Friday, January 31, 2020

Science on Yoga

Chair Yoga as Dementia therapy

This article from Science Magazine online discusses the efficacy of chair yoga compared to music therapy for older adults with advanced dementia. The pilot study, at Florida Atlantic University, was the first to show adults with advanced dementia can participate in non-pharmacological interventions. They concluded that yoga's physical poses were an "important factor in improving quality of life for the participants," in their study. Read more here:

Yoga is Good for the Brain

Another article from the same online journal discusses how science is discovering that yoga effects some of the same brain structures as aerobic (cardiovascular based) exercise.  Parts of the brain involved with memory retention (hippocampus), emotional regulation (amygdala), and planning/rational thinking (prefrontal cortex), all tend to be larger for the those that regularly practice yoga.  Read more here:

13 Scientifically Supported Benefits

Started with the process of learning how to destress, this is a list of the more well known benefits of yoga that studies have shown to be verifiable, as well as some that are currently undergoing scientific review. Read, and see what resonates with your practice:

The Science of Yoga (video)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

I"m going to see Laurie Berkner in concert!

If you have attended any of my children's classes in the past 11 years you know that I feature the music of Laurie Berkner. Delightfully infectious tunes like Victor Vito (eating his spaghetti with Freddy Vasco), the Goldfish (sleeping on a rock at the bottom of the ocean), and Bicycle (riding it ve-ry slow-ly) have become mantras to guide our yoga-oriented movement. Parents greet me all the time asking for the actual names of songs, or the artist so that they can get the CD, or link to my playlists.

Now for the first time we can all see this Pied Piper of Children's Playtime in person, up close, and show her how much love and joy she has brought into our lives!

When my son was little I'd see her on the television program "Jack's Big Music Show" and was absolutely charmed by her stage presence. I even bought her guitar music book in the hopes that one day I might even be able to play the songs for the kids as well in my classes. Alas, I will stick to letting Laurie be the musician, and me the yoga guide as she makes her music look effortless but in actually it is some pretty complicated musical gymnastics! I'm hoping that she'll sign my book if I bring it to the concert.

Without further ado, here is all the pertinent information:

Laurie Berkner in Concert

Sunday, May 31, 2020 | 11:00 am
David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre
Lawrence Family JCC

Children’s music icon Laurie Berkner brings her signature blend of whimsical lyrics and indie folk pop melodies to the Garfield Theatre in a solo show. Laurie’s hit songs like “We Are the Dinosaurs” and “Victor Vito” are featured on children’s networks Nick Jr. and Sprout, in Off-Broadway children’s musicals, and in children’s books. Be sure to catch the artist People magazine calls “the queen of children’s music” and the New York Times has dubbed “the Adele of the preschool crowd.” For children ages 2 and older. Children ages 15 and under are eligible for child prices.

"One of the most popular children's performers in America ... her music is distinctive because it speaks to kids without talking down to them, charming youngsters without boring grown-ups." -The Wall Street Journal

"Laurie Berkner is like a goddess to these children." -NPR's All Things Considered

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Can I Safety Exercise with Hypertension?

by Amanda Menard, LPN
Mar 2, 2015

Yes, Yes and Yes! Not only can you safely exercise with hypertension, you NEED to exercise with hypertension. Exercise on a regular basis helps to keep us healthy overall. With regular physical activity, the heart becomes stronger, therefore, it takes less effort to pump which reduces force on the arteries and lowers blood pressure to healthier levels. For some individuals, regular exercise can reduce the need for blood pressure medication. Hypertension, or any form of heart and vascular disease, doesn’t have to hamper our lives. In fact, this diagnosis should act as a wake-up call to treat our bodies better and live a healthier life.

How Do I Begin?

First, if you haven’t been active for a long time, do not begin with a 60-minute swim followed by a 4-mile jog home from the pool! Check with your physician to make sure that there are no extenuating circumstances that would limit your activity. Then start slowly. Don’t forget to warm up before exercising as it can help reduce the risk the risk of injury.

Walking is an excellent way to start. If you are an outdoors person, gather a couple of friends or neighbors and walk at a normal pace for 30 minutes. Otherwise, a treadmill is a great alternative. Gradually increase your distance and pace as you become more conditioned. Exercise becomes aerobic when you are slightly short of breath (but still able to speak), and your heart rate increases.

