Rise of the golden yogi – why the over-50s are embracing yoga.

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We’ve become a nation obsessed with downward dogs and cat cows. Britons are now spending a staggering £790 million a year on yoga classes. But you don’t have to be a twenty-something in stretched lycra to benefit from it. Increasing numbers of middle aged people – so-called “golden yogis” – are discovering the benefits of the ancient practice.

These benefits are being increasingly proven by science – and arguably, those who stand to gain the most from yoga’s advantages are the over-fifties. Last week, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found a three-month course of yoga and meditation was more effective than brain training exercises for minimising age-related memory loss; another found it could improve sleep in breast cancer survivors who had an average age of 54. It’s also an excellent way to stay fit and supple in middle age: last year, Nigella Lawson, 56, credited her slim figure to practising Iyengar yoga – a slow form of the practice, with a focus on alignment and posture.

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When Lucy Edge, 53, a former advertising executive, fell into a deep depression, she opted for yoga instead of the anti-depressants she was prescribed. “I took a six month career break and travelled to India to learn yoga and founded the website yogaclicks.com – the website includes a section called Yoga Meds that lists over 300 clinical trials demonstrating yoga’s benefits, for conditions ranging from arthritis to insomnia to obesity.

“Yoga was so beneficial for my depression, I wanted to tell the world about its joys. But as the daughter of a scientist [Lucy’s late father was Professor Gordon Edge, creator of the Cambridge Cluster] I didn’t want to make mad claims, I wanted evidence and found so much of it for yoga,” Lucy remembers.

Here are some of the ways yoga has been shown to benefit mental and physical health, plus how to get started (lycra leggings optional):

Stimulate grey matter

If crossword puzzles and sudoku have been the extent of your memory training to now, it could be time to sharpen up your warrior pose. The recent UCLA research took brain scans and memory tests, comparing the effects of 12 weeks of memory exercises with a course of yoga and meditation on 25 adults over 55. The latter not only had better improvements in their spatial and visual memories, but also more reduced depression and anxiety and increased resilience to stress. “Although this study is small, it suggests that we should be doing more research into the benefits of yoga and meditation as additional ways to keep our hearts and brains in good health as we age,” says Dr Clare Walton of the Alzheimer’s Society.

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Try it:

There’s no need for hours and hours of headstands to benefit. In this study, volunteers did just one hour of Kundalini yoga a week. This is a gentle form of yoga that incorporates breathing techniques, meditation and some chanting of mantras. The latter may feel silly at first but can be easier than other forms of meditation. The study participants also did 20 minutes daily of Kirtan Kriya, a type of meditation involving chanting, hand movements and visualization of light. You can order a copy of a 12 minute Kirtan Kriya mediation CD for $20US from the US Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. Find a Kundalini yoga teacher at kundaliniyoga.org.uk

Protect against heart attacks

We’re often told to plod the pavement with walking or jogging for the health of our hearts, but a large body of evidence suggests the more gentle option of yoga may be just the ticket. In 2014, a systematic review of yoga and cardiovascular disease published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology showed that yoga may help lower heart disease risk as much as conventional exercise such as brisk walking. This is likely to be because yoga reduces stress – a big contributor to heart disease. Stress hormones raise both blood pressure and heart rate, increasing the likelihood of blood clots. “The benefits of yoga on emotional health are well established. It has been shown to help with anxiety, stress and depression, conditions which affect many people who have suffered a cardiac event or have undergone cardiac surgery,’ says Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation. “Previous research has shown that practising yoga is associated with some improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, which are all risk factors for heart disease.

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Try it:

In her book The De-Stress Effect, yoga teacher Charlotte Watts sets out a stress-reducing series of gentle yoga poses, perfect for beginners. Another great way to reduce stress is to practice Restorative yoga, suggests Anna Ashby, a senior teacher at Triyoga Studios in London. “Postures are supported with bolsters and cushions and held for up to 12 minutes,” she explains. “This gives the nervous system a break and is like a fast-track to stress reduction.”

Beat back and joint pain

Sarah Shone, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist and yoga teacher, was so convinced of yoga’s benefits that she incorporated classes for the over-50s into her Primary Care Trust’s rehabilitation programme for back pain. A staggering 87 per cent of participants reported a reduction in their pain. National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines now recommend yoga and stretching as a useful form of exercise for lower back pain. Shone says its benefits go deeper and is now aiming to train more physiotherapists in using yoga in their clinical work with this age group. “The over 50s are the category we’re trying to capture in NHS physiotherapy, to try and treat or even prevent problems in later life such as osteoporosis and arthritis as well as back pain. Its benefits of flexibility, core stability, support, balance and strength have been shown to help those living with chronic conditions. “Yoga has also been shown to help keep incontinence at bay because it specifically targets the muscles of the pelvic floor, along with other muscles in the body and is weight-bearing so can help increase bone density. Plus, it can be adapted in so many ways to make it accessible for all.”

