I need to tell you about Arlene and Julie.
Arlene started coming to my classes ten years ago, when I was teaching out of a small rented space in Waterloo. One day after class she came up to me and said something I have never forgotten. With a big smile on her face she exclaimed, “I think this yoga is actually making a difference! Yesterday I was playing with my grandkids on the floor, and I realized that for the first time in years, I was actually comfortable sitting on the floor with them!”
I think back to that story often. It has stayed with me and became my inspiration for learning how to make yoga more accessible and useful for people in their golden years. Arlene, who was now completely sold on yoga, rallied a crew of friends to help me get a Basics class going at a time that worked well for everyone. I have been teaching that same group of students now every Wednesday morning for the past 8 years. It’s been fun and fulfilling to learn alongside those folks, many of whom are 60-75 now. One of my students, in fact, just turned 85! These past 8 years of teaching this demographic of “goldeners” and the continued studies I’ve been doing in strength and functional movement, led me to develop courses and special content for people 50+, specifically my Yoga for Dynamic Aging course that launched last spring.
Which brings me to Julie. Julie has been coming to Queen Street Yoga regularly for several years now. And “regularly” is a major understatement. In 2017, Julie set an ambitious goal to attend 200 classes, and she exceeded it!
Recently Julie let me know that in the past, after cleaning up her garden in the spring, she’d end up with a lot of lower back pain. The year after she started yoga, the pain was about half as intense. And now after several years of practicing at QSY, she has no soreness or pain! She attributed the difference to the additional focus on strength building that teachers have been incorporating into our yoga classes at QSY in the last two years. Woohoo!
The second story about Julie has to do with her knees. A few weeks into my Yoga for Dynamic Aging course, we were working on knee alignment and which muscles to engage when going up and down stairs. For a while now, Julie has had knee pain whenever she is on stairs, particularly when she is going down. About halfway through her first trip down the stairs, while focusing on tracking her knees properly and engaging her outer hips, she exclaimed to me, “Oh my goodness, my knee pain is gone!”
That moment felt like a huge victory to me. Our studio is on the third floor without an elevator. If Julie comes to 200 classes a year, that’s 400 trips up and down the stairs with her knees hurting. Now, with some better understanding of her knee alignment and hip engagement, she can leave class relaxed and satisfied, and stay that way as she walks down the stairs.
I am convinced that being able to get up and down from the floor comfortably, be confident in your balance, garden with ease, and use stairs comfortably can all can have a significant impact on quality of life, and one’s ability to stay connected, active and alive in the world. The wonderful thing is that for both Arlene and Julie, the ability to do certain activities pain-free became possible again. With a little work and consistent practice, so many improvements can be made, and Julie and Arlene are both amazing examples of people who are improving with age and time.
This fall, I’ll be offering this content in two forms. Yoga for Dynamic Aging is a progressive 7-week course (starting in September and again in November), for you to learn things step-by-step. For those who want a more immersive experience, can’t make the course time, or want to review the course, I will also be offering a day-long session called Dynamic Aging: a Retreat in the City. On this retreat day I’ll be taking some of the most helpful content from my course, and applying it to moving around the studio, and walking through the city. We’ll enjoy a healthy catered lunch together, and end the day with some relaxing restorative yoga. It should be a fun day of learning and community, so please spread the word to all your friends who are getting better with age and time. 🙂 I trust that many of you will have breakthrough moments like Arlene and Julie, finding ways to move with more comfort and ease in the world.
Leena Miller Cressman is the director of Queen Street Yoga. Right now she’s in love with practicing the Tensegrity Repair Series, handstands and doing gentle twists over her bolster. You’ll also find her cruising around on her rusty but trusty bike, and tending to her community garden plot full of arugula, kale, and basil.