By Renee’ Fulkerson
By Renee’ Fulkerson
- Am I able to take a full deep breath in this posture?
- Does my spine and sacrum maintain their curves and integrity?
- Does this posture simulate functional movement, am I comfortable and stable?
We have been exploring in my public YogAlign practice that some folks do not and have not ever felt comfortable and stable in a forward lunge. A lunge is a lower-body exercise that works several muscle groups at once. The targeted muscles include the glutes in your hips and butt along with the hamstrings and quadriceps in your thighs. The calf muscles in your lower legs, your abdominal muscles and your back muscles act as stabilizers during this exercise.
Not feeling stable in the forward lunge restricts deep breath, alignment and there for is not comfortable or stable. The solution is simple we have placed a yoga block under the back foot which has a double duty purpose. One it allows the student to get alignment from the foot to the hip, raises the heel to a comfortable level and creates the stability the student was lacking and once they are in a stable lunge everything else falls into place.
I have also had students lunge with the assist of the wall. Placing their right foot forward big toe close to the wall be not touching, left foot back on a block or heel lifted once they feel stable (foot in alignment with hip) I have them check to see if the back of the head the Occipital bone and the sacrum are in alignment creating even more stability and bonus proper alignment. Next when alignment and stability are solid we sink into the front knee and place the pads of our fingers (fingers open to turn on the arm muscles) against the wall upper chest height and start our SIP breath (structurally Informed Posture- informs our body of how to be in good posture by aligning from the inside out). Allowing this core breath to stabilize the body along with drawing the shoulder blades together creating even more stability.
When properly aligned in a posture with effective breathing and feeling stable and comfortable then and only then will we reap all the benefits the posture has to offer. I would say the above described YogAlign Power Lunge is sustainable for the human body as it ticks all our boxes.
If we are moving through a yoga practice that is harming or damaging our human body what would be the point? Although sometimes this may happen and we do not even realize it is happening. Be careful when an instructor cues a posture is supposed to be painful and to breath through the pain. That may be somewhat true for a person who has had a debilitating accident and is in recovery (physical therapy) and even then I would question the motive and benefits.
We can create a happy healthy mind, body and spirit well into a mature age by putting our body in breathable, aligned, functional, comfortable and stable yoga postures.
Now go out and use your sustainable body for good!
See you on the mat.
Karen Salmansohn, 58 years young
Senior cohousing is now trending – and for good reason. Below I share 5 reasons you might prefer senior cohousing with friends to nursing homes and assisted living.
Last week I got punched by the guy who came to fix my internet connection. And I was happy about it.
You see I was blaming my age for NOT being confident in technology – like the “younger generation.”
The technician told me I looked young – and asked me my age. When I told him I was 58, he punched me in the arm – Elaine-from-Seinfeld style. He claimed he didn’t believe me.
Note: If you don’t know who Elaine is from Seinfeld – then I am old enough to be your mother – or even grandmother.
It’s not by accident that I’m (perhaps) a younger-looking and (definitely) younger-feeling almost 60 year old.
I’m proactively taking care of my health and longevity.
For many reasons, I’ve been researching longevity – for a while now.
In my research I discovered that “Senior Cohousing” is trending right now – which I’m very excited about – for later on in my life, when I am older.
“Senior Cohousing” is when you live in an “intentional neighborhood” – surrounded by your friends – and you share in things like the same dining area, library, fitness center, garden, TV room etc.
Longevity research states that staying social with friends and family helps to keep you living longer.
It’s thereby no surprise to read that seniors who cohouse live at least ten years longer than they might otherwise live in traditional senior housing (Note: According to the Canadian Cohousing Network).
“Senior Cohousing” is a great concept for older people like myself, who are part of what I call the “Wellderly.”
“Wellderly” means that we’re older, but don’t feel old or act our age!
With the help of the longevity tools tools I’m using I plan to remain “wellderly” for a long time to come. And so I’m very interested in exploring this cohousing concept.
Cohousing sounds like a blast. Plus cohousing with fellow Wellderly friends is more affordable than nursing homes and/or living alone. After all, sharing resources saves money. When you’re a group paying for community meals it costs less than paying for groceries for one.
Plus it’s cheaper to maintain a yard, garden, library, fitness center when you’re sharing in the costs with your friends.
It is estimated that by 2050, the number of people over 60 years old will triple from what it is now.
I will soon be one of those people in that huge group – who’s looking for the most comfortable and enjoyable way to spend their senior years!
I love the idea of living in cohousing surrounded by friends – where I only need to walk a few feet to meet up with a someone for coffee or enjoy a walk in a shared garden.
