Thursday, March 26, 2015

Balancing Teaching Methods with Wisdom: Teaching Seniors

teaching seniors
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

In recent years, teaching Yoga to seniors has become more popular. As more individuals become certified Yoga instructors, teaching this ancient healing practice to a diverse demographic of students has become possible. A balanced practice of Yoga postures, relaxation techniques and pranayama exercises has a profoundly beneficial effect on all levels of an individual’s physical and emotional health. This encompasses all ages of Yoga students, including children, teenagers and senior citizens. There is also an opportunity to share the healing gift of this practice with individuals who are currently incarcerated, or who are in the hospital or at a rehabilitation facility. 

Unfortunately, in our society today, many seniors become isolated in their later years. Frequently their children may be too busy to spend time with them on a daily basis, and their own health challenges may create obstacles to getting together with their friends regularly. As a person ages, it may also become difficult to maintain the same level of physical fitness that he or she may have had in their younger years. By offering regular Yoga classes to seniors at a local community center, church or fitness club, you will be supporting them in maintaining a healthy level of physical activity.

As a Yoga instructor who offers classes to seniors, you will also help them to stay active and maintain a regular level of social contact, which will help to ward off isolation and depression that is so common in later years. By helping your older students to maintain a healthy level of social engagement, in part through a regular practice of Yoga several times a week, you will support them in staying positive and optimistic, which strengthens the functioning of the immune system. It is important, however, to be aware of modifying challenging Yoga postures when necessary, in order to ensure that you are teaching an effective and safe class to your senior students. 

There are many ways to modify Yoga postures, so that the poses still present a challenge, while mitigating the potential for injury. For instance, you may wish to use a chair for additional support if you are teaching Tree Pose to a group of seniors. By having your senior Yoga students stabilize their balance, by holding the back of a chair or wall when they are practicing this posture, they will obtain most of the benefits of Tree Pose without risking falling and hurting themselves. If an older person falls and breaks a hip or a leg, the risk of not fully recovering is substantial in later years. Statistically, when an older person falls and breaks a hip, the risk of actually dying from the injury is almost 50%, according to some researchers! 

It is highly recommended that you have all of your new students fill out a health questionnaire prior to participating in a Yoga class. In the case of teaching Yoga to a class of seniors, this is extremely important. In this way, you will be apprised of any serious health issues that could predispose one of your senior students to injuring themselves during class. Because older students often have substantial health challenges that need to be addressed appropriately during a Yoga class, having these students fill out health questionnaires prior to beginning a practice of Yoga with you is critically important. Reviewing your senior Yoga students’ health questionnaires with them for a few minutes just before class will also help to alleviate their anxiety about practicing Yoga with you. 

For instance, if a senior is on high blood pressure medication and becomes dizzy easily, you may want to make sure that he or she always has the support of a chair or wall when performing balancing Yoga postures in a standing position. Many senior citizens may also experience challenges with heart issues and limited mobility. By gently leading them through a safe and challenging Yoga class several times a week, their sense of balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility will all improve over time. You will also be supporting them in maintaining their social connectivity, which will further enhance your senior students’ probability of living long, healthy and active lives.  

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York; where she specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring into Action with Yoga: Twisting Postures

yoga twists
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Just a few weeks ago, there were four-foot icicles hanging off the gutters of my small cottage. Really! In only a few weeks time, the icicles have melted completely. At times, I can even hear the heralding call of the geese, as they begin their annual pilgrimage back to New York. With the advent of the spring equinox, many geographical areas that have lain ensconced in snow and ice throughout the winter are beginning to become enlivened by the faint whispers of spring. 

In the same way, you may be feeling the burgeoning of new energy and life around you and within you, as the seasons shift from late winter into early spring. At this time of year, many Yoga practitioners become more acutely aware of the heaviness or tamas that has built up in their being through the cold, winter months. "Tamas" is an Ayurvedic word that refers to sluggishness, inertia and a sense of heaviness, which is often due to a buildup of toxins in the body and mind. You may even notice that you have put on a few extra pounds during the winter months!

For these reasons, many Yoga practitioners feel a need to engage in a vigorous, cleansing Yoga practice as the earth unfurls into the effervescent beauty of spring.  Twisting Yoga postures are wonderfully invigorating and detoxifying. Both standing and seated twisting Yoga postures help to wring out toxins, release deep muscular tension and invigorate the whole body. There are many different twisting Yoga postures to choose from if you are creating a particular sequence of poses to teach to your class or to incorporate in your own personal practice. 

Some of the more accessible standing twisting Yoga postures include Reversed Side Angle Pose and Revolved Chair Pose. Most Yoga students can safely practice revolved Chair Pose. This posture strengthens the front of the quadriceps, the inner thighs and the hip flexor muscles.  It also improves the range of motion in your ankles and increases your sense of place in space, through the grounding motion of your feet. Revolved Chair Pose also helps to cleanse and detoxify the abdominal organs and tissues, as it expands and opens up your shoulders, heart area and upper back. 

