We all have plenty of issues in our daily lives to keep us worried and stressed. Politics, health, family situations, job changes— all provide good reasons for those over 50 to try new ways of calming and centering themselves. MLiving spoke to people who are relaxing and improving their health and spirits by meditation, yoga, and tai chi, and recommending these methods of stress-relief to others. Kathleen Shea has counted on the calming influence of meditation and prayer since she was a child, 60-plus years ago. “I was the middle sister of three,” she recalls, “and there were times I needed to be quiet, apart from all the family noise. My mother called it praying; I just thought of it as a few minutes of peace.” Shea learned about meditation in high school and was drawn to the style of Centering Prayer, a process that she describes as “involving surrendering to the silence and allowing God to speak in the depths of my soul.” That method came in very handy when she was homebound for almost two years, recuperating from an illness. “I had time during that period to think about what Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living,’ and I used that time to make some decisions about a career change. I still meditate twice each day (20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening), and I really think the ability to center myself for a bit each day has transformed me. I have the sense I am working toward a kind of perfection, or loving relationship with God.”
Meditation and yoga stress
It was cancer that drove Dorothy Haverbusch to look for ways to become healthier 20 years ago. During her recovery, she tried several things in search of mental, physical and spiritual benefits, and was grateful to the people at the Wellness Center at Flower Hospital for giving her a holistic strategy, which has been working. She has found great benefits in hatha (gentle) yoga, which she says is perfect for people her age. “I have certainly improved my flexibility, my balance, and my muscle and bone strength. But the benefits aren’t just physical. I appreciate that each session begins with stretching and body movement, and it isn’t meant to be a workout. I like that the instructor reminds us often to ‘Listen to your bodies and do what your bodies tell you to do.’ “ She adds, “I do yoga at least once a week, and I look forward to the emotional benefits, too. I can relax and give up any stress, so I really have a feeling of wellness in all areas! And it is fun to do it with friends!” Dorothy meditates on a regular basis, “I love to meditate in beautiful places, such as the chapel on the campus of Lourdes University or in their prayer garden.”
Meditation and yoga are family activities for Dan Duris and his wife Mary Lynn Reynolds. Reynolds, a member of the Toledo Rowing Club, thought that yoga would help her concentration, body awareness, and performance. As it turned out, it helped a lot more. She worked more than two decades on an early morning shift (on the job by 3:00 a.m.) and has four children that keep her on the go. She found that the time spent doing yoga regularly supports her in many ways. “While it is physically challenging, the mind, breath and body connection is a positive holistic approach,” she explains. Her longtime yoga instructor Sandy Earl reminds students to be open and without judgement and competition with others, and above all, to be grateful for the time they are able to spend in acceptance of themselves. “Yoga is a positive approach to life’s everyday events,” Reynolds insists. Dan Duris’ reason for giving yoga a try was a matter of life and death. He had open heart surgery in 2012, and had to make some changes to his lifestyle as part of his recovery. “I realized I had been going through life unaware. Yoga gives me a feeling of awakening my spirit. Yoga is like the physical extension of mindfulness, so it is beneficial for my physical self and my emotional self. I am working on being a better person through all of this and I really appreciate the collective energy I feel in the yoga class. It has made all the difference in the world to me and my health!”
Starting with Tai Chi
Sister of Notre Dame, Suzette Fisher got her start with Tai Chi in her late 40’s by mimicking what she saw on a video. “It looked like fun, and I liked learning the 108 moves. When I saw that people of all ages were doing it, I knew I wanted to give it a try. I’ve learned since then that it is a process and a lifelong practice.” Sister Suzette has earned a certification as a Tai Chi instructor with the Taoist Tai Chi Society, and now leads people of all ages and flexibility levels in the ancient art. “I like that keeping up with the sequence of moves forces you to concentrate and leave all the ‘garbage’ of your life outside the class. People report all kinds of wonderful reactions to it—help with high blood pressure, increased strength and flexibility, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, even age-reversing. Some of the folks like to call Tai Chi ‘lotion in motion,’ because the gentle movement keeps the body from atrophying. It is gratifying when we hear that doctors are recommending Tai Chi to their patients as a great way to work all systems of the body, gently but firmly.” Retired high school guidance counselor Dick Schroeder has done Tai Chi for four years, and agrees with Sister Suzette. “I always feel energized after each class,” he reports. “I feel more agile, too, and I enjoy the social activities, such as the Chinese New Year celebration and the picnic the Society offers.” There are many ways to de-stress and whether you choose, meditation, yoga or Tai Chi your body will thank you.
More information is available about the Taoist Tai Chi Society and their classes at www.taoist.org/usa/locations/maumee-center. Those looking for yoga classes can Google yoga classes in Toledo, Ohio to find a variety of types and locations of classes.