular type of bread, to those in attendance.

Reflecting the important ways men can champion women’s equality, many men – from the mayor of Yei and other government representatives to the graduates’ husbands, brothers, and fathers – attended the ceremony to support and congratulate the women. A number of them spoke positively of the impact of the training program on their wives, sisters, and daughters, how successful the women had become, and the transformative impact on their families and communities.

This May and June, we have over 1,800 women graduating from our programs in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Help us celebrate our graduates in South Sudan and elsewhere with a donation that celebrates a special graduate in your life.

The Science of Empathy

13e339fThe Science of Empathy: Principles and Practices Teleclass
by Paulette Rao, MCC, BCC

Effective coaches are high in empathy—the ability to tune into the emotional state of the other person and dialogue about what is going on with non-judgment and genuine acceptance.

So how do we, as coaches, enhance our ability to be empathic?

In this hour and forty-five minute class, you will learn how to engage rather than enmesh with your client’s feelings to support the client’s growth process. You will learn how to speak in a way that you become an intelligent mirror for the client, not only sharing back what you’ve heard, but noting discrepancies that seem to emerge among the various statements the client may be making. By sharing these discrepancies in a neutral tone and being descriptive rather than judgmental, you can maintain your empathic approach while catalyzing a space for new insights and sustainable change to occur.

Learning Objectives:

Definition and Role of Empathy
Distinctions between Empathy, Sympathy and Compassion
How to Express Empathy Effectively
Why Empathy is Crucial in Coaching
The Four Components of Empathy
The Challenges to Being Empathic
How We Can Enhance Our Ability to be Empathic

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg the author of Nonviolent Communication describes empathy as a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. Empathy, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being.

Sign Up Here:

Classes With Deena Metzger

Wednesday Night Writing Class, Creative Writing Mentoring and Manuscript Consultations with award-winning writer Deena Metzger.

Writing classes, creative writing mentoring and manuscript consultations are among the many ways to work with Deena Metzger in 2013, either in person or by telephone or via Skype.


Winner of a 2012 PEN-Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Award for her latest novel, La Negra y Blanca, Deena says, “Everyone has a story and it calls to be known and written. It is at the very center of our lives. It is our heart story and it can guide us. It arises from the imagination, a real place, like a council that holds all the voices, including our ancestors and descendants.”

Wednesday Night Experienced Writer Group
First Wednesday night aft the new moon. 7 to 10:30 pm.

Possibly a few openings for seasoned writers, contemplating or working on a project, who are devoted to the word and are interested in further exploring and developing their creative lives and voice for the sake of soul, intelligence and literature. Commitment to the ethics of heart, truthfulness and the myriad forms of beauty.

On-going. January through June. September (or October) through December. Fee.

Application required. Inquire via Danelia Wild for details.
Email: dwild4deena(at)ca(dot)rr(dot)com.

Creative Writing Mentoring and Manuscript Consultations
By Appointment

Please inquire for scheduling and fees.

Deena Metzger’s website

For information or to apply

Additional information, please contact Deena Metzger’s assistant, Danelia Wild at 310-815-1060.

Grief Transforms Everything

The Transformative Nature of Grief

Please consider taking The Transformative Nature of Grief online class at the Figley Institute if you need CEU’s, support or a little inspiration.

The Transformative Nature of Grief provides participants with knowledge and skills that help identify, understand and use characteristics, attributes, concepts and support systems, which the bereaved can implement and utilize in their lives for them selves and others.

The Transformative Nature of Grief investigates factors that make it more likely for someone to constructively respond to adversity and use their experience as a catalyst for positive growth, change and altruistic actions.

The Transformative Nature of Grief explains areas found most beneficial in the experience of altruistic mourners, including meaning and control; purpose, appreciation of human life and new priorities; personal responsibility; and the experience of something beyond our selves.

The Transformative Nature of Grief increases the likelihood that mourners and those who support them will use the experience of death, grief and loss in a constructive manner to create positive change.

Sign up for the class!

Figley Institute offers cutting edge training and continuing education programs developed by Dr. Charles R. Figley, Dr. Kathleen Regan Figley and other institute faculty, to those who provide relief to emotionally traumatized individuals and communities. Mission: To alleviate human suffering which results from traumatic life experiences by providing laypersons and professionals with high quality traumatologist training.

