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“Yoga” can be kind of a taboo word. You might have heard it’s all about spiritual healing and heavy breathing in a sweaty room. Maybe you think it’s just for trendy California youngsters or runners who want to improve their knees. The truth is this: Yoga has something to offer everyone.
Yoga improves strength, flexibility, and balance. It also assists in filtering mental chatter and promotes calm and clarity. Through a focus on breath and movement, we become aware of how the body and mind work together.
The goal is not to put your foot behind your head; the goal is to have the ease of movement that you need to live your life the way you want to live it. To reach the top shelf. To get on and off the floor easily to play with children. To get in and out of chairs and cars independently. To dance, hike or play pickleball. To live with less pain. To create stability and awareness in order to prevent falls.
As adults, we don’t often practice balancing. In yoga, this is a primary focus. Single-leg standing (with or without a wall or chair for support) trains the body and mind to work together to make adjustments at the ankle and hip. While flexibility and strength tend to decrease with age, the regular practice of yoga reduces the effects of aging and supports a full, active and meaningful life.
It’s never too late to begin a yoga practice. The perception of yoga might be that it is for the very strong, flexible, and young, but the reality is that people of all ages, stages, sizes and abilities are finding that yoga is a wonderful tool for a healthy and vibrant life.
There are variations that permit you to get the full benefit of each posture without any crazy contortions. Props like chairs, blocks, bolsters and walls will support your practice. These modifications and variations make yoga accessible and effective to all who are interested in participating.
Professor Mark Clarke, age 71, of Highlands Ranch began yoga two years ago. Here’s what he has to say about his experience: “I had been retired a couple of years and was looking for a way to keep in shape. A friend recommended yoga, so I checked it out. I discovered that, contrary to my impressions, yoga was not an exclusive club for youthful contortionists, but rather an ancient practice for self-discovery full of enthusiastic and friendly people. The physical side of practice was just what I needed — improved strength, balance, and flexibility. And the philosophical aspect — the integration of calm reflection into the day — provided a structured way to relieve stress and increase awareness.
“I spent a month or so visiting all the yoga studios in the area and talking to the instructors. (The first session is often free or reduced fee.) I found people to be sincere in their convictions about the benefits of yoga and eager to answer my questions. There seems to be an almost infinite number of types of yoga and it was easy to find the ones I wanted. I now practice three or four times a week. I feel better and have gotten rid of all the little aches and pains that were bugging me. And, the hip pain that I feared was going to require surgery has yielded to the regular attention that yoga sessions have provided. Yoga has made a significant contribution to my quality of life.”
Practicing yoga is a fun and rewarding adventure. It will help you find comfort in your skin, graceful movement in your body, and clarity in your mind.
Jen Wilking is a physical therapist, yoga therapist and yoga teacher. You can learn more about her blend of yoga and physical therapy for wellness and injury prevention at www.physicaltherapy.yoga. This column is hosted by the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County. Please join us for our next meeting on April 5 at Parker Senior Living by Morningstar, 18900 Mainstreet, Parker. Our presentation and community conversation will begin at 10:15 a.m. The topic will be alternative medicine, which includes yoga therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture and aromatherapy. Jen Wilking will be one of our guest speakers.
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