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I recently saw a TV commercial featuring a man doing yoga with a goat on his back, which got me wondering if such a thing really exists. A search of the Internet revealed that not only is it a real thing, people all over the country are lining up to do it. One woman’s Oregon goat yoga class has a waiting list of 1,200!
For months, I’ve been wanting to get into yoga again, mainly at the behest of my mother, Lillian Barnes. Mom is very much enjoying being a student of the practice at Friendship Village. I’m not certain I want a goat on my back during my downward facing dog, but the city of Schaumburg and nearby towns have multiple yoga studios, so I have plenty of opportunities.
Along with goats, I happened upon some other interesting concepts making their way into yoga these days. There’s beer yoga, in which an ice-cold beer is incorporated into vinyasa movements (sign me up!); dog yoga, where doggie and yogi are one on the mat; antigravity yoga, which involves a hammock to stretch the spine; and boxing yoga, which alters traditional yoga poses to relate to boxing moves.
While these contemporary additions to the ancient practice of yoga – it began in northern India over 5,000 years ago – are decidedly fun and funky, they don’t detract from the fact that yoga is hugely beneficial, especially for older adults.
I read that physically, yoga improves strength and muscle tone without the strain as well as flexibility, cardiovascular and respiratory health. It also releases toxins, reduces stress, and improves the immune system by fighting off bacteria and viruses and stimulating the “rest and digest” nervous system (the opposite of the “fight or flight” response).
Mentally, yoga sharpens focus and concentration and also decreases anxiety. Emotionally, its positive, non-competitive nature boosts self-acceptance and self-compassion; there’s even a saying: “Yoga is a practice, not a perfect.” Spiritually, yoga promotes a feeling of unity with self and the universe and helps us discover our “true essence.”
I was so excited to share all this with Mom, I called her for a second time in one day. She’s usually impossible to reach because she’s so busy with all her friends and activities at Friendship Village, but I was able to catch her at a rare free moment. As I was rattling off what I’d learned, she gently interrupted me to say that Friendship Village fitness specialist Julie Hubbard had already educated residents in the enormous benefits of yoga.
“Julie often tells us what a valuable form of exercise yoga is, reaching beyond the physical and tapping into the spiritual and emotional as well. She’s always reinforcing the goals of the fitness center: to develop the seven dimensions of wellness,” said Mom. I asked her what those seven dimensions are.
“Is this a test?” she said, then laughed. “It’s hard to live here and not know what they are. We work on them all the time: physical; emotional; intellectual; social; spiritual; environmental; and occupational.”
Pause. “Well, Maddie, I hate to cut you, but it’s time for my Tai Chi class.”