Welcome to Elder Yoga, where relaxation is held in high esteem. It’s a time for folks to laugh about whatever ails them, while gently stretching and strengthening their bodies. Seniors come to learn techniques to bolster the healing process. Every student learns to work with and respect the unique body-mind-spirit that is their abode and their gift while on earth.
The classes meet at the Fredonia Pomfret Office for the Aging, Cushing Street, Fredonia (716-672-2891) on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10:00-11:00 a.m. There’s no need to bring anything, just be sure to wear loose clothing. We practice in bare feet.
Students can choose to use a folding chair or to lay down on folded blankets at the beginning of class. The teacher laughs and says this is NOT a “No pain, no gain” class. Listening to the body is stressed. If something hurts, students ask for an adjustment and/or come out of the pose. One of the primary rewards of learning yoga is listening to the body and inner promptings. Having spent an entire lifetime working against the body and inner voice, making time to practice this deep listening over and over again rewards the student in myriad ways.
Regarding the anxiety that often increases with age: yoga has given us a great gift, breath work! The elders begin every class by watching the breath. It’s a simple but profound practice. By learning to control the breath, energy in the body becomes balanced, including the wild energy of anxiety. Simple meditation techniques build upon the breath work to develop a fuller and richer life.
After becoming relaxed and energized from the breath work, gentle stretching, balance, and strength training is introduced. Surprising things often happen in class. For instance, when a 65 year old rises into a modified handstand for the first time in her life. The entire class cheers!
The class then transitions into what most consider the best part of class: legs up the wall. This is a classic healing and rejuvenating yogic pose. The students lay down on the floor and slide their legs up the wall. If they are not comfortable in that position,there is always the option of laying on the floor, draping their lower legs across a chair seat. This improves lymph drainage, venous return, and gives the heart a rest. It’s great for helping to lower blood pressure and alleviate varicose veins.
Finally, everyone stretches into the yoga pose that seems the easiest, but is actually the hardest: corpse pose, savasana. The students stretch out on mats, with a bolsters beneath their knees and folded blankets supporting their heads. The use of the eye bag or a covering blanket is optional. In this final pose for the day, the teacher gently guides with verbal promptings suggesting ways of dropping into stillness and peace. No matter what is happening in the world, there is always this place of quiet available, should anyone wish to access it.
After savasana, everyone sits again, and, while resting another few moments in stillness, practices gratitude.
The scariest part of yoga class is taking the first step through the door. Once there, students often grow blissful as they learn to let go of whatever is toxic to them, and enjoy a fuller, richer existence.