YOGA FOR THE ELDERLY

I have always found myself more drawn to the elderly, in which has also probably led me to specialize more on the geriatrics department and found myself working in a nursing home. With the growing aging population in Singapore, more research is also looking into non-pharmacological approach in tackling the problems that comes with ageing. One common approach on the rise is Yoga, especially interested within groups of elderly who are still ambulant/ physically active who wants to make a change in their lifestyle. Because yoga recognizes that that body is not just a physical body, it incorporates the mind and spirit and raise questions of existentialism and philosophy, it has a higher draw to these group of people who recognizes that the span of their lifetime is nearing death.

 

Problems of aging

The ‘problems’ of aging (as compared to the younger self) is that, although it does not equate to developing medical conditions, they tend to be more at risk of fraility. There is lesser joint range of motion, strength and balance, which puts them at risk of falls and other secondary problems that comes with it. Some of the common conditions seen in this age group are osteoarthrisitis, Hypertension,hyperlipidemia, diabetes,  low back syndrome(mostly kyphosis), which may deter them from doing the actual asana pose properly and modifications needs to be done.

In a recent randomized controlled trial done by Osth et al (2019), showed that a 12 week yoga programme improved the health and well being, mobility, mood and cognition in physically inactive elderly age 65-85 years old.

They used the same treatment intervention (YESS-yoga empower senior study) that was previously done by Greendale et al in 2013.

 

What is the Yoga Empowers Seniors Study (YESS): Design and Asana Series?

YESS is formed by a group of people with knowledge in physical therapy, yoga, and movement science. They developed a hatha yoga asana series (included pranayama and asanas) meant for ambulatory participants of age 65 and had medically stable condition in their criteria group for 2 days/week of 1 hour session for 32 weeks. There were 2 series-series 1 progressively increase intensity to series2.

The main key points of designing the series is based on

  • Ensuring safe yet challenging pract (exclusion criteria on those whose medical conditions are not well controlled/ acute musculoskeletal injuries/awaiting for surgery)
  • Target major muscles that assist in their functional daily activities (eg reaching overheads to carry groceries, sitting to standing). Making the exercise more meaningful to the participants.
  • Asanas that improve balance
  • Asanas that increase their joint ROM.

 

Series 1 and 2 is described in detail in this website for more reference. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3639444/

For Series I : Chair, Wall Plank, Tree, Warrior II, Warrior I, Downward Facing Dog, Side Stretch, Chair Twist, Cobra, Bridge and Abdominal Cultivation.

For series 2: Chair, Wall Plank, Tree, Warrior II, Crescent, One-Legged Balance, Side Stretch, Chair Twist, Recumbent Leg Stretch, Bridge and Abdominal Cultivation

 

What kind of modifications was done for the elderly?

Props and hands on tactile cues were given for exteroceptive feedback to achieve better alignment in poses. Some of the examples were:

Series 1 Series 2(more advanced compared to series 1)
·         Chair pose done with yoga block inbwetween knees and back against wall for support

·         Chair pose

 

·         Planking against the wall instead of the floor to reduce upper extremity loading

 

·         Chaturanga with feet placed further and hands more caudally     

·         Tree pose done with hand on wall for support and 1 leg just slightly lifted

·         Tree without wall and on lifted leg on other side of medial foot
·         Warrior 1 and 2 done with rear foot against wall-floor and hand on chair for support

Warrior 1 and 2 without wall and chair support

·         Downward dog done on wall to reduce demand on hamstring flexibility

·         Uthita hasta pandangusthasana modified to 1 legged balance with back against wall and blocks under feet

·         Side stretch same with wall ·         Side stretch with use of chair instead of wall. Increase trunk forwards and hip flexion.

·         Bharadvjasana twist seated on chair to reduce hip and knees flexion demand and using the chair as a lever to twist from the trunk

·         Same as series 1

Most of the other sitting and supine poses uses towels/blankets to cushion the parts of the body which has more pressure (eg hip, pelvis, knees), and modifications of lesser ranging were done.