* Revolved Chair Pose or Parivrtta Utkatasana

Revolved Chair Pose is usually practiced after a series of Sun Salutations and standing Yoga asanas. When you are ready to practice Revolved Chair Pose, come to an equal standing position at the front of your Yoga mat. Distribute the weight of your body equally between both feet and feel the solidity of the earth beneath you. Take a few deep breaths and with your next inhale raise your arms over your head into Prayer Position. Bend your knees to a 60-degree angle and keep your feet hips' distance apart. If you are unable to keep your heels flat on the floor when your knees are bent, place a rolled blanket or a foam wedge underneath your heels for support. With your next exhale; bring your arms down to chest height, while keeping your hands in Prayer Position

Rotate your upper body to the right, so that you are able to hook the outside of your left elbow on the outside of your right knee. Remember to keep your knees parallel to each other and your feet flat on the floor, rolled blanket or foam wedge. Gently press your left elbow against the outside of your right knee and twist more deeply into the posture with each exhale. Likewise, with each inhalation release the twisting motion slightly, before twisting more deeply into Parivrtta Utkatasana with each successive exhalation. As you continue to work more deeply in this twisting Yoga posture, remember to keep your elbows in a straight line with each other by pressing firmly against the palms of your hand.  

When you have completed your practice of Revolved Chair Pose on the right hand side, with your next inhalation release your left elbow and bring your hands back over your head. With your next exhalation, release the position of your arms and come back to an equal standing position at the top of your Yoga mat. Repeat Revolved Chair Pose on the left hand side when you are ready. When you have completed your practice of Revolved Chair Pose, pause for a moment to feel the reverberation of fresh energy, oxygen and the release of deep-seated tension throughout your entire body, before moving on with the rest of your Yoga practice. 

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she specializes in crafting SEO articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting Yoga, fitness and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright 2015 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Yoga for Cancer Recovery: Increasing Strength

yoga for cancer
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Coping with a cancer diagnosis can be extremely frightening and overwhelming, to a point where you may actually feel immobilized by fear. Receiving a life threatening diagnosis can feel like your entire life is being derailed and held hostage by the disease that you have developed. However, by continuing to engage in the activities that nourish your body, mind and spirit, you will support yourself in moving through a very difficult time in your life with more ease and well being. There are many ways to incorporate the different techniques and tools that a comprehensive practice of Yoga can offer to you, in order to fully support your recovery from cancer. 

If you are a dedicated Yoga practitioner and you have received a cancer diagnosis, you may be feeling quite shocked, incredulous and overwhelmed. This is a common reaction to receiving such a serious health diagnosis, especially if you feel like you have a very healthy lifestyle already established. Unfortunately, because of all the toxicity in our environment, including in our food, water and air, many of us who are vulnerable to developing cancer will do so at a much earlier age than in previous generations. However, it is important to remember that you still have a lot of power to determine your own level of health during your recovery process.  

By actively supporting your physical and mental health through your journey with cancer, you will increase the likelihood that you will beat the cancer completely and regain a state of vibrant well being and full functionality. A few of the primary benefits of a regular practice of Yoga postures and breathing exercises are rebuilding physical strength and stamina and releasing mental stress and tension. By maintaining and/or rebuilding your muscular strength, both during and after cancer treatments, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and control, which will help you to more gracefully navigate your day. You will also be more able to physically accomplish your daily tasks if you maintain your strength and agility.

There are two different ways to build muscle strength during the practice of Yoga. The first way is through active muscle resistance. This is this is the type of weight training that many of us are familiar with when we go to a gym and lift weights. Weight machines help build muscle tissue by the repetitive lifting of weights that are specifically geared to strengthen different parts of the body. In the same way, by holding your own body weight up during the practice of the Yoga postures, you will progressively strengthen your body through active muscle resistance. 

The practice of Yoga is a form of functional fitness, which means that the Yoga postures strengthen your muscles in a holistic fashion, by moving both small and large muscle groups in many different directions when you practice a balanced set of asanas. The second way that the practice of Yoga postures can help you to build muscle strength is through passive muscle resistance. This form of muscle resistance is gentle and relies on the weight of your own body and the power of gravity to create more ease and flexibility in your connective tissues, including in stiff joints and ligaments.

If you have spent a substantial amount of time in bed recovering from a variety of cancer treatments, practicing a very gentle series of supported Yoga postures that employ passive muscle resistance will help you to strengthen your body, without undue strain. In addition, if you include some gentle breathing exercises into your daily Yoga practice, you will further support yourself in maintaining a positive attitude by keeping your stress at a manageable level while you recover from cancer. By engaging in a daily ritual of self-care through the practice of some combination of Yoga postures, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, you will be more able to sustain your health and well being during this challenging time in your life. 

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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