As I sat down with my first cup of coffee, I opened my laptop to read the news, quickly glancing over the usual eye-catching headlines about fires, guns and violence. Yet something more hopeful and relevant to me caught my eye.
I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for 10 years. Due to my physical limitations, gentle yoga was my class of choice. Yet I was forced to take a sabbatical because of a frozen shoulder.
I feel the difference in my body since taking a break, and I am not a happy camper.
Yoga has given me greater flexibility when I walk, and better balance despite a leg that’s been numb for twenty years. The constant MS fatigue that I battle was helped by frequent bursts of energy that I hadn’t felt in years.
I felt more spiritually grounded through our class meditations, and made social connections I enjoyed with like-minded classmates.
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A Manhattan back pain specialist who uses yoga as rehabilitation in his practice points out, “I suspect that yoga was at times an old person’s sport, and that it has prolonged the life and liveliness of people over the millennia. Designed appropriately and taken in proper dose, it is certainly safe.”
I’ve heard many stories from people who say yoga has given them a better quality of life despite physical setbacks. In my class alone, I’ve practiced alongside people who have had hip or knee surgery, troubles with their back or shoulder, and some who were battling cancer.
They all credit yoga with giving them a fuller life by feeling and looking better.
As Carrie Owerko, a New York based teacher who has practiced yoga for years said, “Yoga can be practiced fully and deeply at any age,” but added with caution that “the practice has to change as the body changes.”
As we age and our body changes, mobility and range of motion may become impaired. Because of this, the practice of yoga should be personalized to fit the needs of the student, sometimes requiring the use of a chair for better balance, or other necessary modifications.
The student should be aware of their physical limitations, and discuss them with their instructor before beginning any class.
I always try to get to class early so I can get in ten minutes of warming-up to stretch my tight muscles to avoid injury.
Roger Cole, a yoga teacher and San Francisco psychologist emphasized, “a regular yoga practice can help the body maintain a high level of flexibility into midlife and beyond. If a student continues the same practice as much as possible without interruption through the 50s and beyond, he or she will see a gradual decline in certain abilities, but not necessarily a decline in flexibility.”
Reading this New York Times blog has made me realize how much I want to finish up my physical therapy sessions so I can get back to the yoga practice I love.
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