 

EVALUATION

Overall in the scientific research arena, there is still no exact yoga exercise prescription (frequency, intensity, time, type) for the elderly whether healthy or even those with medical conditions. The supposed gold standard of exercise prescription is ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine). In which the guidelines recommend elderly to participate in minimum 30 mins/ day of moderate intensity aerobic  , at least 3-5 days/week to total of 150mins/week and supplementing resistance, flexibility and balance exercise training.

Therefore, this YESS intervention study is useful in providing a starting framework for development of a yoga class for the elderly. However it is important to note that the 2 studies -Greendale et al (2013) and Osth et al (2019) were done on generally healthy elderly population with controlled medical conditions. It is best to get medical clearance from doctors and screening of each individual elderly is a must. Assessing their balance,joint range, strength, flexibility and physical function can give the instructor an idea of their impairments which will determine certain asanas to be more difficult to manage/needs modifications.

As yoga is not just as exercise intervention, explaining to the elderly the theory and philosophy aspect is equally important. Explanations like how the chakras can be stimulate for each pose, importance of pranayama and breath with movement can help them better understand the purpose and apply even on their daily function (eg, being more mindful and balanced with walking/standing/bending to pick things). This can translate to benefit them in the long term and may even help in preventions of falls and fraility, also reducing the reliance on pharmacological treatments.

 

 

References:

-Effects of yoga on well-being and healthy ageing: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial (FitForAge). Osth et al (2019)

-Yoga Empowers Seniors Study (YESS): Design and Asana Series. Greendale et al (2013)

 

CONCEPT OF ZERO (SUNYATA) IN ISVARA PRANIDHANA

Ishwara pranidha is the last of the Niyama in the 8 limbs of yoga.

WHAT IS ISVARA PRANIDHANA AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Written in chapter  2.45 of the yoga sutra:

samadhi siddhih ishvarapranidhana

-samadhi = deepest meditative state

-siddhi = attainment

-ishvara = God, Supreme Being, Divine, a Deity, Goddess, all names

-pranidhana = devotion, surrender, awareness of Ishvara

 

Here it states that Surrendering to the supreme being leads to samadhi which is the central concept of yoga for deep inner stillness and silence for extraordinary insight.

 

The concept supreme being is not so much of a fixed ‘God’ but rather, is aptly referring to the original source of knowledge and wisdom/ something of higher power.

And Pranidhana which is being in a state of humility and trusting in prescence of something higher, not just in good times but in everything all the time. Surrendering ourselves to the higher force is one of the key concepts of becoming one with the greater being.

 

“If Isvara is the compass, Pranidhana is remembering to stay connected to that essence, not just occasionally but throughout the day… Isvara Pranidhana connects every action to its sacred source.” (Yoga Journal, “Isvara Pranidhana: The Practice of Surrender,” Shiva Rea)

 

 

HOW DO WE SURRENDER OURSELVES TO THE DIVINE?

When the word surrender comes to mind, it brings up the issue of losing control or becoming powerless. Fear may sink in when our egoistical self realize that we need to lose ourself/give up our identity and can’t control our environment/result.

But let’s dive deeper to realise our true self. The self is a process and there is no end. In reality, we are always changing, interdependent with our surroundings and environment.

 

Sunya or Sunyata is sanskrit word loosely translated to zero/nothingness/empty/void, but it is not nihilism. It is pure consciousness, the non-conceptual state of mind, absent of both negative and positive thinking. It is emptying out our illusionary constructions and come out of our ignorance. It is zeroing out our desires and purifying to meet our true nature of mind, realizing that the essence of the true nature of all realms is sunyata.  Understanding this will let us experience the complete absence of I, me and mine which binds us to Samsara. It also helps us understand the universal oneness with nature and develop compassionate traits.

 

By using the concept of zero in yoga, it helps us to zero our desires, attachments and ego, and conditioning our mind to become like zero (‘’sunya’’) through meditation. In so doing, yoga helps us to establish the identity-which is the union between the finite self, the Atman(inner spirit) and the infinite All (Brahman). Brahman is all and yet Brahman is without attributes. Having zero attributes, Brahman is also called “sunya,”.

 

 

WAYS TO KEEP IN CHECK

-Knowing what is beyond my control and the limits of my understanding.

-Let go of expectations, hope and attachments to others.

