As a culture we may not be able to agree on much, but one thing we can all agree on is that yoga is good for you. Nobody knows this better than Susan Wolf Smolin, a certified yoga instructor who offers therapeutic and rehabilitative instruction to people of all types – from the prenatal to the elderly. Susan has over 20 years of experience; she discovered her passion for yoga shortly before her own father moved into an assisted living home. Susan began teaching classes in chair yoga to the seniors there and quickly discovered the life-changing benefits yoga can have on the elderly.
“Small and gentle movements help alleviate discomfort, while breathing and relaxation bring energy and peace,” Susan explains. “The [yoga] poses combined with the breath energize the body and mind. By placing the body in different positions that give mild pressure to various body parts, there is a gentle massage that squeezes out toxins and brings fresh blood circulation to those areas.”
As we age, our bodies move less, causing bone and muscle loss to occur, leaving seniors with less strength and stability. The immune system also weakens, increasing the risk of injury, illness, and inflammation. Our minds suffer too. Yoga, according to Susan, can help alleviate some of these issues: “Blood pressure and heart rate decrease. Inflammation is reduced. Injury is prevented and the immune system is strengthened,” she says. “Physical and mental stress is reduced, and the mind can become relaxed and clear. The body regains strength and flexibility, balance and alignment. Respiration improves, deeper sleep develops, and a new order and vitality nourishes the body.”
The thinning and loss of hair also occurs as we grow older. There are many factors that cause this, age is not the only one-some other factors include scalp tension, stress, poor oxygen intake, and poor blood flow. Yoga can help reduce all of these factors. The Big Toe Pose, Downward-Facing Dog, and Standing Forward Bend are examples of three positions that focus on the scalp and increases the blood flow to it.
Skeptics take note – Susan’s claims are backed up by hard science. Paula Chu, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University’s Health Policy Program in Boston, found that people randomly assigned to take yoga classes saw improvements in their weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Chu reported that on average, people who practiced yoga saw their blood pressure drop by five points, their LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) fall by 12 points, and their weight drop by five pounds.
A study in the Aging & Mental Health journal, which examined 15 studies conducted over the last two decades on relaxation methods showed the positive effects from yoga remained constant after six months in seniors. Yoga was proven to offset the “negative effects of aging, improve physical functioning, postpone disability, decrease morbidity and mortality, stimulate the mind, and increase hope, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression.”
Susan has seen the benefits of yoga in action firsthand. When asked for proof, she points to a student named Maureen: “Maureen uses a walker and when she first began taking class she was not able to get up from the chair on her own. We do half the class sitting and the other half standing with support of the chair. When it was time to stand I would help Maureen up. Then one day she stopped me and said she would do it on her own. Lo and behold – she did. We all clapped and it was a magical moment for me, and I’m pretty sure the whole class was bathing in her glory!”
If you’re interested in seeing how yoga might benefit your loved one, contact Freedom Home Care today. We offer a wonderful Thai Yoga Therapy program, which is proven to help increase energy, stimulate blood circulation, eliminate muscle pain, and increase range of movement. Visit us to see if you or a senior you know would benefit from senior home care.