Health concerns of the aging population

During the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s there was an increase in the number of pharmaceuticals used by every age group.  Medical doctors, that used to tell you to have a good night sleep and eat your vegetables to cure the common cold, started prescribing drugs.  Three decades of misuse have shown us the long term effects. 
Coming out of the Great Depression people put more faith in earning a “decent living” than into their health.  They worked longer days, took more over-time to ensure the build up of a “nest egg” that would see them through any further economic problems.  This led to the idea of a “quick fix” something, anything that would get people better and out of bed faster so that they could return to unhealthy working environments.  Factories and offices where air quality was not a major concern.  Where you stood or sat for extended periods of time completing repetitive motions that lead to wear and tear on joints.
  
As the Baby Boomer generation ages we are seeing an increase in diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, arthritis, gout and bone degeneration…the list can go on!  We have more debilitated seniors now than in history and the number is only increasing. 
Not only are our elderly aging with more concerns but also our children are being born with more health concerns, autism spectrum disorders, allergies, asthma, nervous disorders etc.  Today’s youth will age with even more problems unless we start teaching alternatives.  
Yoga has ancient roots, it was not the same practice we know it as today.  Ancient yogis used asana (yoga postures) to correct imbalances they felt in the body and mind.  It was part of a whole health system (Ayurveda) used to bring freedom from mental and physical dis-ease.  Now as more people turn to natural medicine the benefits of yoga are being scientifically researched, what is discovered is that the ancient yogis were right!  They had discovered cures for hypertension, arthritis, digestive disorders and more without the use of modern science.  

Gentle yoga for general healthy living

With the use of modern science we can benefit from their great wisdom, by proving the “why’s” and “how’s” of yoga workings.  Knowledgeable practitioners can create health plans which include asana to heal the body without the use of pharmaceuticals.
Any form of physical exercise has health benefits, walking gets fluids moving, it promotes weight loss and supports healthy cardiovascular functioning.  Weight lifting increases muscle mass, supports bone health and stabilizes weak joints.  Yoga goes a step further!
Yes you get all the benefits of cardio and weight training with one activity however yoga has that little bit more.  The mental component that helps ease stress, anxiety, induces a state of relaxation, a downshifting of the nervous system.  It is here that we see the greatest health benefits.  Yoga offers both a physical and mental workout.  It gives us the tools to find self-love.  To discover compassion and acceptance. 
So how does this help the aging population?  Many age related dis-eases are a combination of mental and physical stress build-up.  The scientific community calls this psycho-somatic; the physical manifestation of psychological problems.  By retraining the mind and body relief is brought without recurrence.
As mental wounds are healed and the body is strengthen symptoms begin to disappear.  Physical activity allows for the physical release of stress.  The mental aspects of yoga allow for psychological healing through self-love and compassion.  Yoga allows people to work through limitations on both the physical and mental level.  Discovering strength and flexibility of body while working through it mentally can be translated into daily life.  Where people can recognize their strengths and weaknesses and use this knowledge to their advantage, learning and growing no matter the age.

Assisted yoga for therapeutic results

When dealing with seniors we are often looking at years of physical stress.  Assisted yoga is the best form of exercise in this scenario.  Tools like chairs, benches, straps, blocks and others can be used to modified postures and provide balance as seniors build strength. 
I have been teaching assisted yoga to seniors for several years now and I have witnessed people that could barely stand on their own build strength and balance so that they are able to move through an hour long yoga class without relying on the provided props.  
  • One client used a chair for every posture, even those on 2 feet, for the first year of practice now she flows through standing balance postures without reaching for the chair or wall.  
  • Last winter I had a lady thank me because she was able to dress on her own for the first time in 2 years!  
  • Another has told me they are able to reach into their higher shelves, ones they had stopped using and are now able to use again.  
  • I love all my students but i had a soft spot for one very quiet lady; over the years she slowly opened up until one day she had the courage to tell me that my classes had helped her come out of a long term depression.  That she now laughs freely and friends have commented on the difference in her.  She is enjoying her grandchildren, participating in community activities, for the first time, ever!  

Every day I walk into my senior classes I am offered a new insight into a way that yoga has helped them.

The ability to give back daily functions that were thought to be lost is an amazing feeling.  The best gift anyone has ever given me has been the smiles I see when a posture is attained that was thought to be too hard! 

Yoga provides the tools to heal, to reclaim independence.  Why not use it?!
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