Saturday, January 26, 2019

Silver Sneakers hubbub and getting the most out of your benefits

My library classes are sponsored by Silver Sneakers(TM) which is a brand of Tivity (formerly Healthways).

Tivity works with Insurance companies to provide access to fitness programs at gyms and external locations (like my classes at libraries, called Flex classes). The insurance company contract with Tivity, and when one of their members checks in to one of the gyms, or signs in to one of my classes, the insurance company pays a fee to Tivity (who in turn pays a small stipend to the gym or for Flex classes, the instructor, aka, me).

There has been a big hubbub because one of the big insurance carriers dropped the Silver Sneakers contract (and replaced it with something else). Their members have access to an assortment of other fitness benefits (gyms and what not), but they don't necessarily have access to the same clubs as Silver Sneakers and they don't have the Flex instructor listing.

My classes, are free for anyone to attend. My Tivity coordinator was very complimentary when I explained to her why I do it this way, as opposed to charging a fee to the non-Silver members. Part of the reason is that my locations won't let me, but moreover, I think that yoga should be financially accessible to the community. Teaching seven of these classes a week helps make it work as a job for me as the county pays a small amount to support the community, and the attendees are often generous enough to make gratitude donations in appreciation, whenever they can. It's a business model that works for us.

But back to my original point, Silver Sneakers.

I find frequently that people do not know if they are a Silver Sneakers member or not. American Specialty Health does have a program of it's own with Kaiser Permanent called Silver and Fit, and often people know about that one (I'm going to be on their Active Options instructor roster soon too). But as far as the Silver Sneakers, either the insurance company hasn't explicity told them about their membership (perhaps to avoid having to pay into the system?) or the person just doesn't understand how it works. When someone comes to my class I can try to check their status by entering in a legal name and birthday but some folks, in this era of data privacy, are resistant.

With one of the large carriers dropping the program I had to do a big investigation into who was "left" and what I could do about the loss of income due to so many people having their policies changed.

So with that in mind I'm listing here all the companies to date that DO have the Silver Sneakers benefit in their programs. Please, investigate with your policy, and even check on the website to see if you are in the group. You might be missing out on the opportunity to go to your favorite local gym and take classes, go swimming or get training for free. You also have access to online tools for health and fitness management, as well as listings of all the Flex classes that are out there (like, mine!).

The list below ONLY applies to California, but please use the link to get to your state and explore your options!
  • Aetna Medicare MAPD* 
  • Anthem Blue Cross Cal MediConnect Plan 
  • Anthem MediBlue Coordination Plus (HMO) 
  • Anthem MediBlue Access (PPO) 
  • Anthem Value Plus (HMO) 
  • Anthem Connect (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem Diabetes (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem Care on Site (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem Heart (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem Breathe (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem ESRD (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem MediBlue Dual Advantage (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem MediBlue Plus (HMO) 
  • Anthem MediBlue Select (HMO) 
  • Anthem StartSmart Plus (HMO POS) 
  • Anthem Medicare Supplement Plans A, F, Innovative F, G & N 
  • Anthem CalPERS PPO Supplement to Medicare Plan for 
  • Anthem PERS Select, PERS Choice, and PERSCare plans 
  • Blue Shield Medicare Supplement plans 
  • Blue Shield Trio Medicare 
  • Blue Shield 65+ 
  • Blue Shield 65+ Choice 
  • Promise Health Plan Care1st Health Plan AdvantageOptimum Plan 
  • Promise Health Plan Care1st Health Plan Coordinated Choice Plan 
  • Promise Health Plan Care1st Health Plan Total Dual Plan 
  • Humana Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement 
  • L.A. Care Cal MediConnect Plan (MMP) 
  • SCAN Health Plan 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

SPRING into Garden Yoga!

Join us for Yoga at the
Water Conservation Garden

12122 Cuyamaca College Dr. West, El Cajon CA 92019

New Classes announced February 11, March 11, April 8, May 13

Mondays 9:00 am - 10:00 am.

$5 for Garden or Silver Sneakers members, $10 for non members. 
Includes day pass to the garden.

Chair and Mat friendly. Reservations required:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Thirty TWENTY Class Challenge

Too many yoga and fitness studios, and I say this with absolute certainly, have started off this year with a Pitta/Vatta, A-type, aggressive personality Western culture "challenge" for their patrons. They call it the 30-day challenge and in an effort to kick off people's fitness routines (and draw in a lot of money) set a goal for people to come in for classes as much as possible within the first 30 days of the year.

Not only is this one of the most privileged of financial opportunities (who can afford 30 yoga classes at $20 a class?), but it is crazy to suggest that any person (especially someone with a job and a family) might actually be able to get to a yoga studio to practice any sort of fitness every day of a month.

Of course they don't explicitly say you have to come every day, but the carrot dangles there, and when people start to see others racking up visits, they get "inspired" ("fired up" "challenged" "dared") to push themselves physically.

This is as always the antithesis of what yoga is supposed to do for us. Yoga asks us to slow down and take notice of our practice. Patanjali says that sometimes we are very honest with ourselves about who we are, and other times our minds are filled with clutter and we cannot see the truth. How are we to see ourselves in an uncluttered manner when we are busy comparing our performance on a chart to someone else?

When we take on these challenges, we may very well be mindlessly letting others set artificial goals for us. Moreover, if we do not "fulfill" the challenge, do we let that affect our self-esteem?