If you’re seeking a more fun and rewarding way to spend your senior years, here are…
5 reasons you might prefer senior cohousing:
1. A True Community
You get to enjoy having your friends close by so you can share time and activities. In contrast, seniors who live alone often feel loneliness.
2. Lots Of Privacy
In assisted living seniors live in very close quarters with one another. But with senior cohousing you get your own private apartment or house!
3. Less Money
Living in a nursing home or assisted living usually costs a lot more. But with senior cohousing, you’re sharing resources with friends, so you save money.
4. Lots of Mental & Emotional Wellbeing Perks
Let’s be real. Living in a Nursing home or in Assisted Living can feel a lot more depressing than living in a shared senior cohousing community.
In a cohousing neighborhood, you have neighbors around who expect to see you daily. They will notice if you’re not around. Hence if you fall, then don’t show up for a meet up, your neighbors will check in on you.
27,886. That’s how many days Lis Heckmann lived on this Earth prior to the 2015 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The 76-year-old retiree from Lehigh Acres, Florida, was the oldest competitor tackling the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run this year. Here’s what we learned from six-time Ironman, who BTW, has also tackled 20 half Ironman races (70.3 miles), 100 Olympic and sprint triathlons, 12 marathons, 20 half-marathons, and countless 5K and 10K races. [Editor’s note: WHEW!]
1. Build from your specialty. One of Heckmann’s top tips for beginners? “Aim to be proficient at one event prior to training for your first triathlon. This gives you an anchor to work on and allows you to work on two instead of three disciplines,” she says.
2. Never lose hope. Strike 1: “While carrying a box in a slippery, greasy parking garage in 1975, I slipped and broke my ankle into 16 pieces. Fifteen screws and 6 months later, I was able to exercise again and started swimming and biking as part of my doctor-advised rehab,” she says. But her career kept her too busy to become a hardcore fitness fiend until about 10 years later when Heckmann took up running. Strike 2: That bad break caused arthritis. “In 2000, I started doing triathlons after my orthopedic doctor told me that I needed to focus more on cross-training to take some of the pressure off of my ankle,” she says. Strike 3: Heckmann was hit by a car while on a 75-mile bike ride in 2009. Her leg was broken, but just like always, her resolve was not.
3. Find a support team. Tim, her husband of 25 years, is her number one fan. “My proudest moment is seeing my husband’s smile as I cross the finish line. He is the most supportive man in the world,” Heckmann says. “Even though he thinks I’m nuts, he’s spent hundreds of hours taking me to the beach for open water swims or shadowing me in the car when I do long bike rides.”
4. Don’t fear new gear. “I’ve tried nearly every brand of sneakers. Three months ago I discovered Hoka shoes and I now own three pairs. Running feels better than it has in years!” she says.
5. Practice, practice, practice. Almost like a full-time job, Heckmann prepares for her next race for about 30 hours each week. Her seven-day schedule:
- Every morning: 30 minutes of stretching
- Five days/week: Swim for 1 hour
- Three days/week: Run 7 miles, strength train for 1 hour
- One day/ week: Spin for 1 hour
- Plus 8 to 10 hours of biking
6. Keep yourself entertained. During those long and slow training runs or bikes, Heckmann tunes in to “bouncy Latin music or audiobooks.” Follow her lead and pop in those headphones (when on a safe, traffic-free path) and cue up one of our go-to motivating playlists.
7. Time it right. Next big race, Heckmann plans to arrive earlier to recover from jet lag and give her body time to adjust and deal with any lingering exhaustion, illnesses, and more.
8. Choose an active hobby. Since retiring from her career in real estate, Heckmann focuses on preparing for triathlons and tending to her organic garden. Even something as low-intensity as weeding and digging can help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and more.
9. Reflect on your success. “My most memorable race was running down Alii Drive, the final sprint, during my first Kona Ironman in 2005. I could hear Mike Reilly over the loudspeakers saying, ‘You are an Ironman.’ It was extremely emotional knowing that an entire year of training was coming to fruition, and I would be joining a very exclusive club of triathletes that have run the same path,” Heckmann says.
10. Move forward after failure. Unfortunately, Heckmann had to drop out of Kona this year, after struggling with a cold and stomach issues during the swim and the first 40 miles of the bike leg, but being in good enough shape to even attempt the 140.6-mile triathlon seven decades in has us uber-inspired. “I don’t think that age is a limitation to me and never really gave any thought to being the oldest in any race. I just want to do my best,” she says. Now, she’s more determined than ever to race down that road again! Next up: Training for the 2016 Florida Ironman to qualify for 2017’s Kona Ironman. Remember: Never let one setback hold you back.
