Moving through life with balance, strength, flexibility and agility are common reasons people practice yoga through the golden years. These are certainly good foundations for healthy aging. But recently in Prevention News, the online magazine of Prevention Magazine, there was an article by Victoria Wolk that highlighted another benefit to yoga, improving your mind!
In her article, “The Gentle Workout That’s Proven to Protect your Memory,” Wolk describes improved cognitive skills (the parts of our conscious mental activities that include thinking, understanding, learning and remembering) with Yoga. She writes, “In the quest to keep dementia and Alzheimer’s out of your future, you’re probably already doing what you can to get plenty of sleep and exercise, both proven ways to protect your brain. Now a new study offers up one more tool to add to your anti-aging brain plan: gentle yoga.
In a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, two groups of adults 55 and older were tested on cognitive skills such as planning, problem solving, and multitasking. Then they were split into two groups: One group did gentle yoga for 60 minutes 3 times a week, and the other did a series of stretches and strengthening exercises, like bicep curls and flutter kicks, for the same amount of time. After 8 weeks, the participants’ cognitive skills were tested again. The result: the yoga group significantly improved their cognitive performance, while the stretching group showed no changes.
What is it about yoga that wakes up your brain?
Study author and assistant professor at Wayne State University Neha Gothe, PhD, isn’t entirely sure why yoga has an impact on mental skills, but she believes it has something to do with the mind-body element of the exercise. “While practicing yoga, you’re not just moving your body,” she says, “you’re focused on your breath and mindfully aware of your postures.” If you’re doing other kinds of exercise, like running, it’s much easier to get distracted by everything going on around you—but get distracted during, say, Triangle pose, and you could end up kissing the mat.
Plus, according to past research, stress and anxiety have a huge impact on cognitive function, so the relaxation aspect of yoga might also be in play.”
Do you race through the day, feeling there is not enough time to accomplish everything you want to do? Do you feel weighted down by the daily grind or the growing concern about your future? Maybe you long for a deeper connection and a feeling of purpose to life?
A daily meditation practice may be the smartest thing you can do to promote wellness and bring a deeper connection to yourself and the world around you. According to Harvard psychologist John Denninger meditation reduces stress and illness. His recent 5 years study of regular meditation practice shows change occurring on a cellular level, essentially turning on clusters of “good” genes that make us healthier, while turning off clusters of “bad” genes that lead to disease.”
In the study, volunteers meditated for 20 minutes daily, for eight weeks. The results showed more activated health-promoting genes that boost immune response, energy metabolism, and insulin secretion (which helps prevent diabetes). Meditation was shown to turn down health-depleting genes linked to stress and inflammation, says Denninger in his NIH (U.S. Dept. Health) report.
Denninger is the Director of Research at Harvard’s Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. In the 1970s Herbert Benson, MD, did a landmark study on the effects of meditation that he reported in his book, The Relaxation Response (Benson 1975). Benson explored the effects of meditation on the relaxation response, the physiological responses that hold heart rate, lung capacity and blood pressure stable. He found that practicing meditation can turn on the relaxation responses and, in turn, the relaxation responses decrease the impact of stress on the body.
These are Western studies of what is a time honored, ancient practice across eastern cultures; taking the time to breath, focus and let go of the ceaseless thoughts, the ‘loop of mental tape’ running in our mind. It is a simple practice but very difficult in our busy lives- taking the time for you.
In general, in a short amount of time, a regular meditation practice can bring:
• decreased anxiety
• decreased depression
• decreased irritability and moodiness
• improved learning ability and enhanced memory
• increased feelings of vitality
• increased emotional stability
Why not try? Close your eyes, watch your breath for a few rounds of inhales and exhales, observe the moment. Do you feel anything different?
Why Do Yoga?
According to the latest studies by the Yoga Journal, nearly 18 million people in the USA practice yoga. Why? The short answer is that yoga makes you feel better. When you feel better, life feels easier. Through the practice of yoga we gain better body awareness and emotional well-being and we deepen our spiritual connection. This is life’s golden triangle: body, mind and spirit.