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Try it:

“If you’re over 50 and just getting started, tell your teacher about any health problems and choose a style such as Hatha or Iyengar that is more gentle, rather than some of the stronger more flowing or ‘power’ versions, at least to begin with,” Shone suggests. “If you have a specific condition such as back pain, talk to your doctor to see if you’re eligible for a course of subsidised yoga on the exercise referral scheme.”

Get flexible | What type of yoga should I try?

  • For better sleep: Find Yin or restorative yoga classes, usually done under candelight with the support of blankets, cushions and bolsters.
  • For weight loss: Vinyasa Flow classes are energetic and tend to link postures to breath in a dance-like sequence. Don’t be afraid if you’re a beginner as moves can be adapted, but do tell the teacher.
  • For muscle toning: Try Iyengar yoga, a precise style of yoga that holds poses for up to 20 breaths and focuses on the alignment and detail of each posture. It’s great for beginners as you use props to help you get into poses.
  • For a mood boost: Anusara yoga, a modern form of yoga originating in LA, focuses on alignment but with flowing movements often done to upbeat music.
  • For pain relief: Yoga Therapy is practiced by teachers trained to use yoga to help heal injury or illness.

Taking my YogAlign practice on the Road.

by Renee’ Fulkerson

Once again my regular YogAlign practice has proven invaluable in supporting my body during a two week non-stop action road trip with my husband Peter and 15 year old son Joaquin.

Everyday life can create challenges in showing up for any regular exercise class however, a road trip including weather, camping and ever changing locations has lead me to many insights.

  • My YogAlign practice is beneficial and feels good no matter where or when I practice.
  • My YogAlign practice can adapt to the weather (put more clothes on/ take more clothes off) simple.
  • I cannot be attached to an outcome in my YogAlign practice. (meaning time is of the essence). I maybe able to carve out 20 minutes or 2 hours depending on the day.
  • Prioritizing my YogAlign practice to meet my immediate physical and mental needs. (maybe only leg tuner or only arm turner maybe both) however SIP breath is a must!
  • Some days my YogAlign practice in the physical sense is just not going to happen (and that is okay).

On the days my YogAlign practice did not and could not happen I was able to fill in the gaps with breathing techniques, meditation and mantra (singing/chanting) practice. All of the above mentioned could easily be practice while driving in a car, breaking down or setting up camp, sitting around the campfire and cooking a meal.

Most days my physical needs were met with a variety of physical activities, while having proper posture and breath. My mental status felt more challenged with less hours of sleep than usual, long hours in a car as a passenger in a tight spot and being with my husband and teenage son for two weeks straight. LOL

All in all I love road trips, camping and YogaAlign as well as experimenting with putting all three together. I look forward to my next road trip adventures with a body I can trust my beloved husband Peter and our miracle son Joaquin. See you on the mat!

Yoga keeps the mind and body young, 22 clinical trials show.

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A review analyzing the results of 22 randomized clinical trials has found that yoga practice can improve many aspects of physical and mental health among older adults.

Yoga refers to a series of mind-body practices that originate in Hindu tradition.

However, they are growing in popularity across the world as an alternative well-being practice.

Statistic show that in 2015 in the United States alone, as many as 36.7 million people practiced yoga, and by 2020, estimates suggest that this number will have increased to over 55 million people.

People who practice yoga often share anecdotes regarding its beneficial effect on their mental and physical health. Intrigued by such reports, some scientists set out to verify whether the benefits are real.

Indeed, some studies have found that different yoga practices are able to improve a person’s general sense of well-being, as well as various aspects of their physical health.

For example, a series of studies from 2017 suggested that people who joined a yoga program experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression.

A study from 2016 found that practicing yoga correlated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment in older adults, and research from earlier this year concluded that 8 weeks of intense yoga practice reduced the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Now, investigators at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom have conducted a review, analyzing the findings of 22 randomized and cluster-randomized clinical trials that assessed the benefits of yoga practice for healthy older adults.

The trials considered the effects of varied yoga programs — with program durations between 1 and 7 months and individual session durations between 30 and 90 minutes — on both mental and physical well-being.

