Monday, October 3, 2011

Seniors Find Better Balance with Yoga

By Angela Rodriguez
Gordon College News Service
September 28, 2011

(This story appeared Sept. 29, 2011, in the print and online editions of the Salem News.)

DANVERS, MA – After both having open-heart surgery, Winona Aschey, 81, and Sheila McCarthy, 73, of Danvers, started going to the gym together, five times a week. That was ten years ago. Today the two also participate in yoga classes at the Danvers Senior Center (DSC), and are quick to point out how much it’s improved their quality of life.

Aschey and McCarthy see the need to stay healthy and exercise regularly, and yoga is another form of exercise for them. “I began feeling a difference after only my second week,” McCarthy said.

Barbara Younger, 71, of Danvers, began taking yoga classes because of a back condition. She got her certificate and training to improve her own practice.

“We’re working to be able to balance our bodies and to strengthen and be flexible,” said Younger who is now an instructor at DSC. “We’re looking to help our bodies.”

The center has offered two yoga classes— chair and gentle mat yoga—for the past 14 years for seniors. “Seniors have spoken about their balance being better, and that their backs feels better,” said Paula Corcoran, coordinating director of the DSC. “They have told me they’re not afraid of falling anymore because they have their balance.”

 DSC also provides a shuttle pick up for seniors in the Danvers area. Corcoran said there are those who are still able to drive, but many take the shuttle first thing in the morning, and stay for a few hours for various activities the Center provides, including yoga. The center is dedicated to seeing that the seniors in the community are able to interact with others, and participate in classes like yoga, Zumba and others.

An average of 15-20 seniors attend chair yoga, which is yoga taught while sitting on a chair. The other mat yoga class is a smaller group of seven. One 91-year-old took the class for many years, until the physical side of yoga became too much for her to handle, said Corcoran.

The Beverly Sterling YMCA has about 25 percent of the participants of their yoga classes over the age of 55.  “We’re constantly trying to get new programs, and we’ve collaborated with the Council of Aging in Danvers for events,” said Andrew Walker, Director of Health and Wellness at the North Shore YMCA. “I can’t report a trend of seniors taking yoga specifically but it varies from season to season and year to year.”

Younger also said she saw yoga more as a response to cultural awareness that is helping seniors and giving them confidence. “Everyone does their own yoga. I am the instructor that shows them moves, but we’re not looking to go into the pretzel positions,” she said. “We are looking to enhance our flexibility, and it’s become known that yoga helps in every day life.”

Younger said she believed yoga is becoming more popular because of the help it is giving seniors. They are aware of the confidence and strength they are forming, which is essential for aging seniors.

“I think it’s going to help my posture,” said Patty Chrystycz, 53, of Danvers. “I’ve been doing yoga for six years, but I can already feel my posture getting better.” Aschey agreed: “I took it for flexibility. I want to maintain the flexibility.”

“I recommended it to my friends who were suffering from stiffness. I think it helps in everything you do,” Younger said.



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