Courage Inside Walls

Went to maximum security prison yesterday for weekly group. Only there for about 3 hours, but time seemed irrelevant. What was relevant, was the insight, wisdom and life experience shared by those present for the meditation class.

Issue of anger, grief, revenge and killing came to surface and how people have dealt with those feelings and actions in the past and how they understand and see them and them selves, now.

Take a breath, pause, observe what you are experiencing moment to moment (physically, emotionally & mentally) and name or label it. Then, if you choose (and having a “choice” is key) to then take wise skillful action or not, it is more likely that you will not be reacting out of conditioning or pain, but with consciousness and compassion. That is the essence of what we and those in the group are discovering.

Our words and actions are important and have effects, but the intentions and awareness behind, before or with them are even more vital.

The strength and courage of the men in this group to be willing to step outside the known, to look at them selves honestly and to convey what they are seeing is liberating, artful and inspiring. Martin Luther King Jr. often spoke about not judging one by their outer appearances, but by the character of their character and humanity.

Nobody attending this weekly group pretends that they are now beyond their past and have permanently changed for the good (including the facilitators), nor excused them selves or blamed their incarceration on others. They have taken responsibility for their actions and the consequences. They have begun to personally understand the pain and loss they have inflicted on others, but have also come to realize that the “others” are in fact part of them selves and that harm to another is also harming ones self.

Practicing meditation and self-reflection and observation in a prison setting takes a lot of guts. Practicing meditation and mindfulness in our daily lives wherever our bodies are, takes vigilance, consistency and continual fine tuning. I hope those of us on the outside continue to practice with as much bravery and sustained effort as these men who are temporarily living within prison walls.

Children’s Yoga In Rwanda

“They were piled together like kittens in a box,” says photographer Tim Botsko, referring to the early morning yoga session that took place at the ROP Center for Street Children in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

Paula Herring, a newly certified teacher from Yoga One in San Diego, was putting her skills to the test with vulnerable children who are survivors of the 1994 genocide and the AIDS pandemic. Class was held before school started on the cement floor of the abandoned warehouse that the children, until recently, called home. With the help of Celestine, for translation, Paula presented the ancient movements, breath and sounds of yoga to people who had never heard the word, let alone knew what it meant. They called it a game and said, “Let’s play yoga”.

“I began by explaining that there is no competition to this game,” says Paula. “It is three-pronged and involves your spirit, heart and body. I told them that yoga respects plants and animals.” As she spoke, the young people created a circle around her and kept inching forward, squishing their bodies together. No matter how often she showed them how to make space by opening their legs and stretching, they kept clumping together like pick-up sticks which had been randomly dropped in the middle of the floor. “If we were in The States,” Paula thought, “nobody would infringe upon another’s space like this, let alone be touching each other.” She realized that, “There is a deeper sense of ‘we’ and ‘community’ here, than ‘I and thou’.”

She opened with an Om, telling them about its significance, as the vibration of the universe and a way to receive blessings. Instead of resting their hands on their knees, as instructed, the children held them up in the air as if in praise. Being raised in a predominantly Christian country and a like minded orphanage, they interpreted the word “blessings” as “praise” and thus lifted their hands towards heaven.

“The first 2 poses were mountain and tree,” Paula explains. “I asked them when they heard the word mountain what they thought about. One child said, ‘Home’. Others pointed out the window at the nearby hills. I said the mountain and tree pose are strong, like those hills and they never move or change. I squeezed my way around the congested kids, made some adjustments and poked a few to show them that they wouldn’t fall over and could stand strong. We then practiced the tree. I said ‘these are your branches, which rest on the trunk. They hold life, the birds, leaves and fruits, but are strong and move.’ Again, no matter how much I tried to have them put their arms straight up against the side of their heads, they would turn their palms up as if praying in church.”

Next up was the camel. Paula asked if they knew what a camel was and they said yes, it was an animal in the desert, but they didn’t have deserts in Rwanda, so there were none there. She demonstrated the camel and talked about reaching back and opening the chest. “It can help you when your shoulders and neck are tight from studying and you’ve been bent over all day,” she said. After camel she showed them down-dog, gave some adjustments and spoke about lifting the hips and focusing on their core, where their heart is. She said that everything in yoga is led by the heart and then comes the mind and body. One-legged dog came next, with children sliding, losing balance and laughing as they fell.

