Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Silver Age Yoga Aims To Improve SD Seniors Health And Well-being

Silver Age Yoga Aims To Improve SD Seniors Health And Well-being
How do you, or your older family members keep fit? Do you think there should be more fitness programs geared toward seniors?
Silver Age Yoga offers classes specifically designed for seniors. This audio slideshow, produced by Take Part, features students attending a Silver Yoga class at San Diego Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired.

Keeping fit, healthy, agile and connected to life is crucial for people of any age, but most especially senior citizens. Unfortunately, many fitness programs are designed for young people. A senior just starting out in the practice of yoga, for instance, may be daunted by not having the flexibility for many of the positions.

And so, enter Silver Age Yoga it's a program that helps senior San Diegans, including those with vision impairments - improve their health and flexibility.


Frank Iszak, Founder, Silver Age Yoga

Maria Mazzi teaches yoga for Silver Age Yoga

Audrey Lutz, vision-impaired yoga student

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. Keeping fit, headlight, agile, and connected to life is crucial for people of any age. But most especially senior citizens. Unfortunately, many fitness programs are designed for young people. A senior just starting out in the practice of yoga, for instance, may be daunted by not having the flexibility for many of the positions. So enter silver age yoga. It's a program that helps senior San Diegans, including those with vision impairments improve their health and flexibility. I'd like to introduce my guests, frank Isaac is founder of silver age yoga. Good morning, Frank.

ISAAC: Good morning Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Maria is here, she's an instructor here at sill vary age yoga. Good morning.

MARIA: Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Audrey Lutz is on the line with us, she's a student, a practitioner of silver aimed yoga. Good morning, Audrey.

LUTZ: Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Now, we'd like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. How do you or your family members keep fit? Do you think there should be more fitness programs geared toward seniors? Give us a call with your questions and your comments of our number here is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. Audrey, let me start out with you, because you are, as I say, a practitioner, a student of silver age yoga. How long have you been practicing yoga?

LUTZ: Well, I've been with the group that's at Braille since it's begun, which is between 2 and 3†years now, I think am I'll have to ask frank. He knows exactly when. Anyway, I've been there for the whole program. And I had done some yoga before of but a lot of the students that are in my class haven't done any before they came into this class.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Audrey, I understand that you began to lose your sight several years ago.

LUTZ: That's true.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now valuable has your yoga practice been for you?

LUTZ: Oh, of immense value. I really do consider it a gift in my life because it helps me in so many ways.

CAVANAUGH: Tell us how.

LUTZ: Well, let's see. To begin with, it certainly helps my posture, as it does all of our senior citizens need some help with our postures, and it just creates such a serene feeling. During the class, we connect our breath with all our breathing with all our poses, and it's just a wonderful, calm feeling that we get. And it helps me in my everyday life because our teacher gives us ideas to take home with us and use. And I do. I use some of it ever day. Just to get a good start on my day.

CAVANAUGH: Do you think it's keeping you healthy?

LUTZ: Oh, for sure. The posture, as I mentioned, and then I just think I do feel healthier. It gets you more in touch with your body so you notice more what you're eating. You notice more the feelings you have, you know that kind of a feeling.

CAVANAUGH: Now, let me ask frank Isaac, because you, as I say, are the founder of silver age yoga. How do you modify yoga classes to teach seniors?

ISAAC: That's a very good question because we are providing seniors with a kind of yoga that was not available in general before we started this program. When we started the two segments that eventually provided the whole program, one was the yoga teachers had certain years behind them in the practice, the other segment was the scientific community of the geriatric sciences of San Diego, which is very large and very advanced. We teach -- my wife and I, who's a cofounder of sill vary age yoga, we are teaching yoga at the Pacific Atlantic club. And there are a lot of students of ours who are either doctors or involved there and are involved in geriatric sciences. So they volunteer their time to help to shape the program so it can address the specific issues that seniors unfortunately have to deal with.


ISAAC: Like osteoporosis, diabetes, depression, a whole slew of issues that are specifically identifiable with seniors and their health. And the program developed, it took about 2 or 3 -- almost two years to eventually come about a workable program, which is now called silver able yoga. And it's a science and yoga combined.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, Maria, because you are an instructor. Can you describe for us, let's say, a regular yoga position and then how you modify it in silver age yoga?

MARIA: Well, there's for instance, savasana, a -- the relaxation pose where you lay down on the floor, but many seniors cannot lay down on the floor. So we have them sit in the chair. And have them learn how to actually settle in the chair. Many people sit in a chair, and they're holding the chair up with their body, you know? They're so tense.