-Letting go of worries/fear/anxiety on results, knowing that I have down my best with the right intention.

-Being grateful for everything, including dislikes/undesirable situations, seeing it as an experience to gain/learn from it..

-Being humble knowing that everything is closely interlinked and how dependent I am with my surroundings. (eg during a meal, think about the source of each food->cooked and preparation by someone. All of this assisted me to be nourished from my meal)

-Using zero as a symbol as a self reminder to apply it in whatever I do.

 

 

We can turn egoistical thoughts into more loving and connected view of the world. Being more aware (without any judgment) of our mind, emotions, feelings, environment leads us to realise that we are not in charge of life or the universe. This further reinforced the notion that achieving samadhi cannot be accomplished purely by effort, but that it result from the grace of not knowing and being open to wisdom and guidance that is greater than ourselves.

 

 

“He who contemplates on sunya…is absorbed into space…think on the Great Void unceasingly. The Great Void, whose beginning is void, whose middle is void, [and] whose end is void. . . By contemplating continually on this, one obtains success [enlightenment].”

The Siva Samhita

 

Credit references:

-The yoga stura of Patanjali.Sanskrit-english translation & glossary, chip hartranft

-A Logical Model of Yoga Philosophy, 1998 Ian Williams Goddard

– Yoga sutra 2.45 Effects of humility, 2021 simple yoga organisation. https://simple-yoga.org/2-45-effects-of-humility-ishvara-pranidhana/

-Blogpost by Prithiman Pradhan on Sunyata-http://pirthiman.blogspot.com/2014/01/sunyata.html

-The book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who you Are. Alan Watts, 2019.

Credit image:

-https://sunyatamusic.bandcamp.com/track/sunyata

 

 

 

Beyond Truthfulness: practicing Satya on and off the mat

Image Source: www.bindiyoga.ca

 

`Yamas` (moral discipline) are observances recommended by yogic philosophy and teaching as part of the eight-limbed path of yoga, developed by Patanjali. Unlike a commandment that has to be strictly followed, the five yamas are established for enthusiasts to develop a mindful and healthy lifestyle.

The second yama is called Satya. The Sanskrit word literally translates to fact, reality, or true nature in English. In its simplest form, satya means upholding the truth. Although the yama certainly encompasses honesty, it also includes integrity to ourselves, our lives, and our inner divine. The practice invites us to be our truest, most authentic selves. More than simply telling your truth, you have to also practice and live it. 

For instance, you can’t keep saying that you want a break but also accept overtime work from your office; or know deep down that you want to commit into a serious relationship but go on casual, meaningless dates.  These small contradictions keep us from manifesting what it is we really want. Satya encourages us to align our thoughts, words, and actions with our desires, while keeping them pure and harmless. 

Reflection piece: In what situations do you notice that your actions are in conflict with what you feel? Why? Who or what are you protecting?

Note: truth shouldn’t cause harm

This yama doesn’t invite us to be frank and forward in telling negative observations, no matter how truthful they are. Our ethical code doesn’t live in a bubble. There’s a reason why ahimsa (non-violence) is the first yama. It tells us that whatever we do should not cause harm to others. Hence, if telling your version of the truth will hurt others, you have to think twice whether your opinion matters. Practicing satya isn’t simply about blindly telling the truth regardless of the consequence. It’s making sure that you speak and act with thought and intention instead of just saying whatever is on your mind. 

 

How to practice satya on the mat

  • Set an intention in your practice. Your intention is the truth as to why you are on the mat today. It will direct your reality. Is your intention to get stronger? To get better sleep? To feel less stressed? Whenever you feel like you don’t want to practice, remind yourself of your intention to get on the mat. 
  • Listen to your physical body. Pain, discomfort, and injury are different languages that your body uses to communicate its truth. Don’t ignore that. If you’re feeling tired, or healing from an injury, don’t force yourself into doing another Chaturanga Dandanasana. It’s a violation of both satya and ahimsa
  • Rather than believing that you are not strong, flexible, or good enough, honor the reality of your body: it just needs practice. Everybody can improve through practice, and no one is an exception. 

