249: Yoga for Older Grownups with Maria Kirsten
Have you considered teaching older grownups as your niche in yoga? Many yoga teachers have not, and may feel some fear or apprehension when it comes to teaching people in older bodies. In this episode, Maria Kirsten sheds some light on what teaching yoga to older grownups can be like.
Maria Kirsten was a yoga therapist working mainly with pain and mental health, and offered yoga classes to grownups and older grownups in her community. She also taught teacher trainings about how to support older grownups and regarding general mental health. For Maria, the focus was always on intelligent movement that reconnects people to the joy of being alive in their bodies, and helping people connect with the intuitive wisdom of the body, and nurturing their innate capacity to heal through simple, joyful movement.
Maria shares openly about what inspired her to start teaching yoga for older grownups and how her classes are structured. Maria addresses the fear and caution that some yoga teachers may feel when it comes to teaching older bodies, and gives advice on things to avoid in a yoga class with older people. She explains the mental health benefit yoga can have, and also talks about some of the words that can be triggering for older grown ups.
This interview was so valuable in understanding what teaching yoga to older grownups can be like and how to approach teaching this group of people.
Note: This interview was conducted in January 2021, and Maria passed away back April 2021. The information she shared was invaluable, and we are glad to be able to share this interview with you now.
[5:08] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Maria Kirsten.
[10:24] Shannon gives a shout out to Schedulicity and a listener who left a review.
[15:33] How did Maria come up with the name Yoga for Grown Ups?
[17:21] What is the age range for grownups vs. older grownups?
[18:55] What does Maria usually teach in classes for older grownups?
[20:10] Shannon and Maria discuss some of the fears and lack of confidence older people have, particularly around falling.
“The biggest risk for falling is fear of falling.” ~ Maria Kirsten
[22:40] Maria shares a little more about some of the education she does for her students about what’s happening in their bodies and their movements.
[25:55] How does Maria use chairs in her yoga classes?
[27:50] Sit to stand and stand to sit is an important movement, and not all of us do it correctly!
[29:59] Shannon shares more about the S breath and claw fingers to engage the pelvic floor.
[31:01] What are some things that Maria does not do with older grown ups?
[34:19] The thing is not to be scared of older people.
“The thing is not to be scared of older people. If you give them the education and tell them what you’re doing and why then they can make educated choices about what options they’ll take or when they’ll rest and then they feel really empowered.” ~ Maria Kirsten
[36:09] What are some things Maria has learned about teaching yoga for older grown ups?
“Don’t underestimate what people are getting [out of your yoga class].” ~ Maria Kirsten
[38:15] What are some conditions that yoga teachers working with bodies with more experience on Earth should be aware of?
[42:01] Yoga for older grownups also has mental health benefits.
[43:01] Maria explains a bit about her experience with cancer.
[44:00] Do Maria’s older grownups do online yoga?
[45:58] What are the restrictions on yoga classes in Australia?
[48:06] Maria also has a Yoga for Older Grownups training online.
[51:01] Shannon reflects on a mistake she made with naming a class for older people.
[53:07] Certain words can be triggering for older people and we need to be mindful of that.
[54:22] Shannon and Maria discuss the idea that mental health is a spectrum, and something that needs to be cultivated and built.
“Mental health is a spectrum and the thing that people don’t understand, I think, about mental health, is that they don’t just get it for free. People are really shocked when mental health isn’t fantastic all the time.” ~ Maria Kirsten
[58:13] When it comes to mental health and aging, we need to consider what a sustainable practice is.
“As teachers we’re trying to empower people in the class, but we’re also trying to empower them to do home practice because as soon as they practice on their own at home, everything changes.” ~ Maria Kirsten
[59:51] Learn more about Maria’s work by visiting her website.
[61:26] Shannon shares her key takeaways from this interview with Maria.
- Maria Kristen, Yoga for Grownups
- Maria’s Courses
- Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimerer
- The Connected Yoga Teacher Podcast Episode 203: Do Politics Belong in Yoga? with Chara Caruthers & Maria Kirsten
- The Connected Yoga Teacher Podcast Episode 173: Social Justice, Politics & Yoga with Chara Caruthers & Maria Kirsten
- Live Like You Love Yourself Podcast
- The Connected Yoga Teacher Podcast Episode 246: Anger, Forgiveness & Self-Care with Jacoby Ballard
- Stephanie Maxwell, thepregnantpelvis.net
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande
- Theo Wildcroft
- Yoga for Pelvic Health Training
- Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole Body Mobility, by Katy Bowman, Joan Virginia Allen, Shelah M. Wilgus, et al.
- The Connected Yoga Teacher Podcast Episode 070: Yoga for Seniors? with Shannon Crow
- Yoga Classes for Seniors Is Age Nothing but a Number?
- The Connected Yoga Teacher Podcast Episode 247: Being Wrong is Part of Learning with Shannon Crow
- Mindfulness Daily with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach on Sounds True
- Shannon Crow on Instagram
- The Connected Yoga Teacher Facebook Group
Gratitude to our Sponsors, Schedulicity and Pelvic Health Professionals (Coupon: Connected2021).
I’m so glad you shared this. I’m so very sorry you lost a dear friend. This has been so inspirational and I hope to learn from her teacher training.
There were so many lightbulb moments, I’m just so grateful. So grateful to you for sharing her wisdom with us and keeping her memory and her teachings alive. I didn’t know of her until you did this, it was a real service to humanity. This will hopefully plant many seeds.
Thank you so much, Debra. I am so very glad to hear how this touched you.
There is so much I found helpful in this interview – Maria’s wealth of knowledge and experience in both the health care field and in the yoga community; the validation of some of the practices of my teaching, eg. the need for extended Savasana now and the passion Maria had for the usefulness of yoga. What a loss she is to her loved ones and the yoga community. I’m so glad that I listened to this podcast.
Cathy Mitchell, Sweet Yoga, Wiarton, ON
Thank you, Cathy. It really is so wonderful to hear how this episode with Maria is touching so many.