Sunday, April 15, 2018

Is Silver Sneakers Yoga only for, like, um, Seniors?

The easy answer is OF COURSE NOT!  It's a fusion of Vinyasa yoga, where movement is matched with breath, Iyangar yoga with deliberate (and liberal) use of props for pose accessibility and enhanced alignment, and Viniyoga, a therapeutic style of yoga that is designed to move the body and use the breath to help manage conditions and injuries.

Slide from the Tivity Silver Sneakers Yoga Training Program

This combination of styles can be both progressed (intensity increased) and regressed (intensity decreased) like every other format to work with each student's abilities as best as possible.

Like every yoga practice, we learn how to breathe not just in and out, but to coordinate movements to breath, and consciously control the breath cycles to both decrease stress and improve concentration.

We also work on functional movement practices like balance, muscular flexibility, skeletal range of motion, endurance, coordination, and cognitive health. The three yoga practices fused together can take us through a full range of asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breathwork) that help bring us into a state of santosha (contentment) with our bodies where they are on any given day, helping to create a state of not only physical wellness, but mental as well.

We start our classes in chairs, and include standing postures for those that can and want to incorporate them into their personal practice, but there is never an obligation to move beyond your individual safety zone. If someone utilizes a walking support and cannot move safely without one, or perhaps a wheelchair, there would never be a push to NOT use that tool; that would go against not only ahimsa (non-harming principle of yoga) but also would not follow both the concepts of Iyengar yoga which encourage the use of props (appropriate tools), as well as Viniyoga which says to manage your condition as needed with focus on the BREATH.

But these do not limit the practice to just people "of a certain age or physical condition." Of course traditionally these classes were designed (and paid for) as part of a 65 and older wellness program, as the improvements to quality of life from exercise have been well proven especially for those at that age. We all know that exercise at all ages has proven benefits, and (even) yoga in a chair based format can be invigorating as well as interesting (at least the way that I teach!) and restorative to body and mind.

The Silver Sneakers program now has opened many of its classes to people between the ages of 18 and 65. The program is called Tivity Prime Fitness and offers the benefits of having access to multiple fitness facilities as well as some off the Tivity Flex classes (like the ones I teach).  You can check to see if you are eligible (via your existing insurance and/or company benefit package) here: https://tools.primemember.com/Eligibility/CheckEligibility.

There is also a link to the facilities that accept the Prime membership (that is to say, you can go there "for free" as part of your Prime enrollment) - gyms like Crunch, Chuze, Rehab United, LA Fitness - provide you with amazing opportunities to get your fitness fix and not have to wait until you are 65. 

Remember that everyone is welcome at my Flex classes free of charge  regardless of fitness level, age, or experience with yoga. If you don't have the Silver Sneakers or Prime benefit, and my schedule doesn't match with yours, you can also check out the San Diego County and City Library websites for other free classes. Community Colleges, Oasis Adult Education, and the YMCA are also wonderful places to explore for a wide variety of wellness-based resources that might fit your budget.

So in conclusion, no, Silver Sneakers is not just for the silver haired. If your heart and mind are open to the experience, I encourage you to try some "Yoga Fusion" with me. It might just be a breath of fresh air.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Yoga Can Create Change

A few articles about yoga!

Adaptive Yoga Changes Lives
By Rear Adm. Tom Steffens (Ret.), former Navy SEAL and founder, Exalted Warrior Foundation

New Study Shows Yoga Has Healing Powers
By Susan Brink, for National Geographic

Friday, March 9, 2018

Embracing Our Bodies - reprinted with permission from Shayna Gothard Kaufmann, Ph.D.

Clnical Psychologist and empowered woman Dr. Shayna Kaufman has a website entitled Embracing the Middle: Empower Women in Their 40'S, 50'S & 60'S - Discover and Apply Your Innate Wisdom, Awareness, and Courage. She leads short, day, and series workshops (formal and informal gatherings) on "an empowering approach to the second half of your life that invokes excitement rather than a mindset of "midlife crisis" or stagnation." She describes her program as one that 
...teaches how to examine outdated beliefs and behaviors and gracefully accept what is, even if that means embracing your growing "mid" section. My programs are educational and experiential and are best suited for women in midlife (approximately 40-60) who are open to examining aspects of their lives through the midlife lens of wisdom, maturity, awareness, and emotional bandwidth.
I want to share with you an email she just sent, that has to do with body acceptance. If this resonates with you please visit Dr. Kaufman's website at https://www.embracethemiddle.com/ or her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/EmbraceTheMiddle/ for much more information. 


What Embracing our Bodies IS NOT

Yesterday I received a call from Kyra (not real name) about attending an Embracing Our Bodies workshop. She shared her experience of being so extremely critical of her body that she actually avoids looking at herself in the mirror. “I love bright colors,” Kyra sadly told me, “but I mostly wear black, oversized clothing to make me look thin and hide my body.” Compliments from her friends or husband about her body are simply disregarded.  Kyra is weary of being at war with her body and ready to make a change.

Kyra was concerned that “Embracing” meant only accepting her body and weight and that she’d be hypocritical if she tried to accept her body and lose weight. Her angst was especially strong as she’d recently had some exciting success with a weight loss program. For the record, that is definitely NOT what I mean by Embracing. But Kyra’s earnest question inspired me to clarify what Embracing Our Bodies IS and IS NOT.

Foremost, Embracing our Bodies IS loving ourselves exactly as we are even as we strive to look and be our best. These are not either/or positions; they are both/and. I try my hardest to embrace and openly admit to having my share of vanity. Just ask my husband how many outfits I go through before heading out the door. I applaud Kyra’s weight loss efforts and wish her success. If, however, Kyra’s self-love is contingent upon her weight, then she is not “embracing.” The challenge for all of us, including Kyra, is to love ourselves the same regardless of our size (or wrinkles, or grey hairs, or...).