MARIA: So they're learning to just be in their bodies differently, and with more awareness. There's a --

CAVANAUGH: Do you get the sense that some people are intimidated by the idea of doing yoga because they think they're going to have to sit in the lotus position and they're gonna have to twist their legs around their head and all of that? Is that something that you basically have to tell people that this is not going to happen? We're gonna be able to amend this to what you can do?

MARIA: Yeah. Actually, I think most of the senior who is come to our classes, most of the older adults who come to our classes already have an idea that because it is silver age yoga, they've heard about it, and so they are aware that it's going to be different. It's modified for them, we meet them where they're at. We have training in their different health issues and concerns that we know how to support them and teach them at their level. So frequently, in our classes, we have multilevels going on. We'll have people who can't do, for instance, cat and cow. Get down on their hands and knees, but they can do cat and cow in a chair.


MARIA: Or maybe that's a pose where they have to lift their arms up over their head standing, but they don't feel balanced. So they'll do that sitting in the chair. And then we have other seniors or students who have been practicing for years. And they want a more vigorous routine. So like, for instance, do you happen dog, they can do down dog, and other people who don't feel comfortable putting their hands down on the floor, we have a modified version where they can do that on the chair.

CAVANAUGH: Sure. I want to remind our listeners we're inviting them to become part of this conversation at 1-888-895-5727 if you'd like to share with under the circumstances how you're keeping fit as a senior or how the older members of your family are doing that. 1-888-895-5727. Frank, what is it about yoga in particular that you believe can help seniors maintain their health and will be beneficial to them to start practicing?

ISAAC: Perhaps a small anecdote will answer your question. We were teaching yoga at the saint Michael's church [CHECK AUDIO] very, very recently lost their spouses, mostly. And then they complained about gaining more and more weight, and entering into the stage of obesity because of the depression, because of the sadness and sorrow that drives them to the refrigerator. So we somewhat altered the program to see if we can deliver some kind of help and some kind of relief to that. And in a year which we evaluated a program, which eventually was peer reviewed and published, the average member of the group lost eight and a half pounds. But stunning, more than that, was the fact that when we were asking the question what we believed that contributed to the loss of weight, the answer was unanimously change of attitude.

CAVANAUGH: Ah. And that's what you feel the practice of yoga can do?

ISAAC: That's what the practice of yoga does.

CAVANAUGH: I see. Let's take a call 678 we are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Nana is calling from Clairemont. Good morning, and welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Oh, good morning. I am so glad that you have this program on. I just picked up -- put the radio on, and recently I looked through my Iyengar book for help with sleep. But I think I will revise my question and just come right out and say that the reason I'm concerned about sleep is because I have IBS, which disturbs me during the night. Does the gentleman or the lady whoever happens to be on, have any clues for me?

CAVANAUGH: So what you're asking, is there a particular yoga position or way of practicing that's going to help her sleep through the night? Do you know of anything that you could suggest?

ISAAC: Indeed. I believe that meditation would be the answer before you go to sleep. A lot of rhythmic breathing, a seated position, clearing the mind. Let all the disturbing thoughts that usually under mining you or your sleeplessness, clear the mind. And it could be done by breathing more than anything else. And using that meditative posture. Do it for five minutes before you go to sleep every night, and you will find a difference.

CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, the Iyengar book?

MARIA: Iyengar.

CAVANAUGH: Iyengar. What is that?

MARIA: Mr. Iyengar is a very well known yoga master, teacher who is from India. And it's a style of yoga, hatha yoga, in fact, people say oh, I've studied hatha yoga. And hatha yoga is like the umbrella term. Say, like music, I like music? Well, there's many different styles of music, and there's many different styles of hatha yoga. And Iyengar is one of those styles, as well as is the hot yoga or the hot yoga, or [CHECK AUDIO] or silver age.

CAVANAUGH: Or silver age. Now, frank, when did you start practicing yoga?

ISAAC: 15†years ago.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh. And why in.

ISAAC: I was practicing and teaching martial arts before for over decades and came to an age at 65, I'm now getting to be 80 this year.

CAVANAUGH: Congratulations.

ISAAC: Thank you. And to the point that you have to -- you just get bored and tired, and you're no longer kicking round house kicks, I used to do that at 25, and you slow down. So I decided to change some of it, and it was exactly the time that I'm married to my present wife, who is also the cofounder of yoga, I took her to a yoga class, which was my first yoga class too. And she was kind of reluctant, now she's teaching 3 or 4 classes a day. But for me, it was a transition. It was a total change of my perception of what life is all about, what life as far as physics, as far as spirituality, as far as understanding why or hoping to understand what are we doing on this planet, it's a transformation. Yoga to me is a communication with me who I found to be different than it used to be.

CAVANAUGH: A mind body transformation.

