By: Caitlyn Frizziola, RN, BSN, RYT 200 hr
Yoga isn’t just for the young and nimble, but if you haven’t made physical fitness a part of your lifestyle or if you’ve suffered a loss in health due to chemotherapy you might have asked yourself if the practice of Yoga can offer cancer patients and an aging population any meaningful benefits.
There is no doubt that America’s senior citizen population is growing rapidly. Getting older presents many gifts like, maturity, grace, wisdom, and experience. But growing older can also carry many challenges. For example, life threatening illnesses, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart attack, stroke and cancer are more likely to occur. Joint stress, osteoarthritis and other types of chronic pain disorders are also very common in the elderly population.
As a Registered Nurse, I see all these debilitating diseases in my aging patients on a daily basis. My goal is to get people up and moving, no matter their age! Starting or maintaining a regular exercise routine can be a challenge at any age, but it is NEVER too late to start. In my professional opinion, Yoga is for everyone. One simply needs to find the right type, proper intensity and the adequate speed that’s appropriate for the individual. Yoga is a form of exercise that nearly anyone can do, with very little equipment while enabling the practitioner to reap many health benefits.
Case in point, Yoga has been shown to help alleviate or reduce numerous health challenges, making it an increasingly popular exercise choice for our older adult population. A study done by Diabetology and Metabolic Syndrome (2015) had participants attended three 60-minute yoga sessions weekly for 1 year. It concluded that a 3 month yoga practice decreased waist circumference, decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, decreased fasting blood sugar levels and HbA1C, decreased serum trigylcerides and HDL and increased energy.
Observed Yoga benefits are:
Reduced swelling in joints
Increased joint mobility and strength
Improved balance and stability
Reduced risks of falls
Improved cardiovascular health
Aided in proper digestion and elimination
Improved sleep, anxiety and depression
Lowered blood pressure and cholesterol
Improved blood flow and cardiovascular health
Improved mood and well-being
Have you ever wanted to get started in Yoga?
It’s simple to get started with Yoga. First try starting with a breathing exercise. Breathing exercises are one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress. Here are a few breathing exercises you can practice anywhere:
- 3 Part Breath or Dirga Pranayama. Try this breathing exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress. Start by sitting up nice and tall. Put one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out, feeling it expand like a balloon. Then breathe in a little more air allowing your ribcage to expand, then your upper chest to expand. Exhale, breathing out through your nose, releasing the air from your upper chest, then from your ribcage, and last your belly, bringing your navel towards or spine, using it to push all the air out. You should be feeling each hand move one at a time as you inhale & exhale through the 3 parts. Continue this breathe work for 5 cycles.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana decreases anxiety and calms the brain. Take a comfortable and tall seat. Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face. With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly, close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed. Hold your breath at the top of the inhale for a few seconds. Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale. Inhale through the right side slowly. Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb). Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom. Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to focus on your breath.
Next, start with a few gentle stretch to get the body warm and open. Stretching exercises help to ease stress and keep your limber. Here are a few yoga of my favorite gentle stretches:
- Sitting tall in a chair or on the floor, stretch both arms over your head, clasping your hands together, flipping your palms up towards the ceiling and reach tall. Hold for 10 seconds, release, then repeat 3 times.
- Roll or shoulders up and down your back, relaxing them, sitting up lengthening the spine. Let your head roll over so that your right ear touches your right shoulder. Bringing your right hand to your left side of your head, gently pressing your head a little lower. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax, and then repeat on the other side.
- Sitting up straight, clasp your hands behind your low back, try to touch your shoulder blades together, opening your chest up. Hold for 10 seconds, and then release and repeat 3 times.
- Sitting up tall in your chair or on the floor, bring your right hand flat behind you, arm straight, creating a second spine. Bring your left hand to your right knee and slowly twisting the spine, bringing your gaze over your right shoulder. Inhale lengthen the spine and exhale twist a little bit more. Hold for a few breathes then repeat on the other side.
- Sitting Cat-Cow Stretch: Sitting in your chair, spine long and both feet on the floor. Place your hands on your knees or the tops of your thighs. On an inhale, arch your spine and roll your shoulders down and back, gaze towards the ceiling. On an exhale, round your spine and drop your chin to your chest, letting the shoulder and head come forward, bringing the belly button into the spine. Repeat and continue for 10 breaths.
You can find more about Caitlyn and her personal yoga journey on Instagram: @shanti_love10
Siu, P. M., Yu, A. P., Benzie, I. F., & Woo, J. (2015). Effects of 1-year yoga on cardiovascular risk factors in middle-aged and older adults with metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, 7(1), 1-12. doi:10.1186/s13098-015-0034-3
Makeup artistry was provided by Leann Helen – Creative Director for Hynt Beauty. The makeup was provided by Hynt Beauty, a lux, vegan, organics-based, green beauty company. Hynt was co-founded by cancer warrior Meryl Marshall and her husband Craig. They started Hynt Beauty because they wanted to provide a healthier alternative for both people and patients who are concerned about what they put into and onto their body. You can learn more about Hynt Beauty by visiting them at http://www.hyntbeauty.com
Photo by Ernesto Cullari
Retouching by Anna Kobeleva