Other exercises that you may find fun include cycling, hiking, swimming, or active sports such as tennis or basketball and yoga*. What is most important is that the exercise is something you enjoy doing. No one is going to keep up with an exercise program that is tortuous.

Your goal should be to build up to 30 minutes, 5 days per week. If you can’t set aside that amount of time all at once, you can break up your workout into three 10-minute sessions and receive the same benefits as a 30-minute routine.

If you work at a job where you are more sedentary, remember to regularly get up and walk around as research has shown that too much time sitting can contribute to several health conditions. Simply standing up, raising your arms overhead, and adding a few good stretches ( can undo postural misalignments that come from being sedentary at a desk, and get your blood flowing to refresh and renew you for the rest of the day.*

Monitor your blood pressure regularly. The purchase of a good automated blood pressure cuff is a great investment. Take your blood pressure at different times during the day or week (morning, following exercise, and before bedtime). With regular exercise, you will soon see the benefits reflected in your blood pressure results.

There are some practical everyday ways to increase the amount of exercise you are getting.

  • Stop driving around that parking lot looking for the best spot. Take advantage of all those empty spaces farther away from the entrance. Depending on how much you shop, you can increase your weekly exercise by a decent amount.
  • Take the stairs. If you do not have orthopedic issues and can walk up a flight of stairs, step away from the elevator and take the stairs instead.
  • Spend some time with your children or grandchildren at the park. They will definitely keep you moving.
  • If you take advantage of these ideas, it will not even seem like you’re exercising.

Can I Exercise Too Much?

Your body will let you know what it can handle. Listen to it! Stop exercising and rest if you:

  • Develop chest pain. If your chest pain does not go away after 5-10 minutes of rest, seek medical attention.
  • Shortness of breath that renders you unable to speak.
  • Pain in your back, jaw, neck or shoulders.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or weakness.
  • Develop an irregular heartbeat. Seek medical attention if this occurs.
  • Since you have learned that it is safe to exercise with hypertension, and it is effective in reducing your blood pressure, get off the couch, get moving, and exercise your way to a healthy life and lower blood pressure!

Here are other great articles to help you on your way to staying healthy:

  1. Fit Facts: Exercise and Hypertension - This is a great article about how to gauge blood pressure. It also includes suggested lifestyle modification recommendations.
  2. Exercise: A drug-free approach to high blood pressure - This article by the Mayo Clinic offers great advice about how exercise can lower your blood pressure, how much exercise you need, and tips about monitoring your progress and keeping it safe.
  3. Exercising Your Way to Lower Blood Pressure - This is a great summary of a handout the American College of Sports and Medicine that offers high blood pressure facts, ways to improve your health, and treatment choices.
*comments added by byomyoga

Article shared by request from David Patterson, Editorial Staff, Pacific Medical Training 1-800-417-1748, Ext. 108. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

New Classes in the New Year!

Starting this week I have some new classes debuting around town, so in case you haven't seen the new calendar, here are the highlights:

  • Kids: Every Monday through June (and hopefully into the summer) from 9:45 to 10:15 there is a new Toddler Yoga Storytime class at the beautiful Mission Hills/Hillcrest Library on University Avenue. 
  • Kids: Starting in February, there will be a monthly Kids Yoga class on Wednesdays at the Logan Heights Library from 4:30-5:15 pm. Check the Calendar for specific days.
  • Kids: Alternating Thursdays there is a Kids Yoga Storytime at the Lemon Grove Library on School Street from 10:30-11:15 am. Check the Calendar for specific days!
  • Accessible/Adaptive: Every Friday we have added a 10am Adaptive Yoga for Adults with Special Needs class the Casa de Oro Library on Campo road, in addition to the Tuesday classes at 10 and 11 am. Open to everyone in the county, clients of Regional Center, and more.
I have partnered again with the Abilities Expo to demonstrate Adaptive/Accessible Yoga at their Chicago Abilities Expo in June 2020 and (new!) the Phoenix Abilities Expo in September 2020. Explore all their opportunities here:

On Saturday, February 29 (that's right, 2020 is a leap year) at the Copley/Price YMCA, I will co-lead a special 90-minute yoga fundraiser for the YMCA Annual Campaign. Details pending, but mark your calendars. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

7 Simple Stretches for Older Adults By the Editors of SilverSneakers | September 18, 2019

Need to turn your head to check for traffic, or reach into the cupboard for a plate? Want to improve your golf swing—or your cha-cha? Better flexibility can help with all of those. A more flexible body means you’ll have a greater range of motion in your joints, which makes it easier to move. And if you spend a lot of time sitting or looking at a screen, you’ll want to work the stiffness out of your shoulders, back, and hips. Ready to loosen up? These simple stretches can help.