 

How to practice satya off the mat

  • Do you feel that you are striving for things that you don’t actually want, but are conditioned by society, family, friends, or loved ones as things you should aspire to have? Ask the hard questions and be completely honest with yourself on whether you are living the life that aligns with your truth.  
  • Make sure that you speak to yourself and others with kindness and intention. Before speaking, ask yourself: is what I’m saying good, true, and beneficial? 
  • Speak up for yourself when your voice needs to be heard.
  • Shift from judgment to observation. For instance, instead of saying “I am fat”, say “My body doesn’t meet yet my standards but it can always improve.” In the first sentence, you are imposing your standards on the world by labeling yourself fat and calling it your reality; in the second, you are simply and clearly expressing your need (to be less fat) in the moment.

Training – Through Teaching

As we are completing our teacher training program, I asked Teacher Sree on his experience teaching – was there a time he was nervous or anxious before a class. And how did he overcome that.

He said, come with the wonders of a kid, stay a kid and do not be a master

In my own words to translate the Sree Sutra above:

Come with a humble heart, an open mind and a positive vibe.

A willingness to share, to teach and to spend time with the students.

An acceptance that there will be students more experienced that you and that’s really cool.

An understanding that we are not good or bad, the others are not good or bad.

A pure soul.

Granted, it will help to remember the sequences and not go in blank.

As part of this training program, we also got a chance to train in teaching by conducting a class in the studio. I took my chance last week. I knew all of them – all of different gender, racial and background profiles. Yet, for once in our friendship history, I could consciously generate to be present for everybody. To be aware of each person’s strength, weakness and to work with each one’s experience, unaffected by the others.

I realise that I do love all the students the same. Finally got what he said weeks ago – a divine connection of an unconditional detached attachment.

There was no condition. I detach myself from each soul. I treated all soul the same. And thereby I was able to be attached to each one of the soul at the same time. Practicing this helped them to be able to have a full experience regardless of the gap in experiences.

We attach, and then we detach, and then we attach, and then we detach, and then we attach, and we detach again and the cycle repeats unconditionally.

It was a rather beautiful afternoon.

Self love

Love had been a topic that we’ve been discussing quite often. I remember when Master Sree said for the first time that pure love is self-love I didn’t agree. It sounded too selfish, but I kept thinking about it, and my conclusion is that self-love is a base, a starting point for universal love.

We often hear that to love others you need to love yourself first, self-love is given to us, we don’t have to do much-its there-we always do everything to be happy(whatever you understand by happiness), but the realisation I came into is that if everyone loved everyone, it would be only positive energy around us. Imagine you never do anything against anyone; you are always ready to help, always happy to be there for others. Our world would be so peaceful and harmonious, the power that it would create could heal all evil in the world.  

“Where the heart is full of kindness which seeks no injury to another, either in act or thought or wish, this full love creates an atmosphere of harmony, whose benign power touches with healing all who come within its influence. Peace in the heart radiates peace to other hearts, even more surely than contention breeds contention.” ~ Patanjali

Unlimited

It was early morning; I was on my way to the yoga studio, still half asleep I was  suddenly drawn to the motto written on a building saying Patience and consistency are keys to success.  A few seconds later, my eyes were attracted to the red bike that had written unlimited on it.

These three words: patience, consistency and unlimited made me think about these things in my life. I started asking myself if I have been  patient and consistent enough. If I’m not what’s the reason? Have I been really rooted in something I do or it’ s only passion that attracts me for a while but doesn’t let me fully express myself. 

As long as I remember, I was always asking lots of existential questions, trying to understand whats the meaning of life, why we exist?

I studied philosophy and I always have been  interested in spirituality, there were even some moments or rather seconds when I felt I know, I understand but when I was back  in everyday life situations, I have been easily forgetting all the wisdom I thought I gained. 

My first encounter with yoga (or I should rather say my adventure with asanas) happened about two years ago. I started doing some simple asanas briefly for 15 minutes every morning before going to work. It wasn’t regular practice but I felt there is something in it. I attended some commercial classes but these weren’t was I was looking for, something was still missing. I kept practising on my own and then a year later when I moved to Singapore I found out that I don’t do all the poses I thought I know how to do in a correct way. I kept attending professional yoga studio two, three times per week, learning right alignments, it became my practice, it felt good but I was still missing something. And finally all started making sense when I joined Tirisula teaching training.