Yoga is good for increasing strength, flexibility, balance and agility: qualities to foster for a healthy aging body. Aside from the array of physical benefits, yoga teaches us to focus, breathe deeper and tune into the moment. These tools help manage stress, which has been known to have devastating effects including back and neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug and alcohol abuse.
Yoga can be practiced to enhance overall health and is a great way to get in tune with your body and your inner self. Anyone can do yoga, no matter how young or old you are. Size and fitness levels don’t matter because there are modifications for every pose. Unlike most fitness routines, yoga meets you right where you are and welcomes you home.
De Winterburn and Kim Schleicher invite you to join our Enchanted April Spring Run-off, details here:
Saturday: April 26th: Arrive SF International (try to get the earliest flights possible).and shuttle to the El Pueblo Hotel Sonoma . (Five options for shuttle services). Kick around Sonoma square or hang out in the pool and gardens at El Pueblo. Gather for a flight of sparkling wine at Gloria Farrer on the square and proceed to The Girl and the Fig for a remarkable and casual dinner, tuck into bed.
Sun: April 27th: leisurely breakfast and coffee at El Pueblo then a trip to Sonoma Cornerstone Gardens (cutting edge landscape design and quoted as “one of 1000 gardens you must see before you die”). Refreshed by flowers and great strolls, we venture on to the country roads of Sonoma and into the Napa valley with a stop at two wineries and perhaps a snack along the Silverado Trial or the wine highway (128) to arrive at the breathtaking views of Mayacamas Ranch our home for the next three days. We settle in, have a great dinner and overnight here.
Monday: April 28th: a chance to chill-out at the Ranch, hike, read, swim, sleep in the pool chairs. After lunch, a trip to the Hot springs of Calistoga at the Spa at Solage. We will spend the afternoon here, soaking in the Hot Springs, getting a massage or facial, allowing the day to float by. Dinner (optional late afternoon yoga) and time to relax under the starry skies from our hilltop location at Mayacamas.
Tues. April 29th: We take a day to explore and taste along Highway 29, the wine highway. We begin in Calistoga at the “Clos Pegase” winery with its 90 acres of vineyard, 20,000 sq. feet of underground caves and sculpture gardens. St. Helena is “more like St. Honore in Paris” with its gorgeous and unique boutiques. Some of us may opt for the Robert Louis Stevenson museum in the library complex. Stevenson was the author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll, but he was also a world class sailor and traveler and had an intriguing biography including a honeymoon trip in St. Helena.
Down the road in Oakville, we will stop into the well provisioned Oakville grocery for oogling and purchasing gourmet treats . Then a stop for an afternoon coffee or tea at the world famous Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s fabulous shop behind his world famous French Laundry restaurant, arguably the “finest restaurant in the US”. Afterward, we can stroll through Yountville and travel up the Silverado trail toward Mayacamas and a great dinner. Then starlight, conversation and another good night’s rest.
Weds. April 30th : our last day. A relaxing breakfast, packing and our departures to SF International. Remember the Shuttle takes 1 hr and 20 minutes and it takes some time to get to the shuttle in Santa Rosa, so try to book a later flight home.
Brass Tacks: Cost of the adventure is $999, per person, for a double room or $1695 for a single room. If you book with a friend, the cost is $899 per person. The cost pays for all your hotel rooms in Sonoma and Mayacamas, all meals in Mayacamas and breakfast in Sonomaand all ground transportation in Sonoma and Napa valleys.
This is going to be an exceptional trip, in an exceptional place, with exceptional women. We can’t wait to be with all of you.
A $200 (non-refundable) deposit will hold your space; the balance will be due, March 18th, check only, please. Please email or give us a call (406-227-1235) to reserve your space and send your $200 deposit to:
PO Box 73
Helena, MT 59624
Allow Life to unfold in the most gentle of ways.
Yoga Basics: Dancing Lotus Center:
Thursday and Thursdays, 4 – 5 PM
First snow on Mount Edith and Mount Baldy, welcome Fall. The new fall schedule is in place, the berries picked and the down comforter is back on the bed. Ahhhh, Autumn. I invite you to stop a moment, see the clear sky after the rain, smell the fecund Earth and breathe in the season. Deep, long inhales and lingering, soft exhales. Why rush?