Embracing IS accepting and appreciating what our bodies are and are not capable of at this moment in time. I recently wrote a blog about giving up my 40 years of running due to serious knee issues. I am definitely not happy about the status of my knee, and am considering any and all medical procedures. But I accept this is the reality of my knee at this time, I’m not dwelling on my inability to run and I actively appreciate what I can do.  That is embracing.

Embracing IS NOT an excuse to skip the gym and eat bon bons all day; it’s not a reason for Kyra to discontinue dieting. To say, “I am embracing my body as it is and therefore I’m having fries and a shake with my burger” is a misdirected rationalization. Have your fries and shake if you choose to but don’t delude yourself by calling that embracing. That is splurging. 

Embracing IS always a work in progress, a dance of sorts. We’re human and the path to embracing is not linear, but more like a few steps forward, a few back, and a few to the side for good measure. You make some headway and then you backslide a bit. Furthermore, some parts of our lives are harder to embrace than others.

In my experience, the most important aspects to work towards embracing are those that are currently interfering with the quality of your life. I got serious about coming to terms with my weight because it was more than a mere inconvenience; it was a dark cloud over my life. There are people I came to forgive because holding onto my anger limited my joy. And there were beliefs I chose to release as they were holding me back.

You likely already know which aspect of your life needs embracing. Maybe it’s your body image, maybe a relationship, maybe a work situation. I’ll be first to admit that the thought of embracing can be daunting. I assure you, though, that there’s palpable freedom and relief on the other side.  If you are ready to embrace, and want some guidance and support along the way, consider joining me and some other amazing women at an Embracing event. Kyra is. Cheers to Embracing!
--
Shayna Gothard Kaufmann, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Compassion ROCKS

Today I led a children's yoga class with the theme of compassion. no, we didn't talk about the school shooting - these are just 8-10 year olds and discussing that tragedy is best left to parental discretion. In fact they didn't even bring it up. What we did talk about is what compassion means to them. They danced around the idea a bit until one child said "kindness, right?" and the ball rolled from there about being respectful, caring, not thinking just of yourself, helping someone, charity, listening, etc. usually with respect to someone who had something bad happen to them. I reminded them compassion is also sharing GOOD moments with people, letting them share theirs with you, and just taking the time to notice someone else, like make new friend.

This being a group of jewish students I decided to take it one step further. With Purim holiday coming up, I brought up the name of the notorious bad guy (Haman) that hated the Jewish people and tried to advise the king for whom he worked to kill them. Basically, he had NO COMPASSION for people different from him.

When we read the story of Queen Esther in the Magillah (the story of Purim) that includes Haman, usually we make noise and "boo" when someone mentions his name. We express hatred for that man, and in some cases show cynical joy that we know he "gets it" in the end.

I asked the children "He hated the Jews and wanted them to be killed. His plan failed; if he wasn't killed, should we have wished that on him? Should we hate him so much in return that we get HIM killed? A pause in the room. One or two kids should laughing "YEEEEEEEEEEES!" and then, as they realize this was a bit of a trick question, they looked to me as if to ask why.

"What that man lacked," I said, careful not to say his name so they didn't start shouting again, "was compassion for the Jews." But we are supposed to learn from this, so in return WE shouldn't just shout hateful things when we say his name. We can use our noisemakers (groggers) to show we don't like what he did, but what if we show that we understand compassion instead?"

My older kids classes include both physical yoga but almost always a craft related to the theme (or at least revolving around self care or exploring the senses). Today, I tied it in to the upcoming Jewish holiday. We were to create two groggers: one that would be a "traditional" noisemaker (a plastic shell filled with beads that you can shake), and the other would be one to show COMPASSION ROCKS. We were to take a small river rock, paint on it a word that means compassion to us, and put that inside another plastic shell. We could then choose which grogger to use when the time came, during Purim, and hopefully long after.

After all, compassion DOES rock. When in doubt, COMPASSION IT (courtesy of www.compassionit.org).

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Getting Political - about the value of human life

A wise friend, a lawyer no less, wrote this the day after a tragic event. She compassionately brings up a cultural lack of compassion, anger, disenfranchisement and dismissiveness, and in the face of the natural urge to place blame, speaks of trying to make a difference to help us move forward.

I quote her directly, and with honor.

I will tell you with 100% certainty that our schools are not equipped to deal sufficiently with the mental health well-being of our children and their classmates. And, early intervention is crucial. How about instead of funding a wall and more weapons of mass destruction, we prioritize our schools - the place our children reside 35+ hours per week - the place that is very often the only surrogate for a child's missing stable home? How about instead of pumping money and energy into our prison system, arming guards, and adjudicating criminal behavior post-event, we pump money and energy into bolstering compassionate care for troubled children and their families (who are often beyond desperate for resources and help)? So many of these young people are written off as bad, crazy, damaged, etc., when they actually are suffering horribly - often in silence - often unaware of it themselves - mental illness, early childhood trauma, attachment disorder, PTSD, you name it. How about applying early compassionate care in the form of emphasizing reparative health and training instead of emphasizing punishment and judgment? Instead of ignoring suffering children who are walking time bombs, how about believing in our ability to assist them and invest in them - hey, if we don't care about them, well then what about the lives of their future victims ? How about taking, dare I say, a more matriarchal approach? Think about how difficult life is for YOU, as an adult, with presumably developed coping skills. Now imagine life for a child with little support.