Photo: Andrew West
We know we need to exercise for our health, but a lifelong exercise habit may also help us feel younger and stay stronger well into our senior years. In fact, people in their 70s who have been exercising regularly for decades seem to have put a brake on the aging process, maintaining the heart, lung and muscle fitness of healthy people at least 30 years younger.
Take 74-year-old Susan Magrath, a retired nurse practitioner who lives in Muncie, Ind. Magrath has been running almost daily for 45 years. She often runs outdoors and describes it as addictive. “It’s just such a release, just a wonderful release,” she says. “I ran today and there were little snowflakes coming down, and I was down by the river and it’s just wonderful. And I think it’s become more of a contemplative meditative process for me.”
Magrath may be living proof that lifelong exercise helps with cardiovascular and muscle health. She recently took part in a study at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, also in Muncie, headed by exercise physiologist Scott Trappe. Trappe is among the first to study the enticing new population of lifelong exercisers.
After the running and aerobic boom of the 1970s, large numbers of septuagenarians stuck with it and have been exercising regularly for the past 50 years. In this population, Trappe says, “We were interested in basically two questions: One, what was their cardiovascular health? And two, what was their skeletal muscle health?
What he saw surprised him. “We saw that people who exercise regularly year after year have better overall health than their sedentary counterparts. These 75-year-olds — men and women — have similar cardiovascular health to a 40- to 45-year-old.”
” ‘Exercise wins’ is the take-home message,” he says.
In the study, Trappe divided 70 healthy participants into three groups. Those in the lifelong exercise group were on average 75 years old and primarily kept their heart rates up through running and cycling. They had a history of participating in structured exercise four to six days a week for a total of about seven hours a week.
The second group included individuals who were also, on average, 75 years old but did not engage in structured exercise regimens, although they might have participated in occasional leisure walking or golf.
The third group consisted of young exercisers who were, on average, 25 years old and worked out with the same frequency and length of time as the lifelong exercisers.
All participants were assessed in the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University. Cardiovascular health was gauged by having participants cycle on an indoor bike to determine VO2 max, also known as maximal oxygen uptake, which is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during intense exercise and is an indicator of aerobic endurance. During the cycling test, which became increasingly challenging, individuals exhaled into a mouthpiece that measured oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
The aerobic profile of the participants’ muscles was measured by taking a sample via a biopsy about the size of a pea, says Trappe. Then in the lab, researchers examined the micro vessels, or capillaries, that allow blood to flow through the muscle itself.
They also looked at specific enzymes that provide fuel to the working muscle and help break down carbohydrates and fats.
Although the study was relatively small, the findings, which were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in August, suggest a dramatic benefit of lifelong exercise for both muscle health and the cardiovascular system.
“Lifelong exercisers had a cardiovascular system that looked 30 years younger,” says Trappe. This is noteworthy because, for the average adult, the ability to process oxygen declines by about 10 percent per decade after age 30.
“It’s kind of a slow decay over time that’s probably not so noticeable in your 30s or 40s,” says Trappe, but eventually as years go on, becomes apparent. People can get out of breath more easily and may have difficulty pushing themselves physically.
The age-related reduction in VO2 max is directly associated with an increasing risk of multiple chronic diseases, mortality and loss of independence. Maintaining a strong heart and lung system has been shown to decrease these health risks.S
As for muscle health, the findings were even more significant, says Trappe. Trappe says researchers were surprised to find the 75-year-old muscles of lifelong exercisers were about the same as the muscles of the 25-year-olds. “If I showed you the muscle data that we have, you wouldn’t know it was from an older individual. You would think it’s from somebody that’s a young exerciser,” he says.
David Costill, 82, was not part of the study but is a former colleague of Trappe’s and professor emeritus of exercise science at Ball State University. As an exercise physiologist, he has always known about the benefits of exercise and has been committed since high school.
He says he has spent about “60 years actively exercising.” Costill ran marathons for about 20 years until his knees started to bother him, so he headed to the pool. “And I’ve been swimming for the last 35 years.”
When Costill looks at his friends, he says he finds he can do a lot more physically than they can. “If I’m out with a group of my peers, guys who are near 80, and we’re going someplace, it seems to me they’re all walking at half speed.”
Trappe says the findings are clear: 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day may be the key to a healthy life. But you don’t have to run marathons or compete in cycling events. “If you want to do 30 to 45 minutes of walking a day, the amount of health benefit you are going to get is going to be significant and substantial,” he says. “Will it equal the person training for competitive performances? No. But it will outdo the couch potato.”
