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Could Yoga help you?

JennyHowsam Community member Posts: 3 Listener

Jenny Howsam is a Gentle Years Yoga teacher trainer for the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY). As a specialist in yoga for older adults, Jenny was co-investigator of a recent research study conducted at the BWY Approved Centre, Yorkshire Yoga in Knaresborough.

“I could get my socks on this morning!” exclaimed one of my students as he burst through the door of Yorkshire Yoga one dreary Monday, with a big grin on his face. 

So what?  Big deal you may be thinking. 

Well, I teach yoga to older adults, many of whom are dealing with long term illness, disability or simply the wear and tear of getting older.  Being able to reach to put socks on is a big deal.  So is getting a towel out of the airing cupboard or taking the lid off a jar of marmalade.  These are the things my yoga classes are geared towards; getting by through the day.  It’s not touching our toes, putting our feet behind our ears or looking good in lycra.

I teach yoga seated on chairs; students can remain there for the whole session or also use the chair for support during standing work.  As well as physical practices (asana), we work on breathing (pranayama), concentration (dharana) and relaxation techniques. We aim to improve flexibility and joint movement, but also general strength, stamina and overall well-being.  It’s a true body and mind practice that practically anyone can participate in. 

In 2015-6 I was very lucky to be involved at Yorkshire Yoga with a British Wheel of Yoga/Big Lottery funded research project with Northumbria University.  We looked at the feasibility of a ten week yoga programme for previously inactive older adults, measuring the effect of yoga on flexibility, strength, stamina and mental well-being.  The research report, published in the June 2017 issue of BMC Geriatrics, confirmed what I think we already knew anecdotally, that yoga can benefit older students in many ways. 

The most commonly cited physical benefit reported during the study was improved mobility; things like getting up from a chair more easily, walking, washing and, yes, putting socks on.

The mental benefits were equally important; improved mood, fewer panic attacks and a calmer mind were all reported by our students. In addition, almost all the students said that they liked the social interaction that the class provided.  New friendships were formed and two students who had been friends years ago, but had lost touch, were reunited thanks to the project!

Why do I think this is important? Well, on a personal level I have been able to watch my students blossom.  Some have gone from working on a posture while hanging onto the chair for dear life to tentatively letting go for a few moments, to moving into postures confidently and with a smile on their faces.  It makes me feel good to know that I am helping them achieve things they didn’t think were possible.

More broadly, I think the project has shown that yoga can be for everyone.  It has the potential to make measurable differences to your life.  So, this begs the question, what can yoga do for you? 

Have you ever tried yoga? Is it something you would like to try? What sports do you enjoy? Are their any barriers to you getting involved in fitness classes? Let us know your experences. 


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  • JennyHowsam
    JennyHowsam Community member Posts: 3 Listener
    Hi Danny

    I'm glad you find yoga useful.  Many of my students also use techniques from the classes to help with their sleep difficulties.  In the class this morning, one of my students told me that last night she had visualised me sitting in front of her going through the calming sequence we use to begin the class! 
  • Topkitten
    Topkitten Community member Posts: 1,285 Pioneering
    I go to a Yoga class when I can but it is very different to what you suggest. Even the simplest of things you suggest cause me pain, for example sitting for the duration of a class. The yoga I attend involves no exercise at all and I found it through MEETUP. Nor do they charge for the experience. It HAS shown me though the validity of Spiritual Energy which, despite my initial doubts, I now fully believe in. I don't know if I should give the name in a public forum such as this or not but can do in private if anyone is interested.

    "I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell" - from Wrong side of heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.
  • JennyHowsam
    JennyHowsam Community member Posts: 3 Listener
    Sitting is just one option, Topkitten.  I described one type of Gentle Years class.  Our classes differ depending on the students.  For the Able and Enabled class, for example, we hoist students from their chairs and work one-to-one on mats with varying supports.  For me, the beauty of yoga is that is can take so many forms and be molded around the needs of the individual.  As you say, not all yoga is about physical practice. I'm glad you've found a form that works for you.
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