Yoga for Seniors

December 1, 2011 by · Comments Off 


By Katie Simpson

Bryan Robbins, 65, might not fit the mold for the typical yoga goer but that’s what makes him so unique. As coach of the SMU diving team, Robbins started teaching yoga to his swimmers in 1971 because it was important for their flexibility and overall mindset.

“I’ve been doing yoga since 1969 and I practice five times a week, that has been consistent for over 40 years,” said Robbins, who is retired but still teaches yoga classes part-time at SMU.

Robbins is not alone in his quest for good health and wellbeing. While some may think yoga is only for the young and lithe, a 2008 study by Yoga Journal found that an estimated 15.8 million Americans practice yoga, and of those nearly 20 percent are over 55. Seniors all over Dallas have been jumping onboard, practicing yoga in their homes, churches, retirement communities and assisted living facilities.

Yoga has been around for more than 5000 years and experts agree that no matter how old you are it provides many benefits, both mentally and physically. However, as you age, older people struggle with issues that may not be relevant to a younger population, and practicing yoga may help prevent or even reverse certain diseases.
“You can’t ever stop aging, but with regular exercise and proper nutrition you can delay the progression,” says Kerry Stallo, CEO of Age Intercept, a Dallas company that specializes in fitness for people over 50.

Stallo, who has been taking yoga for 13 years, says she started focusing on senior fitness when she noticed a niche in the market.

When Stallo would visit her mother in the hospital, she saw many middle-aged people who were also there, getting treated for things like high blood pressure and diabetes.

“When I went to the hospital I noticed there were many people who didn’t need to be there,” said Stallo.

Yoga is highly recognized for its physical benefits, which include increasing flexibility and strengthening muscles.

“As you age you have a tendency to loss muscle mass and flexibility, so the older you get the more you have to keep moving,” said Robbins.

Janet Hennard, 65, also an avid yogi, started taking classes in 1977. Today she teaches lessons to seniors, which she refers to as “Gentle Yoga”, every Tuesday at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Richardson.

Hennard says one of the most important aspects of yoga is that it helps a person’s balance, which can create a lot of stress and strain on the body if not taken care of.

“Increasing your balance is so important as you age because it helps to prevent falls among seniors,” says Hennard.

Experts say yoga can also help lower high blood pressure, reduce overall joint pain, improve posture, and prevent and even reverse osteoporosis. Along with the physical benefits, yoga can also be mentally valuable by helping people relax and calm down.

“I think the stress of today’s world is a major reason why people take yoga, just to get away and unwind,” says Robbins.

“Yoga is about a connection between your mind, body and spirit. It allows someone to be at peace with the troubles in their life,” says Hennard.

Indra Kaur, 61, who has been practicing yoga for 15 years, says not only does it set her mood for the day but it also makes her feel emotionally balanced.

Kaur’s initial interest in the art began when she was living and working in Southeast Asia.
“Down there yoga is a part of your lifestyle, it’s incorporated into every part of what you do during the day,” said Kaur, who now lives in Denton.

Not only does Kaur practice yoga seven days a week, starting every morning with a personal session, but she also teaches three group classes and 11 private lessons each week.

“I have students as old as 84 years old and trust me, they are darn good yogis,” says Kaur.

Another reason why so many seniors seem to enjoy yoga is that it can be self-paced and you can adjust the intensity level to where you feel comfortable.

“Yoga is not a no pain, no gain type of exercise,” says Hennard.

While some people pay up to $140 per month for a membership to a yoga studio, experts say it is just as easy to practice at home for very little cost. All you need is a mat and a DVD.

“Yoga is just wonderful, it makes me feel energized and relaxed at the same time,” says Hennard.

VIDEO: Is Yoga Straying Too Far From its Origins?

May 6, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Wesleigh Ogle

Hot yoga, prenatal yoga, laughing yoga, even mouth yoga. Some Hindus are concerned that this ancient religious practice is straying too far from its origins.

Yoga is a Sanskrit term meaning, “to unite” the body with the mind, or the individual with the godhead. However, modern yoga is transforming into something different.

“It’s the time of the day when I can take all of my focus and take it from the outside and put it on myself,” said yoga student Lauren Mishoe.

Yoga became a secular workout in the 19th century when British presence in India put an emphasis on strong, vigorous bodies.

“Yoga transformed itself in the popular consciousness as being a practice of health and well being, and started to become in that way less religious,” said SMU religious studies professor Steven Lindquist.

