Yoga is a practice that benefits the body, mind, and spirit through every stage of life. When certified yoga instructor and physical therapist at The Becoming Center, Liz Quinlisk, was diagnosed with breast cancer 22 years ago, it was the benefits of yoga and holistic wellness that helped her cope with the challenging side effects of her cancer treatments. Improving her health both physically and emotionally, Liz began adopting a more holistic lifestyle.
“I’ve been a physical therapist (PT) for over 30 years. I began work as a traditional PT, and the thing that shifted me towards a more holistic approach was when I found yoga and meditation to be very helpful in addressing a lot of the side effects I was experiencing through my cancer treatments.”
Yoga really ingrained in me the importance of treating the mind, body, and spirit.Liz Quinlisk, yoga instructor and physical therapist at The Becoming Center
As Liz began practicing yoga she also received shiatsu bodywork treatments, a form of therapy in which pressure is applied to certain parts of the body using the hands. Greatly enjoying this form of therapy, Liz later earned her certification as a shiatsu practitioner.
A Serendipitous Opportunity: Liz’s Journey with The Becoming Center Begins
“I was driving by Artman one day, which is the continuing care community that The Becoming Center is attached to, and there was a sign out front that said yoga and massage,” she recalls.
Liz decided to inquire more. Requesting to speak with The Becoming Center’s director at the time, she asked if they were in need of a shiatsu practitioner. Fortunately for Liz, their shiatsu instructor had recently left, and her impromptu inquiry became perfect timing.
“It was very serendipitous,” she laughs. “I started working there as a shiatsu practitioner in 2001, and since I am a physical therapist I began incorporating physical therapy sessions with members, and then eventually yoga after I earned my certification,” she explains.
With The Becoming Center at Artman there’s a sense of community and connection. It’s very rewarding to share yoga, a practice that I’m so passionate about, and to see members responding to it in such a positive way. I’m fortunate for finding this community. It really is the perfect place.
Specializing in teaching yoga to older adults as well as individuals with injuries, Liz says her background in physical therapy makes her the perfect person to adapt yoga sessions to suit each members’ needs. “Everyone has different mobility, so I really try to get to know members before they take my class and I ask them about what limitations or physical issues they’re dealing with. This way, I can modify the practice for them.”
The Benefits of Yoga for Older Adults
1. Improves flexibility
“As we age our flexibility decreases,” Liz explains. This can lead to immobility and pain. Liz’s gentle yoga classes at The Becoming Center at Artman help to improve members’ flexibility with limited transitions from floor to standing positions. “A lot of yoga classes are up and down, up and down. I minimize the transition from floor to standing and make modifications for anyone who needs them,” she affirms. “Anyone who wants to take this class is welcome.”
2. Builds Strength
“Once we hit our 30s, our muscle mass begins to decrease every year.” Liz helps members of The Becoming Center at Artman improve this declining muscle mass and build their strength. “The standing postures in yoga as well as the work we do on our core really help to accomplish this,” she says. Liz indicates that as people age, they can also begin to lose leg and hip strength. “Standing poses work to improve the legs, which translates to better health because it can tend to affect their balance and cause falls.”
3. Improves Balance
Falls are the leading cause for injury among older adults, which makes fall prevention increasingly important as we age. “I always incorporate balance poses into my yoga classes. Better balance can mean fewer falls, which can translate to greater mobility and independence.” Liz also says that in many of her classes the support of a chair or wall can be added for assistance with balance poses.
4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
As the practice of yoga incorporates meditation and teaches individuals to focus on their breathing, it can calm the nervous system and reduce stress and anxiety.
Yoga offers so much more than just physical benefits. It really benefits a person’s emotional well-being. So many people walk into class frantic and frazzled and when they start practicing you can see how it really helps them calm their mind.
5. Supports Joint Health
Liz explains that the full range of motion movements practiced in yoga help stimulate synovial fluid, which nourishes and lubricates the joints. For those struggling with joint health issues caused by injuries or those coping with pain from conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis, the practice of yoga can be especially beneficial.
Many people walk into their first class thinking they can’t do yoga. They think yoga is for young, flexible people. I show them anyone can do it. It’s about giving them a sense of empowerment. No matter what physical or emotional state they’re in, they can benefit.
Liz normally teaches yoga classes on Mondays and Wednesdays at The Becoming Center. Due to the circumstances of COVID-19, Liz has temporarily transitioned to offering yoga classes online through Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook.
“After every class, one or two people usually thank me or tell me how much yoga has helped them feel better. It’s so rewarding to have this passion that I believe in and that has helped me and to be able to share that with other people.”