PALM HARBOR — It’s no secret the coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on the bodies and minds of millions of Americans, either directly or indirectly, and no segment of the population has been hit harder than seniors.
So, it makes sense that doing something to help maintain or improve one’s mental and physical wellbeing is vital now more than ever in light of the ongoing national health crisis.
According to Melodie Moreno, owner of the Muddy Mantra Yoga and Aerial Fitness studio in Palm Harbor, the ancient practice that combines poses, meditation principals and breathing techniques has always been a great way for seniors to relax the body and mind while improving their overall health, and that’s true even more so today.
“One of my first yoga gigs was teaching chair yoga for the Silver Sneakers (program) at the Clearwater Y, and we’d get 30-40 seniors in a class, so I have a lot of experience in this area,” Moreno, who opened her studio at 3414 Tampa Rd. in January 2020, said. “What I do now is assess each student on an individual basis, because some are more mobile and can get up and down while others are more comfortable with seated exercises. Based on the assessment we would be able to decide which type of class is for you.”
Moreno, who took up yoga a few years ago after being diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, which forced her to quit her full-time job, said her studio offers a variety of classes for seniors with different intensity levels.
“There’s the basic level, which is a guided practice where we see what you’re okay with doing,” she explained. “There are flow classes, which are a little faster paced. And then there’s chair yoga, which is the most popular basic senior yoga I would suggest that’s done in a very relaxed setting and has many benefits for the older population.”
Soon after opening Muddy Mantra, named after the dirty muck the beautiful lotus flower blossoms from, Moreno had to adjust her business model by incorporating an online component in light of the pandemic.
“A lot of my clients were very concerned about coming into the studio during the pandemic, and they’re still reluctant, so we began offering all of our classes via Zoom,” she said, adding participation in the online classes has been “booming” since the pandemic began. “This way our older clients, especially, can watch from their living rooms and feel safe. Obviously, it’s not ideal. But it’s better than nothing!”
Moreno said they also offer pre-recorded chair classes on their website, Muddy Mantra.com, for those who want to participate on their own time, as well as outdoor beach classes.
While the health benefits of yoga for seniors are obvious, Moreno said the mental benefits are just as important. “Yoga isn’t just 100 percent physical. It’s mental, too,” she said. “We focus on breathing and relaxing and clearing the mind, and that’s important now more than ever because life is so crazy now. This provides a great outlet to relieve mental and physical stress.”
Before heading off to teach another class, Moreno said the pandemic has helped emphasize the importance of staying psychically and mentally healthy for students and teachers alike.
“It takes a level of dedication to be motivated right now, and we as instructors need it as much as our students,” she said. “It’s mental therapy for us, too!”
For more information on Muddy Mantra yoga classes, visit MuddyMantra.com or call 727-422-3954.