Put on a pair of dark sunglasses and some ear plugs. Now place a little gravel in your shoes and tie a towel around your waist. Now do one or two yoga poses, or just sit in a chair. How does that feel?
Not so comfortable, is it? This is just a small sampling of what some seniors, or “Boomers” might feel every day.
While Boomers, age 50 and over, are the largest population in the United States, many are turning to yoga to help them stay fit and healthy.
However, while yoga classes all over the nation are also expanding, so are opportunities for Boomer, or senior-focused classes that take a more therapeutic approach to working with slower or stiffer joints and bones.
The youngest of this demographic may not consider themselves senior, but the effects of lifestyle and activities may have the younger ones feeling the same as someone 10 or 20 years older. Therefore, the physical abilities and stamina, as well as what type of yoga practice works best, will vary from person to person.
Amy Kraft, founder of BoomerPlus® yoga has developed a health and wellness system for anyone seeking a healthier, more active lifestyle at any stage of the aging process. According to Kraft there are four different types of seniors:
1. Super Senior: Those that are more active, and may be more familiar with the way their body is working.
2. Actively Mobile Senior: Can easily get up and down from the floor, and most likely can go to a regular yoga class.
3. Chair Senior: Someone who may have difficulty getting up and down, have some balance issues and would appreciate a yoga class with poses performed while seated in a chair.
4. Bloomer Senior: Someone who is mostly in bed, where breath exercises would be the number one focus.
Kraft’s BoomerPlus® yoga classes focus on engaging seniors in creative ways that help them to reduce the stress of growing older. However, while there is a lot of fun going on, there is also a lot of therapy going on – physical and mental.
“Getting older is very stressful,” states Kraft, “Your body changes, friends die, anxiety and fear increase…However, yoga can help to reduce a lot of this stress by helping them to relax emotionally, physically as well as spiritually.”
Kraft also explains that yoga classes also give seniors a sense of community too, as a lot of them are separated from family and friends.
Because of the body changes, eyesight, issues with the feet and balance, one of the biggest fears that seniors have is falling and getting hurt.
In Kraft’s training classes for yoga instructors she emphasizes the feet as the most important part of the body for helping any pain or alignment issue in the body – whether it’s the shoulders, hips or spine. Her yoga therapy approach looks at the body holistically to find the root of the issue – which are usually the alignment of the feet.
“Feet are the most important for feeling balanced,” states Kraft, “It’s very important for seniors to feel their heels when walking to ensure good balance.”
Kraft who is 65, and a Boomer herself, is a very fit Super Senior, she frequently reminds students of her own issues that she’s been able to help through her own yoga therapy practice – from flat feet to scoliosis.
While of BoomerPlus® yoga classes include poses that use chairs, walls and other typical yoga props, they all help seniors focus on developing proper posture, good breath practice, developing strength, support and, of course freedom – to feel balanced, healthy and strong.
Kraft’s 90-year old mother, who was inspired by Amy's trainings, now practices yoga everyday. Below is the sequence she practices each morning to stay fit and healthy.
1. Mountain Pose: focusing on standing and alignment
2. Half Forward Bend: Using a chair or a counter top, place both hands flat and step back and hinge forward so that the head is parallel with the arms.
3. Pyramid Pose: Using a chair (or counter top), place the leg nearest the chair forward for stability, place the nearest hand on the chair and opposite hand at the base of the sacrum with the elbow bent, exhale naval to spine and hinge forward halfway.
4.Warrior 1: Same stance as pose in #2, focusing on the second toe under the front knee to press the foot down for balance and grounding, and open up the leg, taking the outside arm out to the side in an “L” shape, or “cactus arm” shape.
5.Cat/Cow: Facing the chair (or counter top) with both hands face down, inhale look forward and roll the shoulders back to open the chest, exhale and arch the back and focus on naval to spine.
6.Downward Facing Dog: (On the mat) Start on hands and knees, take and inhale, then exhale up to Downward Facing Dog. Using a chair (or counter top), take and inhale, then step the feet back, allow the head to relax between the arms.
7.Tree pose: Using a chair (or counter top) to hold onto, bring the foot furthest from the chair to the ankle, then turn the knee outward. Use the free arm to hold onto the iliac crest and push down to ground the body. The main focus is on the foundation of the standing leg and foot, and keeping proper alignment of the body.
With the knowledge that the students, as well as the teachers, learn in the BoomerPlus® yoga classes, they can use the knowledge of movement and alignment to continually guide them towards better health during the aging process.