Although both forms share values of healthier bodies and minds, they differ in their end goals. Westerners seek reduced stress, flexibility and muscle strength, while Hindus are looking for ultimate realization.

“It’s a way to get closer to God, it’s a way to understand your position in the universe,” said Lindquist.

However, some Hindus are concerned that modern yoga is straying too far from its traditional form.

“For some, it’s an issue of cultural pride, it’s an issue of maintaining their cultural heritage,” said Lindquist.

But secular yoga students, like Lauren, don’t see it that way.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem, I think it’s a different kind of experience. I’m not a very spiritual person, so, for me, this is a different kind of spirituality,” she said.

“I think we’ve come a long way as far as knowing what exercises are good for your body. I think that I can create stuff that’s good or better than it was done a hundred years ago,” said yoga instructor Bryan Robbins.

Some Hindus are also concerned about charging a fee for yoga, because they say spirituality should not be sold. But Lindquist says it’s not a problem unless the motivation is solely profit and greed.

SHIFT Magazine: One Humble Yogi

April 22, 2011 by · Comments Off 


by Danielle Barrios

It is late Thursday afternoon. As the sun sets, cars, bikes and casual walkers enter the parking lot of Karmany Yoga. The small studio is conveniently settled on McKinney Avenue only a block away from the Katy Trail on the second floor of a building facing away from Highway 75. Karmany’s studio looks a lot smaller from the outside. Students gather outside and after a swift stride up the outside set of stairs to the studio door, the studio’s neutral wall color adds an inviting ambiance with burst of natural light enters through the front large window.

Karmany Yoga was founded by owner, Deanna Anderson. But Karmany was not a part of her life plan. For college, Deanna attended New York University to study Physics, Philosophy, and Mathematics. Then, in 1994, she discovered something that would change her life for the next 17 years: yoga.

“I was living in New York City and there were yoga classes at my gym on Madison Avenue,” said Anderson as she sipped on her latte outside of Dallas local hot spot The Pearl Cup. Next to Deanna’s small frame and dimpled smile sat her purse, a small clutch entirely made out of recycled bottle caps.

Deanna experienced a humble beginning inside the Yoga world. “I gradually figured out what teachers that I liked and I started fitting it into my schedule. It started out as a backburner kind of thing,” says Deanna. “She’s always so modest. It’s charming,” says longtime student Gillea Allison who enjoys Deanna’s classes several times a week.

Before Yoga, Deanna enjoyed a demanding but exciting career as a fashion editor in New York City. But soon, yoga became more than just a casual class taken at the gym. Then finally, in 2001, Deanna finally received a basic yoga certification and began teaching in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. From then on, Deanna’s passion for her craft became quite clear and it soon was reflected in her teaching style and classroom environment.

Today, over 11 million Americans practice yoga as a form of meditation and physical exercise that has been in existence for over 5,000 years. And Deanna’s classmates constantly benefit from Yoga’s abundant gifts. Class began that Thursday afternoon as Deanna’s eclectic play list set the tone. The Shins played through the studio’s speakers as the laid-back classroom environment and an overall feel-good vibe resonated off the walls.

As one of the first donation-based studios in Texas, Deanna’s studio is unique compared to other Dallas studios. Karmany is “founded on the principle that yoga should be available to anyone, regardless of financial means or skill level.”

Deanna is quick to point out that Karmany’s donation philosophy does not mean free yoga. Donation-based means there are no set fees for regular classes or a lengthy membership registration. Karmany’s website clears up a lot of the gray-areas with a recommended fee structure. One class a week is $15 a class, two classes a week is approximately $12 a week and so on. “We ask only that you contribute what you can. In the yogic sense of karma, as we are giving a gift, it is our hope that you will give back,” says the Karmany mission statement.

“I had no desire to start a studio. I hated the idea of being tied down,” says Deanna, who sees herself more as a performance artist. “The idea of running a studio and being in an administrative position was not my cup of tea at all.”

But now, Karmany has built quite a name for itself in Dallas and was voted Best Yoga in Dallas according to D Magazine.

Deanna admits that Yoga is not for everyone, but it’s certainly not elite which is part of the reason why Karmany is a donation-based studio. “Traditionally, before you embark on a spiritual path, you have to have your basic needs met. You need to have shelter and food and clothing and that you can be a contributing member of society because if you haven’t got that kind of stuff in order, it is very difficult to open up to a path of service.”