Miss Herring, the muzungu (white person) from America, followed up with Dolphin and Child’s Pose, informing them that it can help ease pain, if their head or stomach was hurting. Then she told them about the Pigeon and talked about puffing out their chest to expand their lungs and that to be a balanced pigeon they had to do both sides. Before she could finish demonstrating, they were at it, falling left and right. One of the children said they had seen an eagle, which was her prompt to talk about the eagle and show the pose. “To be a really good eagle,” she said, you cross your legs and crouch down and are very quiet, so you can look for food. It takes a lot of concentration.” She finished up the bird section with the crow.

As soon as she asked the orphaned children if they had ever heard of a cobra, they said it was “sneaky” and all started hissing and then proceeded to effectively learn the position. She did the warrior pose and told them that this kind of warrior wasn’t about hurting anyone, but about being strong and protecting your self.

“At the end of the session, we went into Shavasana (corpse pose),” Paula recalls. “I said that this type of pose was not about being sad, but about your body releasing everything and letting go. It is different than sleeping. I went around and started putting my palm on their foreheads, on their temples and gently pulling their ears a little, one at a time. Because of the labyrinth and disorder, it was hard to tell who I had done and who I hadn’t. When I asked if there was anybody I hadn’t touched and if so, to put their hand on their stomach, everyone put their hand on their stomach! They craved being touched.”

At the end of the class, Celestin interpreted Paula’s closing words into Kinyarwanda (the native language of Rwanda). “Put your hands like this.” She put her hands together with her thumb on her heart. “Say, ‘Namaste’. It’s a way to show respect for you, your neighbor, your spirit and your infinite potential.” At once, they all repeated, “Namaste”.

“The most beautiful part of the experience for me,” grins Paula, “Was that not one of the children ever said, ‘I can’t do it’. They didn’t care if they were doing it ‘right’, they just wanted to try. That used to be my personal fear in class, that I wasn’t ‘doing it right’. It helped me realize that it’s not about being perfect, but being willing to try and embracing whatever arises. I was also afraid that they’d get bored, especially the older boys, but it never happened. That was just another one of my needless fears to release.”

There was no sound system, cushy mats, designer clothes, candles or incense, but the yoga being taught on the cement floor at the ROP Center for Street Children in Rwanda was pure yoga. It was cut down to its essence and accepted in the cultural context within which its participants lived. It wasn’t fancy or advanced and didn’t come at a price. Offered freely, with love and respect, it was accepted with the same grace and spirit. The children demonstrated that yoga can be done without ego, self-consciousness or need to “claim” one’s territory. “The progression from them not knowing anything about what was happening,” says Paula, “to being totally caught up in it, was dramatic. I’ll never hesitate to ‘play yoga’ anywhere and anytime.”

Touching My Toes

“Come on,” my limber wife said, as she left for her Tri-yoga class. “You’ll like it.”

“No,” I replied, every time she asked.”You go ahead. I’ll do my own exercise at home.” And I did do my own, which was a combination of yoga stretches, push-ups and sit-ups. But something about my daily routine felt choppy, put strain on my back and didn’t seem very rounded or complete. I’d done yoga when I was younger, but now I was over 50 and if the truth be told, I was afraid I couldn’t do it well enough in a class and would embarrass myself in front of others. I’ve never been able to stretch very far forward, with my legs straight and always found it frustrating that stretching towards my toes usually got my hands about as far as my knees!

Finally, as a birthday present for my wife, I purchased passes for two sessions of partner yoga and presented them to her on the appointed day. She was thrilled and I was nervous. For the first class I put on whatever loose, yoga-like clothes I could find and set out to not make to much of a fool of myself.

The two men who led the class were very friendly, understanding and relaxed. The first thing they said was, “Make this easy on yourself. Don’t go farther than is comfortable. This is about relaxation, alignment and getting what you need, not how far others think you should or shouldn’t go.”

Their words were like magic. I enjoyed both that class and the next and now do a half-hour of yoga every morning. Oh yes, my fingertips are now almost down to my ankles in the earth-touch pose and I have no doubt that some day soon I’ll even touch my toes!

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