ISAAC: Mind body transformation, yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take another call. Heather is calling us from lake side. Good morning, heather, welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, good morning, thank you for taking my call. I've got an question year-old grandmother who is combination of wheel chair and walker dependent at the moment. And I do yoga every morning, and I think that she would enjoy it, except that she is so self conscious about what she can't do in front of other people, I can't even seem to talk her into going out and trying to take any of these out classes for seniors that I know she would enjoy being around the other people and eventually seeing what she can accomplish.


NEW SPEAKER: And I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions for me to how to get her down there [CHECK AUDIO].

MARIA: What I'd like to suggest is we -- the county television network has our half-hour yoga class that we teach Monday through Friday. It airs twice a day, nine AM and 2:00†PM. You'll have to check with your cable network to see, you know, what channel that is, but it's CTN. And it's called adult care giver yoga. But originally it was designed for adult care givers. But it's perfect for stay at home older -- adults. So maybe you and your grandmother could do it together watching television.

CAVANAUGH: So heather, do you know where the county channel is on your TV? Okay, well, heather's gone.

NEW SPEAKER: Actually, we don't even have a TV. I'm kind of off the grid.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let me tell you about another -- where people can find silver age yoga. Where can people go to get involved in these classes, Maria?

MARIA: We do have on our website, we do have a listing of all the classes. We have currently 29 classes. We don't want have a class in lake side. But we do have an in Alpine. And so if you don't have access to a computer, what you can do is maybe go to the library where they do have community available.

CAVANAUGH: That's a really depend -- and another -- that's a very good suggestion. Thank you for that. Yes, hashes and so forth will have information. Sometimes even have classes; is that right?

MARIA: Yes, we do have some classes at Bonita library. Carlsbad library. Scripps Ranch Mira Mar library, there's a couple others I can't think right off the top of my head.

ISAAC: Cardiff.

MARIA: Cardiff. I did happen to bring one of our directories here.

CAVANAUGH: Well, we'll put most of that information on our website about exactly where people can go.

MARIA: For the seniors, it doesn't cost them a thing. And many of the teachers, if -- will allow the person who drives the older adult to our class to attend also for free.


MARIA: So --

CAVANAUGH: You're working very hard, frank, to keep that price either low or nonexistent.

ISAAC: Nonexistent. The whole concept, our mission is to deliver yoga to seniors who cannot afford to pay for [CHECK AUDIO] an average of economic income areas. And that's our mission statement. And we do not charge ever to attend each of our classes.

MARIA: Right. The people who come that might be -- I mean, as a teacher myself, I ask them if there's somebody younger than 55 who wants to come, because they say I have all of the -- I have rheumatoid arthritis, it's surprising how many people young are than 55 have those kind of conditions, and they say I can't find a yoga class that works for me. And I say well, just make a donation to silver age yoga and come to the class. And they might pay $5 or $10, whatever they can. Because the whole idea is to support the older adults. Many of these people are living on fixed incomes. And prices are increasing. So they need to have their money go for living. And that's why so many of us teachers got on board with this when Frank and Surpel first started talking about it in 2003 -- 2002? 2003.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So that's why you got on board, because it was such an exciting idea to offer this for no cost to people who really needed temperature no, I know you're having an event on Saturday. Tell us a little bit about that.

MARIA: It's called yoga in the dark. And I'm gonna let frank tell you how he came up with the idea.

ISAAC: One of our students, a paying student who is not a senior. He invited us to a dinner, at the U.S. grand about six months ago, or it was put on by the foundation for the blind. And the [CHECK AUDIO] served in an -- it was it was so 300 people were dining in total darkness. And then driving home from it, the idea came to it for us, why not yoga in the dark? Because we are teaching it for behind centers already, and we've been teaching it there for 5 or 6†years, and the response of those who come who are blind or visually impaired is truly different than the ones who have vision.


ISAAC: So much remember warmth, so much kindness, so much peace, so much relationship, spiritual relationship develops between the teacher and the students in a blind center that we wanted to keep those centers there open. And funding is always a problem.

CAVANAUGH: So let me tell people what -- where they can go to experience yoga in the dark. It's Saturday, ask silver aged yoga is presenting it. It's a different yogic experience in complete darkness. It runs from 2 to 4:00†PM at the Scottish rates center, and proceeds will support silver aged yoga. Thank you Audrey for staying with us on the line all through the show.

LUTZ: Ying thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And if you would like to comment, there were several people on line who we couldn't get to, you can go on-line at Days. And a program note, These Days is moving and getting a make over, beginning Monday May†23rd, the show becomes KPBS midday edition starting at noon. I hope you'll join us, and stay with us for hour two of These Days, coming up right now here on KPBS.