Unfortunately, couch potatoes are the norm. Federal guidelines recommend two hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Yet 77 percent of Americans do not come close to getting that amount of exercise.
Dr. Clyde Yancy, spokesperson for the American Heart Association and chief of cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says the findings suggest “a lifelong investment in health and fitness appears to be associated with a really sustainable benefit out until the outer limits of life.”
Since we are living longer, maintaining a good quality of life is more important than ever. While the study was small and the findings need to be confirmed, they present a “strong argument” for lifelong exercise that is inexpensive and accessible for everyone. “If you can swim, do yoga, cycle, or walk,” you can benefit,” Yancy says.
By Charlotte Bell.
Thirty-some years ago, when I was beginning to teach yoga, injuries related to yoga practice were relatively rare. They did happen, of course, but they were an anomaly. In recent years, yoga injuries have become a hot topic of conversation in Western yoga culture. A recent study, published in 2017, found that injuries are on the rise.
From a Yoga Journal article about the study:
“The study, titled Yoga-Related Injuries in the United States From 2001 to 2014, found that there were 29,590 yoga-related injuries seen in hospital emergency departments from 2001 to 2014. Overall, yoga injuries became almost twice as common in 2014 as in 2001. But among seniors especially, yoga injuries truly skyrocketed. During the same time period, the rate of yoga injuries among adults 65 and older increased more than eightfold.”
There are many possible reasons for the rise in yoga injuries. First, with the sheer numbers of people practicing asana these days compared to 30 years ago, it would be odd if there weren’t more injuries. Second, the popularization of yoga in the West has required that yoga look more like what we interpret as exercise—raising your heart rate, sweating, etc. Third, we’ve imported just one aspect of a comprehensive practice into our culture, independent of its larger context. Finally, Eastern ideas about practice are fundamentally different from Western ideas. In the West, we approach asana practice from a completely different intention.
It makes sense that in transferring a foreign practice into a completely different culture, adjustments must be made to fit Western practitioners. For example, most of us who practice yoga are not holed up in caves practicing all day. We are householders with families, jobs and other competing interests.
The yoga tradition actually makes plenty of room for the householder. You might be surprised to find that the philosophy of one of yoga’s ancient and defining texts, The Bhagavad Gita says that a yogi need not leave the world in order to find freedom. According to Mircea Eliade, scholar and author of Yoga, Immortality and Freedom, Krishna encourages Arjuna to continue to be a “man of action,” finding his freedom in the midst of his life in the world.
Conditioned to Compete
The problem with plopping one small component of a practice as vast and deep as yoga into a completely different culture is one of context. In the West, from an early age we are conditioned to interpret physical endeavors through the lens of competition. Think about it: We watch competitive team sports for entertainment. Even sports where the judging is clearly subjective—think ice skating and gymnastics—are subject to competition.
For many of us physical endeavors like running, hiking and bicycling that could be seen as purely pleasurable are subject to the “no pain, no gain” conditioning we’ve all grown up with. We almost expect to injure ourselves in physical practice, so on the surface, yoga injuries might even seem completely normal.
When asana practice is severed from its roots and brought to a culture that celebrates competition, it will be interpreted through the competitive lens because that is the lens we know. This is why much of the yoga that is popular today is active and fast paced, with a focus on a high-intensity physical workout.
I’m not saying, “Western culture=bad, Eastern culture=good.” Nor am I knocking healthy competition. I’m just pointing out that most of us have been conditioned, simply by growing up here, to equate physical activity with pushing oneself, striving for excellence, etc. This is neither good nor bad. It is simply the context from which most of us, at least initially, will perceive and interpret asana practice because that is our most familiar filter. When competition, striving and forcing are our context, yoga injuries are more likely to occur.
Early in my practice it was easy for me to see my own competitive tendencies. I was born with a body that is capable of doing fancy poses, and I practiced them regularly for years. Practicing fancy poses is fun. But when I was in the stage of practice where these poses were important to me, I did not find that performing them made me a kinder, wiser or more compassionate person. They did not make meditation any easier either. Since that is the putative purpose of practicing asana, I began to question and shift my practice.
Competitive Mind vs. Wisdom Mind
Even now, I sometimes catch my competitive mind feeling the need to justify a slow, quiet practice. I’ve found myself wondering if I’m really doing a legitimate practice when I simply lie on tennis balls for an hour to help alleviate back discomfort from spending too much time in chairs.
