Jana Long’s top six tips for leading a class with adults over 60.
Give a warm welcome
Organize a free “meet and greet” before you start a class. I often emphasize how yoga for older people provides a great opportunity to socialize with peers at a time in their lives that might feel isolating. Many older people are first-time yoga practitioners, so share information, demonstrate some foundational postures, and allow time for a Q&A.
One of the biggest barriers to older people participating in yoga classes is their trepidation about not being able to “keep up.” Sequence postures and transitions logically from standing to kneeling to sitting to reclining, rather than arbitrarily moving from standing to floor postures.
The pace of classes is important. Slow transitions and pauses between postures will allow students to have moments to experience bodily sensations. This opens them to an interoceptive experience of the breath and body. This is one of the fundamental aspects of self-realization, which is why we practice yoga.
Encouragement is key. I help people in class rethink their language. The words “can’t” and “try” are eliminated. The mere suggestion of a new posture might raise resistance and a lot of grumbling. Rather than declaring that they can’t do a posture, or they are trying to do it, encourage them to know and accept their limitations and to follow their intuition.
Project your voice without overdoing it
Hearing declines in many older people. Invite anyone who has that challenge to come closer to you, or move around the room as you instruct the class. Please do not infantilize your speech; seniors do not like to be talked to like they are children!
Nicole Cardoza is making the world a little bit nicer by bringing yoga to kids in schools and altering the face of wellness.
Imagine if all playground disputes were dissolved by group meditation and breath work. What if students could coach themselves and others through the stress of a big test with mindfulness techniques? How many fewer road-rage incidents and hostile Twitter rants would there be if elementary schools gave kids the tools to manage their emotions—to be kinder, wiser, more mindful, well-adjusted people—from the start?
That’s the environment Nicole Cardoza is cultivating through her nonprofit Yoga Foster, bringing yoga into elementary schools by offering teachers the training, lesson plans, and resources they need to practice with their students—many of whom come from low-income families and struggle with grown-up problems like hunger and sleep deprivation. “Yoga is a practice of self-inquiry,” Cardoza says. “And that’s not something that’s often taught to children or in schools.” But hopefully that will change. In just five years, more than 60,000 students in 2,500 classrooms across the United States have benefited from Yoga Foster—improving flexibility, strength, coordination, and concentration, and instilling a sense of calmness and relaxation.
“I love the idea of making yoga equitable and accessible from the get-go,” says the 30-year-old social entrepreneur, “so it isn’t introduced to future generations as something exclusive that comes with privilege—something that only certain people with certain bodies and financial capacities are able to practice.” Kids who take up yoga are much more wellness-conscious as they grow, she says: “They can then continue to advocate to make sure the practice remains as accessible as it was when they were in school and they did it between recess and reading in the …
These yoga teachers are using their platforms to give back to the community in necessary and inspiring ways.
The yoga community has no shortage of selfless souls dedicated to doing good work—after all, being of service is what yoga’s all about. And while we’re the first to throw appreciation toward the stellar work being done by the Giveback Yoga Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, and the Yoga Service Council, we’re here cheering on the underdogs, too. Here are six up-and-coming yoga-teacher founded organizations that are on our radar—and we think should be on yours, too.
1. Desmond’s Friends
Yoga teacher Megan Vandyke created Desmond’s Friends after losing her son just two hours after giving birth. The fundraiser initially set out to raise enough money to donate another CuddleCot—a cooling system that allowed Desmond to remain with Vandyke and her husband in the hospital for three days rather than immediately being taken to a mortuary—to their local hospital in Murfreesboro Tennessee. “In the US, there are more than 23,000 infant deaths a year—about 6 out of every 1,000 live births, which does not even account for stillbirths,” Vandyke wrote on her GoFundMe page. “[The Cuddle Cot] is about giving parents choices and reassuring them that they can spend time with their baby.” Since reaching their goal for the first Cuddle Cot in July, the couple have set out to establish an official nonprofit to continue their work helping other parents facing heartbreaking loss.
2. Embody Love Movement
Motivated to empower girls and women to love themselves and evoke positive change in the world, the Embody Love Movement spearheads initiatives such as awareness campaigns for school kids that support positive self-talk and non-judgmental attitudes, self-love transformational workshops to teardown media-perpetuated myths and bolster self-worth and purpose, and a summer camp where …
Transformation Yoga Project leads trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness classes in Philadelphia addiction treatment centers and prisons.
In 2009, Mike Huggins pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the off-label promotion of a medical device at a division of the company he worked for. As he awaited sentencing, he turned to his yoga practice—which he’d started years earlier—to mentally prepare for prison. He attended a workshop held by the nonprofit Street Yoga, which teaches trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness practices to youth. “The idea of yoga for trauma was a game-changer for me,” he says. By the end of 2011, when a judge sentenced him to nine months, he was a certified yoga teacher with a new mindset. “I was committed to using prison as an opportunity to explore yoga off the mat,” he says.
