Yoga Benefits for Seniors

It’s no surprise that as we age, our bodies and their capabilities continue to change. We might experience illnesses more often, cognitive changes and loss of flexibility and balance. While these changes can cause disturbances in our day-to-day lives, they can also put our health and lives at risk. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults, responsible for nearly 27,000 fall deaths in seniors each year. Unfortunately, this rate is estimated to rise with the influx of baby boomers reaching retirement. While falling can cause bruising, it can also cause broken bones, head trauma and eventually lead to cognitive decline.

Can Yoga Improve Balance?

While there are many causes of falls in older adults, many falls can be attributed to a lack of balance. Research suggests that there is a connection between our ability to balance and our cognitive skills. Researchers from Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine studied this relationship by asking older adults to stand on one leg, while lifting the other in front of them, bent at the knee. The results of this study suggested that most of those who reported failing the test and who previously had no history of balance problems, had small lesions on the brain which can be a precursor to a stroke or dementia. Strengthening your balance or speaking to your doctor if you notice a change in your balance can help you address health concerns before they become a problem.

Benefits of Yoga Practice

The risk of falling dramatically increases as we age, so it’s important to do what we can to prevent falls. Focusing on exercises that improve endurance, strength, balance and flexibility not only reduce the risk of falling, but can also decrease recovery time after a fall, as well as decrease the severity of the injury. Yoga works to build all four of these skills, making it an important element of a fall prevention plan. In addition to decreasing risk of falls, yoga has a number of benefits, especially for older adults who practice consistently.

Movement
Traditional exercise, such as running and weightlifting, can become more difficult on our joints as we age. Yoga allows us to build strength and increase our heart rate without putting strain on the body. Yoga uses your body weight as resistance, and is a great way to build muscle and improve posture without damaging the body.

Flexibility
Yoga uses different forms of stretching and holding to lengthen our bodies and develop a greater range of motion. Many older adults become inactive as they age, resulting in a small range of motion, which can make it more likely to experience a fall.

Good Bone Health
Yoga can be helpful in preventing loss of bone density and can even work to build bone. This exercise involves gentle twisting and stretching which can help give relief to those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Keeping Your Mind Sharp
Exercise in general releases endorphins, which can positively affect our mood. Similarly, the practice of yoga allows our bodies to function better, relieve stress and help us feel in control.

Balance and Stability
By strengthening the core muscles, yoga can help improve one’s balance, ultimately decreasing the likelihood of falling. Not only can yoga help prevent falling, the endurance and strength that comes with it can also help seniors recover more quickly if a fall were to occur.

Improves Respiration
Focused breathing is a major element of each yoga movement. Those who practice consistently might notice an improvement in their respiratory system.
Relieves Anxiety
Yoga is known to reduce stress and anxiety through its repetitive motions, focus on breath and slow movements. When you maintain a consistent practice, yoga also has the ability to reduce inflammation in the body.

Holly Foss, Fitness Director at Maplewood at Brewster, spoke to us about the positive impact her yoga classes have had on residents, especially those receiving memory care, “I have been brought to tears many times from witnessing the calming effects yoga has on even those residents with the most advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. My class provides a safe, calming space where they can take a break and relax their brains. It truly is amazing to witness.”

“You can actually feel the energy in the room shift a few minutes into the class. Residents who have a hard time focusing and following direction, are making eye contact, maintaining focus and following every movement. Seeing our residents regain confidence and pride in themselves makes everything I do worthwhile,” said Holly.

No matter what their fitness level is, Maplewood Senior Living helps all our residents begin or maintain some form of exercise. There are many classes for beginners such as yoga, water aerobics, body and balance, joint ease and fit for life. Often it is about getting residents to turn their brain off for a while and focus on their bodies instead. Sometimes, we turn down the lights, use a lavender scent to calm them, light a candle, add relaxing music and even adjust our voice. The residents really look forward to this time to unwind.

How to Do Yoga Poses Correctly

In order to strengthen our balance, it’s important to focus on yoga poses that require you to transition from one move to the next. Maintaining a consistent practice will allow you to build the strength and endurance that can protect you from falling. In partnership with the University of Miami, the Yoga Journal published a series of yoga poses that will help you build balance and strength.

Mountain Pose– Begin in a standing position with your feet parallel and close together. Slightly bend your knees and contract your abdominal muscles to draw the ribs in while stretching your hands out to the side.
Chair Pose– Starting from the Mountain Pose, bend your knees over your ankles, pull your abdominal muscles in and reach your arms above your head.
Tree Pose– From Chair Pose, slightly bend the right knee and place the right foot either above or below the inside of the left knee. If you feel unsteady, hold onto the wall or chair. Repeat on the other side.
Standing Pigeon– Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift your left foot over your right knee. Sit back into a single-chair pose while keeping your foot flexed. Lower as much as you can, while holding onto a sturdy chair if needed.

