Monday, February 25, 2019

Yoga and Advanced Aging, Part 2: Teaching in Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, and Memory Care Spaces

By Carey Sims

With prevalent forward-leaning posture in mind, I focus a part of class on spinal extension. For kyphotic students, postures with a “lifted chest” or “long spine” will require a good deal of effort. Exaggerated flexion of the spine and deep twists are not part of my sequencing for this population. I am not saying that we should abandon these movements altogether; I am simply suggesting that we encourage them subtly. We want students to gently engage the muscles around the spine without compromising its structural integrity. Example: You might teach spinal flexion by having students give themselves a hug and asking them to notice the breath in the back of their bodies. By teaching with an awareness of the inevitable presence of osteopenia and osteoporosis, we can help students move safely, avoid injury, and help to improve their bone health. Remember we are talking about teaching group classes and we want the class to be safe first and foremost. In a one-on-one setting I might be willing to explore more.

Accessible Yoga trainings instruct how to teach true all-levels classes with different body types practicing various forms of asanas together in a communal space. But for this population, I encourage you to teach from the same orientation. Even if there are students who can physically do more than others, all of my students practice from a chair. I do occasionally have students in beds and I accommodate them. In these environments, if one student is doing something that looks very different (i.e. a standing asana), other students can feel inadequate or attempt an unsafe movement, and to me, the risk is simply not worth it. I try to understand what my students can manage and set them up for success. Continuity leads to accessibility. As explored in the first installment of this series, teaching in Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, and Memory Care Spaces requires creativity and adaptability. The relationship between your students and yourself is the yoga. Creating a community is the most versatile tool in your yoga toolbox.

Carey Sims, RYT500, E-RYT200 lives in Charlotte, NC, where he teaches at NoDa Yoga and offers Chair Yoga at various senior living centers in the Charlotte area. He is a student of Adaptive Yoga pioneer Matthew Sanford (Mind Body Solutions, St. Louis Park, MN.) His mission is to use Yoga to help students explore their bodies in an accepting and non-judgmental way.

This article is part of a series exploring the practical application of yoga in Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, and Memory Care spaces. Carey will share some of the challenges he has encountered teaching in these environments and offer practical techniques that he has found useful in sharing yoga with this population.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, co-editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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1 comment:

  1. I love this article so much! Thank you for writing it from your heart with such great insight, tenderness and skillful knowledge. I appreciate your heart to share as well as the editor of this blog for all their good work. This is such a great blog doing a wonderful service to others!