Isn't asking someone to follow an obsessive habit the opposite of what we want to teach? Is the industry inviting behaviors that are counterproductive to actual mental health? What about the implications of repetitive stress disorder on joints? Is each student under the guidance of a personal trainer/physical therapist to ensure absolute balance of practice or is it a free-for all to just do as much as possible in the those 30 days? For beginners, for those prone to obsessive behaviors, for someone healing from an injury, to anyone outside the "prime candidate" age/physique range in yoga, these challenges can pose a very real physical and psychological danger.

As for the studios, are they rewarding those that adhere to their artificial goal, and by implication, not giving attention to those that cannot take on their extreme challenge? This is a very un-yogic practice as well, to not hold space for those that cannot be on "the A team."  In my opinion this marketing tactic takes a yoga business energetically even further away from the teachings of Patanjali. So, how can they continue tout themselves as a yoga studio if they don't treat each of the their students with respect no matter how much or little they can attend their classes?

Sasha Walsh of Jai Yoga ( offered her beautiful thoughts in a forum on Accessible Yoga on Facebook:
Formerly, the 30-day challenge. Now, the 30-class challenge.
Because we soon realized that a 30-day challenge isn't the most accessible and that it COULD breed behavior/beliefs that we are actually trying to disrupt.
 What we are trying to encourage is to EXPLORE how moving more can positively impact the way you feel. We aren't trying to ENFORCE competition or self-deprecation.
YOU ARE ALREADY ENOUGH. The more you give yourself opportunity to feel your body, the more time you spend embodied, the more you'll realize you are already enough.
So move because you want to keep feeling the feels. Not because you feel pressured or expected.

Thank you Sasha. Thank you.

So in conclusion: to all who come to my classes: get a note card. Every time you take one of my classes (free, at the YMCA or otherwise), come up and have my mark the card. Each time you get to thirty TWENTY classes, let's go out for a coffee or tea on me. Because YOU matter. Because YOU are enough. Because you did the work and I appreciate you.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Looking Good for its own sake (aka Growing Older Gracefully)

There's a meme going around on social media right now asking people to post their first picture on the platform, and then a more recent photo. For many, that means photos that reflect a 10 year age gap. The title of this social experiment is "How hard has aging hit you?"

I was impressed at all the people who immediately bought into this I'm-just-as-great-now-as-I-was-then side-by-side aesthetic comparison. And yes, they most certainly are (at least everyone brave enough to post). Though, what what would you say if someone posted a picture of themselves 10 years ago and the most recent photo is far less flattering (for any reason including that the photo itself was taken from a bad angle)? Then again, what if the earlier photo is terrible and the newer photo is STELLAR? Then they can say "Suck it aging, I hit YOU!"

More power to everyone that is posting. But for me, I recoiled in horror at the mere title, that seems to imply that aging is supposed to suck the life out of you, and if it doesn't you are "looking good for your age" or "gifted with good looks" or "defying the aging process." But, hear me out, what. if. you. are. not? What if you are just weathering life naturally, and trying to "stay young" or "get younger" or "get better with age" is an uphill struggle, and actually takes time and emotional energy (too much) away from the enjoyment of your daily experiences?

Frankly, I don't want to buy into the "look good for my age” crap. If I look good, it's should be "You look good," not "for my age" any more than it would be “for a white girl” or “for someone that doesn’t dye her hair” or “for an older mom” or even “for a Jew." (Yes I've heard "You don't have that big of a nose for a Jew.") Qualifying how we look by chronology or other demographic category without taking into account what our personal experiences have been seems (is?) reductive, vain, shallow, and dismissive of some of our better qualities. Asking us to post suitable pictures for voluntary scrutiny speaks too heavily to requesting sociological approval to which I don’t want to fall any more dependent than I already have. The world is cruel enough.

I'm well aware that loved ones and friends will (and SHOULD IMHO) say you look great. There are the "keeping it real" ones though that will say things like "You shouldn't make a face like that, it wrinkles your forehead" (yes, that happened, the implication being that at my age I hardly need to add wrinkles to my countenance).

But if your son woke you up at five AM saying he couldn't sleep, and even though you teach 15 yoga classes a week, you still feel tired and at 52, and there are wrinkles and bags under the eyes, and saggy skin, and graying hair, maybe you just don't feel like comparing what life was like for you 10 year ago even before you had kids. Posting a picture of then vs. now might not be the ego-boost a nap or even a good brisk walk could be.

Then, there are folks that have had a frustrating, tiresome, gawd-awful past 10 years. I think whomever wrote "Let's see how hard aging has hit you" was laughing at their own cleverness too hard to consider that some people will wish to heaven above that the past 10 years hadn't dealt them such a stressful set of circumstances, hadn't brought  sadness, or illness, or even death.

Perhaps, maybe this is the conspiracy theorist in my talking, that the badly worded meme, and the viral nature by which it has garnered attention speak to something more sinister after all. Not bad intentions on the part of shaming people for aging, but actually to cull more data for facial recognition software. I'll leave that one out for the technology experts to debate.

As for me, I’ve survived the past 10 years and that’s more than i could have EVER asked for. My auto-immune disease that dragged me down on and off for 10 years remitted. I had a child nine years ago, at 43 years old. Life gave me a few unpleasant side swipes, but so far I have handled it. So forgive me if I don’t want to wax nostalgic about the days gone by where I had less gray hair or fewer wrinkles, more or less body fat, and far fewer huge circles under my eyes. I don’t and couldn't look the same, and I don't want to resent the changes that are happening that it seems the beauty industry and popular society think I should.

I want to celebrate and learn to more gracefully embrace the changes that mean I am surviving and ripening. I'll keep doing yoga, and in the spirit of support and love I will make sure to tell everyone that does post a picture that they look like they FEEL amazing and I'm glad they are around so they CAN post and keep posting pictures.