(full link:

How to Use These Stretches

These stretches are meant to be versatile, and you should feel free to use them however they best help you. You can pick one or two stretches to do anytime you want to relieve joint stiffness or muscle tension. Or you can do all seven together at the end of your normal workout or on their own as a stretching routine. They’re gentle enough to do every day, if you wish.

Most of these stretches can be done without any equipment and with minimal space, but you can modify them as needed. For example, most of the standing and floor stretches can also be done in a chair. Plus, you’ll see other tips to make the stretches easier.

If performing these stretches as a routine, you’ll want clear space, a mat, and a bench or chair. Get your blood flowing by walking in place for five minutes. Perform each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, and repeat up to three rounds.

As you stretch, breathe deeply, and go slowly. Listen to your body, and never force a movement that causes pain. It’s okay if you can’t bend very far now. It’s more important to use good form. And with regular stretching, your flexibility will improve.

Here’s how to perform each stretch. As always, safety is key. The stretches here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a Silver Sneakers class. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis, an injury, or balance issues) talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

1. Overhead Side Stretch

Hold for 10 to 30 seconds per side
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms overhead. If you’d like, interlace your fingers.
Keeping your torso long, gently lean to the left, and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Return to center, and repeat on the other side.

Make it easier: Sit tall in a chair, keeping your hips, knees, and toes forward. If it’s uncomfortable to lift your arms overhead, rest your arms on your hips, or keep them down by your sides.

2. Shoulder Stretch

Hold for 10 to 30 seconds per side
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Reach your right arm across your body. Place your left hand on your upper right arm, and gently draw your right arm closer. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Release, switch arms, and repeat.

Make it easier: Sit tall in a chair, keeping your hips, knees, and toes forward. If this stretch is uncomfortable, try the shoulder roll. It’s a great stretch for your neck and shoulders.

3. Triceps Stretch

Hold for 10 to 30 seconds per side
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms overhead, and bend your right arm so it’s behind your head. Place your left hand above your right elbow, and gently draw your right arm in. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Release, switch arms, and repeat.

Make it easier: Sit tall in a chair, keeping your hips, knees, and toes forward. For a shallower stretch, don’t reach your bottom hand as far. Aim for the back of your head rather than the base of your neck.

4. Hamstring Stretch

Hold for 10 to 30 seconds per side
How to do it: Place your right heel on a bench with your leg straight and toes up. Without rounding your lower back, gently hinge forward from your hips until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Release, switch legs, and repeat.

Make it easier: Do this stretch while seated in a chair, resting your heel on the floor in front of you.

5. Calf Stretch

Hold for 10 to 30 seconds per side
How to do it: Stand with your left leg in front and slightly bent, and your right leg straight behind you. If you’d like, perform this move near a wall or counter, holding on for support.
Gently press your right heel into the floor to feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Release, switch legs, and repeat.
Make it easier: Sit in a chair for seated calf stretch. See how in our guide to foot exercises for older adults.

6. Supine Knee to Chest Stretch

Hold for 10 to 30 seconds per side
How to do it: Lie on a mat with your legs straight. If that’s uncomfortable, bend both knees, and rest your feet on the mat.
Keeping your upper body down, lift your right knee toward your chest as far as comfortable. Gently grasp the back of your thigh to draw your leg closer to your chest. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Release, switch legs, and repeat.
To come out of the pose, sit up slowly, gently rolling to your side first if needed. Check that you feel steady before standing up.

Make it easier: Sit in a chair for seated knee to chest. See how in our guide to yoga moves to ease back pain.

7. Cat-Cow Stretch

Alternate for 10 to 30 seconds
How to do it: Start on all fours with your hands below shoulders and knees below hips.
Gently round your back up toward the ceiling (like a cat) while tucking your chin toward your tailbone. Then reverse the movement by arching your back (think about a cow) while lifting your hips and head. Continue alternating for 10 to 30 seconds.

Make it easier: If getting on the floor is uncomfortable, perform seated or standing cat-cow.