Our morning talks about the philosophy behind yoga, discussions about life and long and tiring practice brought lots of joy into my life; it felt so good or I should rather say that I felt that I am finally on the right path. The first week was quite slow and intense, the second one was even more intense but went so fast, on Friday my body felt knackered, but my mind was so fresh, I felt awakened. I finally understood that the main thing I was missing my whole life was having an austerity that in this case is yoga. You feel pain, but it doesn’t make you want to stop, it switches your brain off. 

How yoga can help with depression

Depression is usually caused by high levels of stress, for example, an illness, unemployment, the loss of a loved one or trauma. According to the World Health Organisation, over 300 Million people world-wide suffer from depression which affects a person’s family, studies or work.

Neurologists believe that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin due to the suppression of new brain cells. This is why the most common treatment for this illness is “serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (SSRIs), an antidepressant. Unfortunately, SSRIs can cause many side effects. Although mild, they include insomnia, rashes, headaches, body pain, nausea and diarrhoea, eventually the drug would’ve lost its effectiveness because the brain has developed a tolerance.

However, there is another way to combat depression without having to deal with any side effects and it is the continuous practice of yoga and meditation. There’s a study that proves, Hatha yoga which is a combination of physical practice, meditation and breathing exercises that has helped people suffering from depression.

Here are 4 Postures for Depression:

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

  • Balasana is one of the most comfortable postures. It helps to calm your nerves by stretching the lower back and hips allowing the body and the mind to relax.

Adho Mukha Savanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

  • Downward Dog calms the body by allowing the chest to expand for deeper breaths. It also increases blood flow all over the body which would energise you.

Halasna (Plow Pose)

  • Halasana is known for calming the nervous system. This posture reliefs strain on the back, opens the neck and shoulders.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

  • Savasana is a very relaxing pose which helps focus your attention within, giving the body the ability to notice things like, the pulse and breath for a calmer and more relaxed state.

 

 

 

A Clean Stomach Is The Key to Enlightenment

Detoxify! Detoxify! Detoxify!

My Guru, Paramahamsa Nithyananda, says that keeping our stomach clean is the key to establish ourselves in the ultimate understanding again and again.

 

With the divine blessings of My Guru, in December 2018, I have made a decision to change from a regular meat eating diet into a sattvic vegeterian diet and started my journey to build a yogic body through daily yoga, right sattvic diet and occasional detoxification through Nirahara Samyama.

 

The sattvic vegeterian diet has its own challenges. It wasn’t that I miss meat at all….it was more of a problem looking for pure sattvic food while we are eating outside. Little india area in Singapore is probably the only location in Singapore, where Sattvic Vegeterian food is readily available.

 

My new yogic lifestyle of starting my day with cleansing Kriyas, followed by physical Yoga in Brahma  Muhurta hours, together with Haritaki and Sattvic Diet has unlocked tremendous energy sources for me. On average, I sleep around 3 to 5 hours a day. I used to need 8 hours sleep and still felt sleepy, tired and drained out.

 

Dorisq Tan

www.FB.com/YogicBodies

[email protected]om

+65 9889 5654

Dorisq Tan
Building Yogic Bodies, Vedic Minds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Authentic Yoga

My Yogic Journey started all because of Haritakki Powder.

 

I was so frustrated with “not feeling anything” from most of the metaphysical courses that I have attended in the past 14 years.

 

Then a friend suggested that perhaps I should unblock my third eye. So, I started looking for ways to activate my third eye. I came across a video of a lady talking about the “King of Herbs – Haritakki Powder”.

 

According to her, she says her Guru says that Haritakki Powder increases the supply of oxygen to the brain by 300%.  I was curious.  I searched for the name of her Guru, “Nithyananada” and came across this video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezLivJ6rdv0 . I was deeply caught by the information presented in the video. I never knew Yoga from such perspectives….the Twelve Components of Yoga…..that was when i got interested and started to learn yoga last year….