Deanna is confident in her craft. “There’s something for everybody. Yoga can be athletically intensive or spiritually.” She explains, “there’s really gentle practices and really vigorous practices- some practices are hard because you have to be really still and some practices are just more athletic.” Even Deanna’s student, Gillea Allison, is in the process of getting her instructor certification. Thanks to Deanna, Yoga is becoming a large part of Gillea’s life as well.

Every yoga style is different. “You can’t make a sweeping generalization and say that one is superior. It’s really just what one person relates to the most and what works best for them.”
Even though Deanna believes there is no such thing as a skilled class, “a skilled teacher should be able to have a lot of things going on in the same class,” says Deanna. “I’ve had students develop really quickly in three to six months where they can start doing arm balances.”

Deanna’s classroom is a colorful combination of all levels. “The tight guys that were really into lifting weights, they have the endurance but they struggle with flexibility and balance,” she says. For student Whitney Bartels, who has been attending Deanna’s classes for little over six months now, she has definitely has experienced physical improvement.

“I can have an experienced or an advanced student doing the crazy Cirque du Soleil stuff in the corner and then have someone who has a herniated disk on the other side of the room doing something therapeutic- it depends on the student and how patient they are,” says Deanna.

About 9 and a half years ago after her teachers encouraged their students to write and share various kinds of philosophy on a regular basis to gain inspiration from various topics, Deanna started She occasionally adds an article or two each week. This week, she added a risotto recipe with uncooked, raw rice and truffle oil for raw food enthusiasts. Deanna does admit the raw food lifestyle is “time consuming and very preparation intensive. But, I love raw food and definitely still make a lot of raw food.”

Along with her diet, mentality, and overall positive energy, Deanna’s daily regime involves deep meditation inside and outside of the classroom to establish her journey as a Yoga instructor. As class ended that Thursday afternoon, a physically exhausted but refreshed class said “namaste.” in unison.

Deanna eats, lives, and breathes Yoga. “If you can’t embody what you’re talking about, then no one is going to believe you. You really have to walk the walk and talk the talk.” And Deanna definitely does.

The Daily Update: Tuesday, April 19

April 19, 2011 by · Comments Off 

A 23-year-old exchange student is dead after being attacked in her dorm room. Her boyfriend witnessed it all via webcam. Wildfires continue to spread across Texas, and religious leaders are furious over Lady Gaga’s new single. All this and more on your Daily Update.

Campus News Blog: Is It OK for Christians to Practice Yoga?

October 23, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Posted by Caroline Arbaugh

Troubling many with a recent column condemning the practice of yoga by Christians, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler, is receiving sharp reactions.

Mohler’s article was a response to Stefanie Syman’s book, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, which discusses the common act of Americans adapting and secularizing yoga.

Mohler states that any Christian who practices yoga is embracing, or at least flirting with, a spiritual practice that is in opposition to Christian theology.

Specifically, Mohler writes that any Christians taking part in yoga “threaten to transform their own spiritual lives into a ‘post-Christian, spiritually polyglot’ reality. Should any Christian willingly risk that?”

But many people fiercely disagree with Mohler’s logic. Some believe that throughout history churches have often found ways to incorporate cultural practices into the community of faith (Does the picking of December 25 as the date of Christ’s birth for practical reasons ring any bells?).

Others also say that the Bible regards the body as a necessary piece of the puzzle for worshiping; and therefore basic yoga is not in opposition to Christian spirituality at all.

But what do you think? Does the practice of yoga conflict with Christian beliefs? Have Americans commercialized and transformed the practice of yoga into something secular?

VIDEO: World Record Breaking Yoga

October 16, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Andy Garcia

Lisa Jaya Waters broke the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous yoga at TEDxSMU on Saturday, Oct. 16.

Waters world breaking feat was an effort to raise awareness for the charity Baal Dan and their mission to help improvised children in India.

After breaking the record Waters continued with her yoga in order to beat the record time for the women’s longest continuous yoga. Due to the rules of the Guinness World Records, Waters second record will not be added to the book.

Waters on the verge of breaking the world record for the longest continuous yoga:

VIDEO: Interview with Lisa Jaya Waters from on Vimeo.

Waters breaks the record the world record for the longest continuous yoga:

VIDEO: Lisa Jaya Waters Breaks Yoga Record from on Vimeo.

The Daily Update: Wednesday, March 24

March 24, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Read more