Stay Healthy and Active at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how detrimental falling can be to one’s health. That’s why we offer exercise and lifestyle classes to help prevent falls and related injuries. If you’re interested in hearing about our services, or want to schedule a tour, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Living Life in the Blue Zone

For most people, aging is mysterious. While there are many ways to hypothesize how we might age, such as family history, genetic testing, and overall lifestyle choices, there’s no specific formula that will tell us exactly what awaits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years. However, there are many people who live beyond that expectancy. In fact, nearly 72,000 Americans reached the age 100 in 2014, which increased by 44 percent from 2000. So, the question stands—what’s the secret to living a long and happy life? While many have their own theories, National Geographic sought to find out exactly why people live so long. What they found, along with the Blue Zones Team, is that the secret to longevity is made up of nine common denominators.

The Power Nine

Blue Zones and National Geographic studied areas around the world that were home to the highest proportions of people who reached age 100. In their studies, they found nine common similarities  know as the Power 9:

Move Naturally– For most centenarians, the movement was engrained in their environment, meaning many of them spent their days walking instead of driving a car and using their bodies instead of modern conveniences.

Purpose– Those who live longest have a reason to wake up in the morning and feel excited about the day ahead.
Downshift– Having a stress-reducing routine that’s part of normal daily life helps reduce the risk of suffering from stress-related illnesses, like chronic inflammation.

80% Rule– Many who live long lives are disciplined when it comes to food and stop eating when they are 80% full.

Plant Slant– A common theme among centenarians was a plant-based diet. Many only eat meat on average five times per month.

Wine at 5– Surprisingly, drinking alcohol frequently, but in moderation has been contributed to longevity.

Belong– Those who attend faith-based services four times per month will add between 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.

Loved Ones First– Research from this study found that those who kept their loved ones at the center of their lives lived longer than those who did not. This includes caring for a parent or grandparent, growing a family, and finding a life partner.

Right Tribe– The most successful centenarians belong to social circles that support healthy habits and ultimately help one another make decisions that promote good health and wellbeing.

Incorporating the Power Nine into Our Everyday Lives

Refocusing our lives to emulate the nine values related to longevity can seem like a daunting task. Instead of focusing on the result, making small changes every day is much more manageable. Here are a few ideas to get started:

Finding Purpose

It’s not uncommon for our purpose and passions to change throughout our lives. If you find that your life is the missing purpose, it’s not too late to find it again. As National Geographic found in its studies, those who age successfully have a reason to get out of bed each day. In fact, another study found that having a purpose in life directly affects the way we age. You might consider writing out a list of all the things that give you joy and bring true happiness. As you reflect and narrow down your list, your true purpose might become clearer.

Another way to find your purpose is to envision your “perfect” life within your own reality. This could include finding a way to live out your purpose or make changes to eliminate negativity from your life. You might consider creating small, but concrete steps to keep you moving towards your ideal life.

Finding a purpose also requires tuning into the world around you. Connecting with others and finding ways to contribute to your community can also bring a sense of purpose and pride. Where do you feel like spending your time? Who do you want to spend your time with?

Creating your Inner Tribe

When we talk about finding a “tribe,” we’re really referring to a group of people who reflect core values and qualities we hope to possess ourselves. Just like our friends or partners, your tribe will inspire you to discover your best self. If you don’t have an inner tribe, finding one probably feels impossible. While it does require effort and authenticity, finding your inner tribe is possible no matter your stage in life.

• Self-Reflect- First think about what types of qualities you want from your inner tribe. What are your goals? What activities do you wish you did more? What are your favorite hobbies? By focusing on these desired qualities, you’ll be able to identify them more quickly when they present themselves in different people.
• Try New Things- Sometimes our inner tribe has qualities or talents we wish we had. To identify with these qualities ourselves, we have to do things we’ve never tried. You might consider taking a new class, trying a new hobby, or attending a concert or show. By trying new things, we open ourselves up to new friendships.
• Live Out of Your Comfort Zone- When we’re comfortable, yet not fulfilled, we haven’t reached our potential. If we consistently push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we put ourselves in positions to learn from others and create meaningful relationships with those we might not meet otherwise.

Focus On Movement

As reported in the research, National Geographic found that centenarians had lifestyles that focused on healthy habits, including movement. Because many people in the United States drive more than they walk, many times movement has to be a deliberate act. Here are a few natural and easy ways to incorporate movement into your daily life:

• Park Your Car Far Away. If you are able to do so, try choosing a parking space other than the one right by the front door. The additional steps will add up quickly and ultimately help you build endurance and strength.
• Walk and Talk. The next time you talk on the phone, you might consider taking a walk while chatting. The more movement you can add to your day, the better off you will be long-term.
• Stand Up Each Hour. If you spend most of your day sitting down, try to set an alarm to get up and move around. Movement can help stimulate your brain, stretch your muscles and shake off feelings of fatigue or tiredness.

Prioritizing Power Nine at Maplewood Senior Living

Our Maplewood Senior Living communities want each resident to live long and joyful lives. That’s why we implement power nine practices into daily life through food options, social opportunities, and a wide variety of activities. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.