‘Yoga has great potential’ to improve health

In the review, which features as an open access article in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the researchers conducted statistical analysis to assess the combined findings of the 22 trials. They compared the benefits associated with yoga with those of other light physical activities, such as walking and chair aerobics.

The team found that among people with a mean age of 60 years or over, practicing yoga — compared with not engaging in physical activity — helped improve their physical balance, flexibility of movement, and limb strength. It also reduced depression, improved sleep quality, and boosted their vitality.

Also, the researchers noticed that older adults who practiced yoga perceived their own physical and mental health to be satisfactory.

When compared with other light physical activities, such as walking, yoga seemed to more effectively improve older adults’ lower body strength, enhance their lower body flexibility, and reduce their symptoms of depression.

“A large proportion of older adults are inactive and do not meet the balance and muscle strengthening recommendations set by government and international health organizations,” notes Divya Sivaramakrishnan, the review’s lead author.

However, yoga can be an easy, adaptable, and attractive form of physical activity, and since the evidence suggesting that it can be beneficial for health is building up, joining a yoga program could be a good option for older adults looking to stay in shape — both physically and mentally.

Based on this study, we can conclude that yoga has great potential to improve important physical and psychological outcomes in older adults. Yoga is a gentle activity that can be modified to suit those with age-related conditions and diseases.”

Divya Sivaramakrishnan

4 Tips to Enhance a Staycation Yoga Practice

By Charlotte Bell.

For many of us, summertime spells vacation time. Vacations are an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and experience something new. But vacations do take lots of preparation. And when we return, the catchup time can be anything but relaxing.

This is why many people choose to vacation at home, at least some of the time. “Staycations” give us the opportunity to spend quality time in our homes. Sometimes that means tackling long-neglected projects. At other times it means rekindling friendships with lunch dates that are so hard to fit into our work schedules. It could mean taking advantage of our communities’ unique gifts—museums, concerts and here in Salt Lake City, hiking. We can also simply enjoy the homes we’ve worked so hard to create and nurture.

But sometimes it’s a challenge to decide how to dedicate this newfound time. We can easily get lost in simply wanting to do nothing—which can be just what we need as well. I’d like to suggest using at least a portion of your staycation to regenerate your energies. Staycation yoga can be a part of this process.

Staycation Yoga Practice

Many of us are able to maintain a regular yoga practice even as we work full time. But for some, practice is spotty at best. There are several ways to approach a staycation yoga practice. One is to attend some extra classes during the week. Another is to recommit to your home practice. It’s the latter that I’ll focus on in this post.

Here are some suggestions for enjoying a fulfilling staycation yoga practice:

  1. Pick a time and stick to it. Practicing yoga first thing in the morning sets a calming and energizing tone for the rest of your day. You don’t have to get up extra early—it’s your vacation after all. But do commit to practicing before you start in on the rest of your day. It’s all too easy for a yoga practice to be crowded out of the schedule once you start doing other things.
  2. If you don’t have a dedicated yoga space in your house, just for the duration of your staycation, leave your yoga mat and other props out so that there’s no setup involved. This can help make your practice an integral part of your staycation.
  3. You’re already stepping out of your daily routine, so why not play a bit with your practice? It’s easy to get stuck in a practice that features only our favorite poses. Play with changing your practice. Try different poses in a different sequence and be mindful of the aftereffects. This is a great opportunity to learn about your practice and yourself.
  4. Take a nice, long Savasana. When we’re in the midst of our busy lives, we often don’t recognize just how tired we really are. We simply power through our days because we have no other choice. When we slow down, we often discover how depleted we’ve become. Take the opportunity of having a bit more time than usual to lie in Savasana for 15-20 minutes. A longer Savasana allows the benefits of the pose to integrate more deeply and comprehensively—in body, mind and spirit.

A staycation is a great opportunity to reflect on your daily life and make tweaks that can help you live more gracefully when you go back to work. A daily yoga practice can help give you the clarity to decide what works and what doesn’t.

Stand, Walk, Recline: Alternative Meditation Poses

This entry was posted on April 1, 2019 by Charlotte Bell.

When we think of meditation, we usually think of someone sitting cross-legged on a zafu or other type of meditation cushion. Indeed, sitting meditation is the cornerstone of meditation practice. In a proper, supported sitting position, there’s a balance of both energy and ease that helps our minds to stay both alert and calm.

But there are other traditional meditation poses as well. In Insight meditation, we practice sitting, standing, walking and lying-down meditation. These alternative meditation poses help us integrate our practice more easily into the rest of our lives.

