A Perfect Fix
By: Emily Sann
In 2015, while I had classes at several New York City studios, much of my time was spent with my private clients whose ages ranged from 40-95 years old with five of the seven being over the age of 75. My concerns for my older clients were the loss of strength and muscle mass, deteriorating range of motion in their joints, poor balance and potential for falls, issues with circulation, shallow breathing and a generally inactive lifestyle.
Fast forward to the Spring of 2020 when the world was hit by a global pandemic that put our senior community through the ringer. The above-listed physical concerns were compounded by isolation, anxiety, and an even more sedentary lifestyle. The sum of all these factors made it clear that some form of exercise was necessary and that Yoga for the senior community was a perfect fix.
The beauty of yoga is that it offers solutions to the physical needs of all practitioners and especially seniors. The poses and classes can be manipulated and adjusted to support any physical limitations; we can use chairs, bolsters, blocks and modify postures to support. I address the specific and individualized needs of my clients through modifications; some need more balance, others need more strength and flexibility, and some just need a scheduled time.
Breath work is a staple of Yoga and the benefits of it are wide-ranging. As we age our respiratory system tends to slow down and the loss of oxygen affects the entire body. Studies have shown that regular breath work not only improves respiratory function, but it also eases anxiety and has a positive effect on blood pressure and sleep issues.
My favorite benefit of yoga is the sense of community it brings to its practitioners, and it has been a very positive by-product of my yoga practice, training, and teachings. My closest friends are in my yoga community. I met my husband at a yoga studio, and when the world shut down it was my community that showed up for zoom classes each day that inspired me during such a stressful time. This sense of community is equally important to the senior population. Whether it’s a one-on-one private session, a small group class or zoom classes online, the practice allows our seniors to have something to look forward to, to connect to, to raise their confidence levels and to be a part of a group.
Most of my clients have one thing in common; none of them exercise on their own and if I can’t be there, they won’t move sufficiently by themselves. They just need someone to either motivate them, program for them or just be with them while they exercise. Zoom and online sessions were a necessity during the pandemic, but now they offer an alternative platform for seniors who need direction but don’t feel comfortable leaving their homes due to fear and stress over Covid. As we move past the pandemic and the world opens along with yoga studios across the world, we cannot forget about our senior population and the benefits they can reap from a weekly practice. We must continue to bring yoga to this resilient community and offer this amazing form of exercise to those who need it most.
Emily Sann is a certified yoga instructor and holistic health coach in Toronto. She works with clients online and in-person offering private sessions and group coaching. Find her at emilysann.com