My wisdom mind helps me remember that whatever practice brings my body/mind to balance in a given moment is the best practice. I continue to learn that asana practice must be flexible. I must stay flexible also—mentally and emotionally—to remember that asana practice is designed to serve the individual needs of each person in each moment. We are not here to serve asana practice; it is the other way around.
Even if you don’t count yourself among the Type A crowd, the process of rewiring the competitive mind can take time. While I rarely act from competitive mind in my asana practice anymore, it still makes its voice heard. The difference is that I now have the power to choose which mind to listen to.
How to Avoid—Or At Least Lessen the Possibility of—Yoga Injuries
- Assess your needs. We’re not all the same. Each person who comes to yoga practice has different strengths and weaknesses. If you are just starting out, and you want to ease into practice, steer toward classes titled “Hatha Yoga,” “Iyengar Yoga,” or “Viniyoga” rather than those titled “Power Yoga,” “Ashtanga” or “Vinyasa.” The latter are fast-paced classes where it’s much more difficult for students to practice healthy alignment and for the teacher to give individual assistance. If you want to practice a faster-paced yoga at some point, attend those classes after you’ve built a strong foundation.
- Find a qualified teacher. Not all yoga teachers are the same. Experience and education of teachers can vary widely. You may need to do some research here. The number of education hours required for a Yoga Alliance-registered teacher is relatively small—200 hours. Make some phone calls. Interview teachers to find out about their experience and their philosophy for practice.
- Respect your body. We all come into the world with vastly different structures, which means our levels of natural mobility and stability are all very different. Some people’s structures will never do fancy poses, while others will perform amazing feats of flexibility from day one. Turn your mind inward to what’s actually happening in your body in the moment, rather than comparing yourself to others.
- No pain, no pain. One of my main asana teachers, Judith Hanson Lasater, has modified the old “No pain, no gain” philosophy. Instead, she says, “No pain, no pain.” This means that no pain in your present practice will more likely yield no pain in your future. Of course, you need to distinguish between pain and the sensations of stretching. (That’s a whole different post!) But in general, if you feel painful sensations, especially in any of your joints, it’s a good idea to back off. Pain is a signal to stop doing what you’re doing, not to try to “push through it.”
- Meet your body where it is today. It’s helpful to remember that each time we come to our yoga mat, our bodies are different. Today’s Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) is absolutely unique, no matter how many times you’ve practiced the pose in the past. Let go of the expectation that today’s practice should be like your last practice. Also, let go of the idea that because you’ve been practicing for x number of years, you ought to be able to perform certain poses like the hot Instagram yogis do. What does your body need today?
How will you change over the years as you get older? Past research offers strong evidence that, although there are parts of personalities that stay relatively set throughout our lives, we do in fact experience real character growth over time. The primary way we change is through maturation: All of our more pro-social, positive traits (things like conscientiousness and social skills) tend to increase as we get older, whereas many of our more negative traits (things like impulsiveness and anxiousness) tend to decrease.
And now, a particularly sunny new study just revealed one area of ours that will likely continue to grow through most of our lives: our self-esteem.
The paper, recently published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, found that people’s self-esteem actually peaks at age 60. That’s a delightfully uplifting revelation—it means that we’ll spend the majority of our lives with our love for ourselves continuing to grow year after year. The study, which was actually a meta-analysis of 331 different studies looking at data from a total of 164,868 participants, found people’s confidence grew steadily (with a brief pause during the teen years, understandably so) until they reached about 60 years old. They then tended to spend the next 10 years riding that self-love high before seeing a slight decrease from ages 70 on.
For young people currently struggling with learning to see their own worth—and even for those who already value themselves highly—these findings offer hope that there’s only upward and onward from here. Not only does aging bring us wisdom and emotional maturity from years of experience, but it also nurtures a unique, natural sense of self-love.
Part of the explanation might be that, as you get older, a lot of the material concerns that absorb us in our younger years start to lose some of their weight. It becomes a lot easier to accept yourself for who you are when you no longer have to bend over backward to conform to societal expectations of beauty, performance, success, and other such things. We can think of people who push past 100 years old to further understand this change in mindset, says gynecologist Christine Northrup, M.D.
“Healthy centenarians all share the same characteristics,” Dr. Northrup wrote on mindbodygreen. “They are future-oriented and are rebels who have very often been black sheep all of their lives—surviving and thriving despite the same losses and challenges that everyone on the planet also goes through. Healthy centenarians do not identify with their wounds or with what society (or their families) expect them to do or be ‘at their age.'”
So rejoice as the years go by: They likely will only get better, and so will your sense of self.