When sitting is the only position for practice, it’s easy to segregate meditation practice from life practice. When we’re sitting, we’re meditating; when we’re not sitting, we’re on to the next thing.

I first learned this on long, silent meditation retreats. Alternating between sitting and walking meditation all day long began creating a sense of continuity in the practice. Suddenly, I was not only sitting and walking more mindfully, but I was also eating, showering and brushing my teeth more mindfully as well.

Alternative Meditation Poses

  1. Standing Meditation: In standing meditation, we practice Tadasana (Mountain Pose), often beginning with awareness of the feet and legs, and then spreading awareness through the entire body. It’s not important to focus on every minute detail of Tadasana alignment, although it is important to make sure that the tops of the thighs are drawing back so that our pelvis tilts forward and our spine can rest in its natural curves. Standing meditation is a great practice on its own, but it is also a way to lift our energies when we feel sleepy in sitting meditation. It can also be helpful to pause and practice standing meditation in the midst of walking meditation practice when our energies feel scattered.
  2. Walking MeditationWalking meditation is a wonderful grounding, and often energizing, practice. In walking meditation, we walk slowly—usually from one point to another, maybe a path of 10 to 20 feet or so. The focus is on the sensations in the feet and legs, although other senses—especially seeing, hearing and smelling—often come into play as well. Walking meditation helps us shake off the effects of sitting, but more important is its role in providing a bridge to the rest of our lives.
  3. Lying-Down Meditation: Oddly, lying-down meditation is the most challenging—at least for me. The position itself, usually a comfy Savasana (Relaxation Pose), is not so hard. It’s the tendency to drift away that makes it most challenging. When we’re lying down, our minds are accustomed to moving toward sleep, so often we end up lying in a sort of spaced-out, sleepy state. It takes some energy to employ the tools of mindfulness to lying down, but it can be done. We rest our focus on the contact points in our bodies, including the surface we’re lying on, the clothing on our skin, even the contact of the space around our bodies with our skin. As with sitting meditation, we also bring the breath into focus.

Feel free to be creative with these alternative meditation poses. For example, you can practice walking meditation next time you spend time in the outdoors. Practice lying-down meditation before you go to bed, or if you wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to get back to sleep. Practice walking or standing meditation when you need grounding.

Practicing alternative meditation poses, along with your sitting practice, can help you find creative ways to integrate mindfulness into your life.

 

Two sweet cats that got left behind need your help.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Aloha,  my name is Renee’ Fulkerson and I am reaching out to you asking you would you be willing to support two sweet cats that got left behind – White Kitty and Orange Kitty find their forever homes? https://www.gofundme.com/two-sweet-cats-that-got-left-behind-need-your-help

In April 2018, a series of thunderstorms produced record-breaking rainfall on our island home of Kauai. The heaviest rainfall occurred on northern Kauaʻi where White Kitty, Orange Kitty and myself live. There, a rain gauge owned by the Waipā Foundation, just west of Hanalei, recorded 49.69 in (1,262 mm) of rainfall in the 24 hours between 12:45 p.m. on April 14 and 15.[nb 2] This was the greatest 24-hour rainfall total on record in the United States. The heavy rainfall produced flash flooding and landslides that covered roads and washed away several vacant houses. The floods damaged or destroyed 532 houses.

Needless to say many animals large and small lost their lives and in this case these to sweet innocent cats got left behind when there humans did not return.

I began feeding the two cats’ at their abandoned home’s during and after the storm in hopes their human would return to them however, that did not happen.  It is coming up on one year and their loneliness is heartbreaking. I have taken in two cats and I am unable to take in anymore due to my rental situation. These two sweet cats deserve a human and home to call their own and find the love they have lost.

I have reached out in many ways and the blessing that has come is through two animal welfare organizations here on Kauai –Kauai Community Cat Project and Kauai Animal Welfare Society.  KCCP is willing to transfer them to a non-kill shelter in Seattle, where they often get adopted within a week to their forever homes. The cost is usually around $250/cat ($500) which includes a rabies shot and health certificate from a vet, as well as the plane ride over. KAWS is willing to handle all flea, worm, possible dental and veterinarian visit cost for both cats. This is a gift as there are only so many homes for unwanted cats on an island the reality for a forever home for these to in within reach.

The cost as mentioned above is estimated at $500 I have set the goal at $600 to absorb some of the gofundme fees as I am not a non profit.  If less monies are raised we will keep working towards are goal in other ways and if more monies are raised than our goal the monies will be given directly to Kauai Community Cat Project and Kauai Animal Welfare Society to fund more animals left behind to their forever homes. The priority is to get these sweet cats transferred and into their forever homes AS SOON AS POSSIBLE they need your support their quality of life depends on it.

