By Linda Brown
My name is Linda Brown. I am 62 years old and began practicing Yoga in 2004. I have continued my Yoga Journey of ‘self-teaching’ knowing that each of us is a Yoga teacher because we always have ourselves as a student. I have studied Yoga under the guidance of six different teachers since 2004. My mentor has been Judith Lasater, PhD P.T. Her book titled “30 Essential Yoga Poses for Beginning Students and Teachers” has inspired me. Her compassionate presentation of the ethical responsibilities in the student-teacher relationship gives me a goal to work toward. Her guidance in composing Mantras has enabled me to design from my Yoga heart and mind, beautiful Mantras to enable the student to enter a state of ease while in mediation or any moment throughout the day.
I have studied and learned from Yoga manuals, DVDs and CDs all of which have helped me further my studies on Yoga. This past February 2011, I spent two weeks at a Yoga Retreat in Key West. I learned new poses and a newfound awakening to the benefits of practicing Yoga outside both during the day and in the evening. How magnificent it was to begin a Yoga practice on the beach, while the sun was setting, surrounded by candles placed in the sand, then ending our practice by moonlight meditating to the sound of the soft waves caressing the shoreline. From a women’s heart, I can say that Yoga is a lovely life-long journey to be on.
When asked what Yoga means to me I can say: “Yoga means renewal of my mind and body. It also means removal. Removal of monkey chatter, built up stress, lost memory of muscle flexibility, and removal of the tension that blocks the energy inside of me. My yoga journey brings me happiness, profound peace and new found mental and physical strength. Yoga means discovering my sacred life force within, and opening up to the bright emotions of love and joy through meditation. Yoga means I have something to honor and respect. My Goddess within.”
In 2009, my husband and I moved to Colonial Heritage, an active adult community in Williamsburg, Virginia. This was a life-changing experience. Little did I know that there would be another life-changing experience to top the first. I had a yearning and a sense that I wanted to teach Yoga to my new found community family.
I asked for and received permission to post a sign in the fitness center announcing that there would be a Complimentary Gentle Yoga class offered the following week for active seniors 55 or better. The day arrived and the fitness center filled to capacity. I had to post a sign outside the door stating that I would seek to find a larger room. During the following month we went on to fill an even bigger room and subsequently was granted permission to take over the Clubhouse Ballroom every Monday afternoon. I celebrated my first year teaching Gentle HathaYoga on June 14, 2011.
Among the 64 students, who have participated, I have some who have survived cancer, back and shoulder operations, hip replacements and some who have Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. As I observe these beautiful and amazing men and women, in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth decade of their lives attempting the Yoga poses, I am humbled and pleased to see their steady improvements in strength and balance.
It gives me tremendous joy to teach them meditative Mantras to help clear their minds and declare an intention. I see their serene faces as they sit in the Lotus Pose with eyes closed and I know beyond words that they have made the connection between mind and body. Some of their favorites Mantras are:
• “The resting place of my mind is in my heart.”
• “The way I do my Yoga is the way I do my life.”
• “Today I will practice gratefulness.”
• “The harder a thing is, the more it requires my softness.”
• “Today I will let my senses dance upon life.”
At this time in my Gentle Hatha Yoga Class, there are 52 poses that I teach, including modifications where necessary for seniors.
Poses for Beginning Your Yoga Practice
Modification to sequence 4: Coming out of the forward bend, bend right knee to earth extending left leg behind (instead of aggressive lunge). Sequence 7 becomes Baby Cobra, lifting only from lumbar spine, rising chin slightly, keeping focal point on the earth (instead of Full Cobra using upper body strength).
1. Lotus in Mudra Pose for Knowledge and Ability
2. Wrist Bend
3. Spine Massage
4/5. Tailor Pose 1 & 2
6. Cobbler Pose
7. Happy Baby Pose
8. Pigeon Pose
9. Dove Pose
10. Dog/Cat Tilt
11. Table Pose
12. Balancing Table
13. Downward Facing Dog
15. Cobra Pose
The Middle of Your Yoga Practice
16. Chair Pose
18/19. Reed/Deep Breathing
Modification to Eaglet/Eagle: After crossing foot in front of opposite leg, rest big toe on the earth, then sit in pose.
22. Balancing “T”
23. Tree 33. Triangle Forward Bend
24. Standing Heart Opener
25. Extended Hero
27. Warrior in Supplication
28. Exalted Warrior
29. Warrior 2
30/31. Triangle 1 & 2
32. Standing “A” Head to Knee
33. Triangle Forward Bend
34. Prayer Twist
Modification to Prayer Twist: After bending knee, release hands from Prayer Pose to the earth, coming down to kneeling from the bent knee, return hands to the Prayer Pose and proceed with the Prayer Twist looking straight ahead instead of up to the ceiling.
35. Downward Facing Dog
36. The Plank
Modification to Plank: Bend knees to rest on the earth. Begin lowering hips down to straighten the spine as you hold the upper body up with strong straight arms, palms pressing into the earth.
Ending your Practice
38/39. Shoulder Stand/Plow
Modification to Shoulder Stand/Plow: I advise students with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or vertebrae issues not to attempt these poses.
40. Half Boat
41. Boat Pose
42. Bridge Pose
43/44. Spine Twist 1 & 2
Modification to Rabbit: I advise students with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or vertebrae issues not to attempt this pose.
47. Frog Pose
48. Sava Asana
49. Lotus in Passive Pose
Modification to Lotus in Passive Pose: Wrists rest on the knees. Fingers relaxed, and folded down towards the earth. Students close their eyes for meditation. I encourage students to give up any residual tension or sadness; mental, emotional or physical; allowing this tension/sadness to flow down their arms and drip to the earth from their fingertips. I tell them that the earth will absorb all. Then I softly repeat the word: ‘drip’, ‘drip’…for a moment. From here we move to the Moodra Pose to seal in all the goodness our Yoga practice gives us and to seal in the love and respect we have for each other.
50. Moodra Pose
51. Namaste Pose
Each week I receive comments after the class or in e-mails telling me how grateful they are for Yoga in their lives. Some have reported to me that their doctors were impressed with improvements in their overall health due to their Yoga practice. How Awesome!
I tell my students that Yoga teaches us to live in a state of ease and quiet strength and then to someday die with grace and dignity. I teach them about the four essentials of yoga: Breathing, balance, strength building and meditation. I also tell them that the stepping stones on their life-long Yoga journey are strength, resilience, honor, and courage. Grace, surrender, gratefulness and generosity.
In May 2011, I made a decision that I wanted to become the best Yoga teacher, for senior citizens, that I could be. I want to be able to take good care of these amazing people as the trust bonds are already forming. 64 individuals so far have taken that first step on their Yoga Journey. I decided that the best certification program for me was with the Aura Wellness Center under the leadership of Dr. Paul M. Jerard and his son Paul M. Jerard III.
I will complete my training for certification shortly and I will admit that when the study material arrived I was overwhelmed and felt a huge challenge loomed ahead of me. However, at the end of each day of study, I feel more confident and look forward to learning more and sharing more.
I wish to thank Paul M. Jerard, Jr. at the Aura Wellness Center, for giving me his undivided attention during the first phone call concerning Yoga Certification Training. His gentle and reassuring responses to my numerous questions confirmed in my heart that I had made the right decision. But most importantly, I want to express my love and gratitude to each of the wonderful people whom I have welcomed to Yoga. They have changed my life. This is my chance to ‘give back’ through Yoga.
Namaste, Linda Brown