Yoga & Mindfulness

Yoga is the ancient Indian practice that uses breath exercises, postures, and meditation to balance the body’s energy centers; this enhances mindfulness, spirituality, sense of peace, and calm in all who practice (Lavretsky, 2010). It is relaxing to the body in a meditative way, so one can unite with the wisdom of his or her soul. Also, “Yoga and meditation are not religious; it is a practical, systematic, and scientific formula for excellence; a quest for perfect health” (Rama, 1998. p. 2) There are many styles of Yoga that elders can use, Silver Yoga, Therapeutic Yoga, Yin Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, etc., which have developed from the original Yoga, Hatha Yoga. The central teaching of Yoga is “Man’s true nature is divine, perfect, infinite, and whole” (Rama, 1998, p. 2). One may recognize this truth and find inner peace with a regular Yoga and mindfulness practice. Yoga elicits relaxation and healing with an emphasis on focused awareness, reduction in distractions, controlled breathing, and relaxation (Salmon, 2009). A study was done where elders practiced Trataka, a visual cleansing technique to focus the mind, was discovered to enhance the cognition in elders (Talwadkar, 2014). Kabat-Zinn (1990) posits that moving or physical practices have to have a focused state of mind to be considered mindful. Additional criteria for Yoga to be considered mindful are these aspects: meditative, contemplative, noncompetitive, nonjudgmental, proprioceptive awareness, total body and life force awareness, focus on breathe, balance, and alignment (Forge, 2005). One of the greatest benefits of Yoga is the ability to concentrate one’s’ mind on the breath, thus calming the mind. The Yoga practice accentuates awareness to the breath, which encourages a clear and focused mind by minimizing distractions to find relaxation (Iyengar, 1979). Breath is the most important component of Yoga. “Breath is the breath of life, the life force energy, and pranic energy,” (Iyengar, 2013, p. 319). Conscious Yogic breathing in every pose helps to massage the body from within and unravel the tightness of a lifetime of accumulated stress (Florence, 1996). The gentle, relaxing, strengthening, and restorative qualities of yoga may be highly beneficial for elders. Yoga can be a relatively convenient and attainable (you are missing a word here – attainable what?) since it is available at hospitals, community homes, local studios and gyms, etc.; as a way for elders to increase cognition, treat and prevent physical ailments, and increase ability to relax and enjoy the present moment (Florence, 1996; Salmon, 2009; Oken, 2006). Yoga is a healing system that has evolved over thousands of years and has become increasingly popular in the West with people of all ages; it can be used to improve the physical capabilities of healthy elders or as a means to treat unhealthy elders (Salmon, 2009). Tiedemann et al., (2013) found that high adherence rates demonstrates the feasibility and participant enjoyment of the Yoga program. (You should periodically indicate you are focusing on Yoga as a modality of Mindfulness – otherwise it begins to sound like a stand alone topic) Yoga has many health benefits, including increases in the beneficial high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max), improved cardiovascular fitness, improve the health of elders and act as a basis for a physically active lifestyle; meaning if Yoga were all elders did for exercise, they would be well off (Ramos, et al., 2009). Yoga offers restorative benefits to elders; which is more than what conventional exercise can offer; Yoga tends to have a higher adherence rate for elders for this reason (Solin, 2004). This may be attributed to the restorative qualities it offers, such as feelings of relaxation, peace, and calm (Woodyard, 2011). There are a number of other reasons to practice Yoga regularly. It is well-documented the health benefits and disease risk reduction, it is also devoid of adverse side effects and negative social stigmata (Salmon, 2009). Benefits of exercise for elders are vast. One study found that that Yoga exercise has positive benefits for both the physical and mental health of elders living with dementia within in long-term care facilities; it is recommended that yoga be included as one of the routine activities (Fan, J. & Chen, K., 2011). The researchers found that the yoga-trained participants had better physical and mental health than those who did not participate, including lowered blood pressure, reduced respiration rate, strengthened cardiopulmonary fitness, enhanced body flexibility, improved muscle strength and endurance, improved balance, and increased joints motion, reduced depression and problem behaviors (Fan, J. & Chen, K., 2011). Recent research studies have discovered that Yoga techniques have immediate effects on the sympathetic nervous system, with psychological effects such as reduced depression, stress, anxiety, and pain; which can be attributed to enhanced cognitive function (Gothe, et al., 2015). Yoga is life transformational. (Again – tie back to Mindfulness)Yoga has been shown to increase cognition, memory function, psychophysiological parameters, and executive function in elders (Gothe et al., 2013; Rocha, 2012). This may be due to the increased circulation of blood to the brain and lymphatic drainage of toxins away from the brain from practicticing Yoga (Muktibodhananda, 1998; Iverson, 2013). Other benefits of Yoga are fatigue reduction; it energizes, provides tranquility of mind, and increases elasticity of the body making it more limber, soft, and supple; preventing falls and other injuries (Florence, 1996). In a study researchers found that practicing Yoga for an extended period of time predicts lower body mass index and medication use in people aged 45 and up; resulting in zero obesity (Moliver, et al., 2014). It may be that Yoga practioner’s use less medications because Yoga loosens joints, banishes stiffness, and alleviates general aches and pains (Florence, 1996). It builds up the efficiency of heart and lungs, increases circulation, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, balances hormones, overcomes insomnia, regulates appetite, generates a vigorous and vibrant sense of well-being, and used as a means to reach enlightenment (Florence, 1996, Iyengar, 1979, 2005; Muktibodhananda, 1998). Enlightenment being freedom from suffering (Iyengar, 2005). Yoga has much in common with the stress reduction, meditative, and contemplative practices Tai Chi, Qigong, and Martial Arts (I don’t think you need this) offer; each are practiced in a focused yet relaxed manner. Moving meditation practices may be more appealing to elders than sitting or formal meditation. Yoga allows elders to engage mind and body in a relatively easy manner while continually offering new challenges and possibilities. Yoga includes slow and deliberate movements that also prevent injury while exercising. There are many varieties of Yoga poses; making Yoga adaptable, modifiable, and flexible for practitioners (Salmon, 2009). Yoga practitioners are encouraged to modify and work at their own level of expertise.




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