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The white female is friendly, very sweet, gentle and purr’s when you pet her. She is independent  however, she will snuggle up to you, lick your hands and toes. She does well with other cats (I am not sure about dogs) She loves catnip kitty treats, plays with toys / string and enjoys a good combing, All around happy girl and comes to the name white kitty.

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The orange male is very sweet, friendly and is a talker meow, meow, meow. He purr’s when you pet him and he loves to cuddle while sitting on your lap (lick your hands and toes). He seeks out lots of attention, is good with other female cats and is shy and hunkers down or runs away when he is approached by another male cat. He is a passive cat who could be an only cat but I think would enjoy a female cat buddy.

Much love, respect and gratitude for taking the time to read, share and support this Journey towards a happy ending. These two sweet innocent cats have weathered the storm literally and will finally be able to heal with their new human in their forever home with your  donation.  https://www.gofundme.com/two-sweet-cats-that-got-left-behind-need-your-help

Thank you for your support,
Renee’ Fulkerson

Yoga linked to lowered blood pressure with regular practice

By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) – Adults who practice yoga with breathing and relaxation exercises at least three times a week may have lower blood pressure than people who don’t, a research review suggests.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 49 trials with a total of 3,517 participants who were typically middle-aged, overweight women and men who already had high blood pressure or were close to developing the condition. These smaller trials assessed blood pressure before and after participants were randomly assigned either to doing yoga or to a control group without exercise programs.

Overall, the people in the yoga groups experienced average reductions in systolic blood pressure of 5 mmHG (millimeters of mercury) more than those in the control groups, and diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 3.9 mmHG more with yoga.

When people with high blood pressure did yoga three times a week in sessions that also included breathing and relaxation exercises, they experienced average decreases of 11 mmHG more than control groups in systolic blood pressure and 6 mmHG more in diastolic blood pressure.

“Our results not only showed that yoga can be just as, or even more effective than aerobic exercise to reduce blood pressure; but also quantitatively showed the importance of emphasizing yoga breathing techniques and mental relaxation/meditation along with physical forms during practice,” said lead study author Yin Wu, a researcher in kinesiology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

“So, yoga, among other lifestyle interventions (such as diet and smoking cessation) should be adopted early on even when the blood pressure is still relatively low, and should be continued along with medication when blood pressure is relatively high,” Wu said by email.

Yoga appeared beneficial, but less so, when people practiced regularly but didn’t focus on breathing and relaxation or meditation. Under these circumstances, yoga was associated with average drops of 6 mmHG more in systolic blood pressure and 3 mmHG more in diastolic blood pressure compared to the groups doing no exercise.

In adults, a normal or healthy blood pressure reading is considered to be 120/80 mmHG or lower.

People in the study started out with average blood pressure readings of 129.3/80.7 mmHG. This suggests the reductions associated with yoga might be enough to return some people to the normal range.

The first number in the reading, known as systolic blood pressure, is the pressure blood exerts against artery walls when the heart beats. The second number, known as diastolic blood pressure, represents the pressure between beats when the heart is at rest.

One limitation of the study is that researchers lacked data on the intensity of yoga practices, including how long people held poses and how rapidly participants transitioned from one position to the next, the study authors note in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

And while yoga with relaxation techniques appears to be beneficial, a separate study in the same journal offers a reminder of the potential risks for some in a review of records from 89 patients with injuries caused primarily by yoga.

The study looked at the types of injuries that occurred and found that 66 people had soft tissue injuries including pain from overuse, and six had discomfort or mobility limitations around a rotator cuff in the shoulder. In addition, 46 people experienced aggravation of pain from degenerative joint disease, while 13 had compression fractures.

These observations only included injured people, researchers note. The study wasn’t designed to determine whether or how yoga might directly cause injuries.

“In general, yoga improves balance, strength and flexibility, but trying to be extremely flexible with fragile joints can cause problems,” said senior study author Dr. Mehrsheed Sinaki, a rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“Also, if a person is 70 or 80 and does too many hip-opening movements or hyper extensions, they may develop hip pain,” Sinaki said by email.

While most people can practice yoga safely, older people with osteoporosis (thinning, brittle bones) should be careful, agreed Dr. Edward Laskowski, coauthor of an accompanying editorial and co-director of Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine.

“Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, an individualized exercise prescription which takes into account a person’s unique medical history and personal goals should be considered,” Laskowski said by email.