At the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia where Huggins was first incarcerated, inmates were periodically allowed to leave their cells and spend time in a common area, where some chose to work out. During those times, Huggins did yoga. Other men noticed and asked him to teach them. That led to guided meditations and talks about violence and the men’s anger, frustration, and shame over the crimes they’d committed.
Inspired by how quickly a yoga community formed, Huggins continued teaching yoga to inmates after being transferred to a minimum-security prison five weeks later. “After our practice, we’d discuss the techniques and tools, such as breathwork and meditation, that could support us in living a full life while incarcerated and navigating the challenges of the reentry process,” he says. He also trained five men to continue his work after his release in 2012.
There are new standards for registered yoga schools and teachers. Learn what’s changing.
Yoga Alliance updated its requirements for 200-houryoga teacher trainings today, marking the first comprehensive overhaul of its standards for yoga schools and teachers since the organization’s inception in 1999. The updates, which go into effect after February 1, 2020, include mandatory tests for students, required completion of an online course on equity in yoga, and more training and years spent teaching to qualify as a lead trainer.
“We heard loud and clear from the community that people are ready for Yoga Alliance to do the work necessary to up-level and then uphold the standards that underlie the credential,” says Shannon Roche, president and CEO of Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Foundation. “We wanted to make the credential mean more but not overstep into a space the community is not ready for us to go.”
Yoga Alliance is also dropping the terms “contact” (with a faculty member) and “non-contact” hours (not in the presence of a faculty member) and instead making all 200 hours in classroom and tied to a newly defined core curriculum. The organization is also allowing up to 40 of those hours to be completed online in a virtual classroom. The remaining 160 hours must be in-person.
While these changes target the 200-hour registered yoga schools (RYS 200) and 200-hour registered yoga teachers (RYT 200), expect future updates to the 300-hour and 500-hour trainings to be announced in June 2020, according to Yoga Alliance.
The veteran vinyasa teacher offers advice for all yogis and a sage reminder for instructors.
During their stay in San Francisco, Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt couldn’t resist swinging by Love Story Yoga for a practice and chat with co-founder and vinyasa teacher Stephanie Snyder. With more than 20 years of teaching experience, Stephanie shared her sage advice for modern yoga practitioners and instructors.
Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today. Follow the tour and get the latest stories @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.
We have a lot to gain from this ancient practice, but we also risk losing sight of, and appropriating, the culture and tradition yoga comes from.
From self-realization centers and asana apps to T-shirts featuring Ganesh or puns on namaste, the Western world is full of yoga consumerism. We have a lot to gain from this ancient practice, but we also risk losing sight of, and appropriating, the culture and tradition yoga comes from. Here, five teachers, researchers, scholars, and activists weigh in on modern yoga and how we might practice and teach with more integrity and respect. The answers—and even the questions—aren’t always straightforward or easy, but as Honor (Don’t Appropriate) Yoga Summit creator Susanna Barkataki advises, lean in: “As you read the stories that follow, you may experience many emotions. You’ll hear various powerful perspectives from folks with Indian heritage and the impacts these issues have on their lives, families, culture, practice, pasts, and futures. Read these stories with an open heart and mind. Your yoga practice has prepared you for this by teaching you how to hold tension, breathe, and then break through. As you read, pay attention to your breath, body, and heart.” Then keep reading for suggestions on how we can address these issues together.
On our path to healing, we can seek to practice without as much appropriation. Here’s how.
I see you. You’ve experienced deep personal, emotional, physical, and even spiritual benefits from your yoga practice. It’s a profound gift for your life and you want to share it with others. You want to explore more deeply. Perhaps even visit the source of these wisdom teachings.
I get it. After all, the yoga you’ve experienced up until now has brought you so much good. So how can any of this be causing harm, you wonder?
Self-reflection is critical for us as yogis. Part of our practice is to be willing to practice svadhyaya, or self-study.
As we explore deeper, sometimes complexities are unearthed in our path of practice. The topic of cultural appropriation is one such complexity. As practitioners, we can pause and reflect, and instead of turning away, we can lean in. Inquiring is a great beginning.
We need to be brave enough to do our yoga and see satya in this context—the truth of our power and position—and then apply the very first of the yamas, ahimsa, or non-harming, to our role in how the context of yoga is taught and portrayed. This will help us reduce the harm. For example, if we mostly see a certain type of person practicing yoga at our studio, we can go out of our way to frequent studios or events put on by folks who are different from that norm. We can attend classes taught by South Asian teachers and invite them in as experts to uplift vital voices who are often left out. On our path to healing, we can seek to practice without as much appropriation. Here’s how: