For our three-part series on yoga, we were happy to spend time with Jaclyn R. Kryzak and Blanca Alcaraz, the Co-Founders of be. in Union Yoga in Somerville. Jaclyn and Blanca broadened our understanding of how yoga can improve our overall mental and physical health…
What do you tell women who are over 60, who may or may not have done yoga before?
The premise of yoga is mobility – of the mind and body. Our physical health is what keeps up here, and our mental health is closely tied to our physical health. We have to maintain our bodies throughout the rest of our days. Consider yoga less for the sake of physical exercise, and more to support whatever it is you love doing, and want to do the rest of your life.
What we love about yoga is that regardless of your age or physical condition, there’s a pose for every body – young, aging, in pain, with no pain. It’s so beautiful, because it has so many modifications and variations. Your practice will never look like anyone else’s. It’s a uniqueness you celebrate.
We understand why yoga is intimidating for someone who’s never practiced. Often when we see yoga in the media it gives people a false sense of what yoga really is. It’s not about being a contortionist and doing pretzel position. It’s really about healing and taking care of this body we have so we can reduce pains and aches.
If you start with a solid foundation you’ll surprise yourself every single day. You can focus on your joint health to improve stability and range of motion, and your cardiovascular health. It’s not necessarily that you’re running and getting up your heart rate, but obviously everything starts with the breath – including triggering your parasympathetic nervous system, which counterbalances our body’s stress response. Yoga helps us maintain a better calm, especially through these last several months, and for anything else that might come up.
The other piece of what we do is teach empowerment through yoga. Our students aged 60 and up will tell you that yoga empowers you to accept yourself as you are, in every moment – and not just your physical body, but your emotional state. It’s a way to help you feel really strong and connected in your body. It’s a grounding and empowering practice, which is very healing.
What benefits can a woman 60+ get from yoga?
Yoga gives you such beautiful mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity. And, the more you practice, the more you get to really go beyond what you thought was possible.
Jackie’s grandmother could still stand on her head in yoga practice at the age of 100! She never stopped moving and was physically active until her passing at 105. Jackie’s mother is a “spring chicken” at 76. She relies on yoga to support her mental and physical health and mobility.
People face life changes, and you kind of reinvent yourself over and over as you age. There’s no better reason to start the practice in your 60s. It can be a whole new beginning. Yoga is incredibly beneficial because it helps you focus on you, and it helps you take this next part of your life by storm!
For example, with older women who are having joint replacements, we do three to six months pre-op, and three to six months post-op. They come out of surgery feeling like they can conquer the world. Yoga really is a game changer. You see the light in their eyes, you see someone coming alive again and feeling like they can conquer the world.
How can someone who does yoga at home prepare a space and block distractions?
Well, this is the beautiful thing about yoga – you can take it with you! You just need enough room to extend your arms and do a full circle. Find a small, quiet space in your home or a shaded place outside. Even if you start the class seated in a chair, you can modify most of the poses in a seated position.
You also don’t need to invest in any crazy equipment; people have been doing yoga for thousands of years without any. We tend to use things like yoga mats, blocks and bolsters and straps, but you can use sofa or chair cushions and old t-shirts or belts. You just need something to comfortably support your shoulders and your head. And be sure not to wear socks on a hardwood floor, so you don’t slip.
For women 60+ who haven’t tried yoga, we recommend looking for a foundation or beginner class. These classes move slower, and provide instruction on how to move through the poses safety.
In addition to by-appointment and outdoor classes, be.in Union Yoga offers nearly 50 different 20- and 30-minute classes on YouTube. They have classes for every level of practice, from beginner to advanced.
be. in union Yoga, 440 Somerville Ave, Somerville, 617.623.9642, www.beinunion.com