 

 

Dorisq Tan

www.FB.com/YogicBodies

[email protected]

+65 9889 5654

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Master Yogi Quotes to Inspire Your Practice

In one of our lectures in the YTT 200, we were asked what our favorite quote was. There are hundreds of quotes by famous people to choose from, but when someone asks you point blank and out of the blue which quote you live by, the answer may not come easily. Picking a quote – the quote – that should define what you stand for prompts you to reflect at the very least, or make you feel vulnerable at the most.

But throughout our lectures in the program, our teachers have showered us with insight and wisdom – a few we can barely pronounce but all we can truly apply in our lives.

For this post, I’ve put together six (6) of the key insights from our Master Yogis that I think are worthy of being enclosed in quotation marks:

1. “Do what your body wants you to do, not what your mind wants you to do.” The decision should happen on its own. The body is instinctive and has a natural ability to achieve physical homeostasis. The body is able to discern what is good or bad for it and we have to be in tune with what the body needs and what it rejects, rather than allowing the mind to dictate what the body wants and needs. For example, our body only becomes hungry when we need added nourishment. Craving for unhealthy food is a psychological announcement that is formed in the mind.

2. “There is comfort in consistency.” Maintaining a daily Yoga practice is difficult for most people because you need time, discipline and persistence. But we can push through the discomfort until we are able to ride smoothly through the consistency of a daily routine, which stabilizes your mood and provides you a reservoir of energy to push yourself to do more in other aspects of a Yogic life. So, having at least five regular poses that you do daily can be a big help to regulate your mood, establish consistency, and strengthen your connection with each asana.

3. “Establish a pattern of completion. Whatever you do, finish it; don’t leave it hanging.” Completing something no matter how challenging and no matter your mood relates to the previous insight. However, this one is more on reaching your destination no matter the hurdles and distractions. I think this also links to our habit of complaining and sour-graping. When we complain and have bouts of sour grapes, we place ourselves in a state of constant pain jealousy. We build the hurdles ourselves. We also steal ourselves away from what we need to do (relates to asteya, meaning non-stealing). Without completion, there is no consistency. Without consistency, there can be no relief, growth and vitality.

4. “Find a connection with pose; don’t be a slave to it. Being a slave to something is a form of suffering.” Our masters keep saying that we must enjoy the pose. It can be difficult to hear this, especially when you are struggling to hit the right spot for a certain asana. For example, you might still have a wobbly headstand or you can’t bind in Marichyasana C and D. The frustration can get to you and ruin your mood. But if you can control and manage your mood in relation to a pose, or to any another subject/object, you do not suffer. You can let go anytime. Only then can you be a master of your own mind.

5. “Where there is desire, there is also fear.” The fear can come from thinking that we are unable to achieve the desire or that we are capable but are unworthy of attaining it. The fear could also come from knowing that once we achieve our desire, we would have to move on to another desire, challenge, dream, and, basically, any object that becomes the destination of our life – and changing this destination might require us to redefine who we are and what we represent, which can be confusing and taxing. But Yoga is less about achieving desires and more being recognizing our desires and our human tendency to fall prey to these desires and suffer in the process. As we get older, it also becomes apparent that as individuals, we have basic desires that evolve and mature. However, these desires are basically the same ones that have driven us all our lives. And if we don’t recognize the fear we attached with out basic, individual desire, the fear will also evolve and mature, bringing us further from achieving our desires.

6. “A weakness is a strength, but at the time you labeled it as a ‘weakness’ was actually an inappropriate application of a strength.” Someone’s weakness could be another person’s strength. We can also take this lesson to mean that our abilities and limitations have a proper application; we just need to be able to discern opportunities to apply them in different situations. In addition, we also learned from the YTT 200 that appearing weak and imperfect could be a strength in a Yoga instructor. Students, especially beginners, feel intimated by a muscular and perfectly shaped teacher who does elaborate poses. Instead of listening and trying, all they can take away is how far the gap is between where they stand and how far the teacher has gone. In this scenario, both the student and the teacher fail.

These are just six of the many powerful lessons I picked up from our Yoga teacher training. Certainly, there will be more as we approach the end of our training program, and as we go off into our individual Yogi journeys. But these six quotes are a good starting point to define our ongoing practice and bring us closer to the quote that would define and direct us.