Yoga For Health & Well Being: An Interview with Yoga Teacher Louise Applebome
Yoga For Health & Well Being: An Interview with Yoga Teacher Louise Applebome
November 10, 2021
No doubt, as an agebuzz reader, you’re likely aware of the physical and mental health benefits to be derived from practicing yoga. Yet some of you may still be reluctant to consider joining a yoga class or doing yoga in the privacy of your own home. If you’re not familiar with the practice and poses of yoga, it might be confusing or even overwhelming. But don’t worry! We have certified yoga instructor Louise Applebome to help guide you to the best yoga practice for your age and lifestyle! Louise is the owner of del norte yoga studio, based in Dallas, and we’re thrilled to welcome her as the latest agebuzz guest blogger!
Below is a conversation between Louise conducted by agebuzz founder Connie Zuckerman:
CZ: Louise, thank you so much for sharing your background, teaching philosophy, and program offerings with agebuzz readers! First, a little bit about yourself: Where are you from? How did you begin teaching yoga? Did you always want to teach yoga or is this something you came to later in life? What kind of training did you undergo for teaching yoga? Where is your studio located?
LA: I’m so glad to be part of the agebuzz community. Thanks for including me.
Born during a snowstorm in 1954, I started life in Great Neck, New York. I grew up in a middle-class home, with two parents, and two older brothers, and lived in the same home for 18 years until going off to college.
My teen years were dedicated to ballet. I was a serious and disciplined dancer. So, movement and a mind/body focus were something that came naturally to me from an early age. I also suffered from depression. Dancing gave me such joy. The dance studio became my sanctuary for finding peace and solace.
Yoga came later.
After college, I essentially took a 30-plus-year detour away from a mind/body/movement career to work in retail, arts management, marketing, journalism, and project management in New York City, Philadelphia, and Dallas. I bounced around, never being passionate about any of the careers on that checkered list. The discontent mounted.
So, in 2006, when my employer offered “buy-out” packages, I was thrilled to accept one and to head out the door of the business and corporate world and out into unknown, uncharted waters.
I wasn’t really in a financial position to retire, but I had no idea what would come next. I did know, however, that my yoga classes had become very important to me and that once I had more time on my hands, I’d take more classes, experiment with different teachers, and see if that time “on the mat” would help guide me to my next calling.
Little did I know that “calling” would be as a yoga teacher. Becoming a yoga instructor wasn’t even on the radar. I was in my fifties! It seemed a bit audacious for someone my age to launch a new career so physically demanding and detail-oriented.
And, in signing up for a six-month teacher certification program, it was with the intention of deepening my own practice and doing more intensive training, but never thinking I’d teach. I was studying at the Dallas Yoga Center, a wonderful place, with very talented teachers. Shortly into the teacher training program, many of them said I had it in me to be a good teacher. They were very encouraging. I resisted for a time, but then thought, “why not?” That was 2007, the same year I earned my 200-hour Yoga Alliance certification. A somewhat circuitous route finally led me to the place where I was meant to be, on the schedule and pace that the universe deemed auspicious.
I spent the earlier years of teaching taking any teaching/subbing offers that came my way. I also opened a studio in my home in Dallas. Many said in-home teaching couldn’t succeed and that students wouldn’t cotton to the idea of coming to a private home, but my business in my home studio had been steady and solid for more than 14 years.
When COVID-19 hit, I pivoted right over to Zoom classes, not missing a beat, and continue to this day to offer a host of classes each week, virtually, and available wherever in the world you’re located. I also make recordings of my classes available. I have not resumed in-person classes here at my home studio yet.
I feel great. Yoga has eliminated symptoms of depression and helps modulate my moods. I have minimal (mostly NO) aches and pains. I sleep well. My weight is controlled. And, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it is really my life that is so blessed.
In the end, my professional background served me well in establishing my own business. I love being self-employed. So, it all worked out. The whole odyssey has been a lesson in faith, trust, and staying open to possibilities…even and especially as we age.
CZ: What type(s) of yoga do you teach? What kinds of students do you have? Is your teaching geared toward any particular age or type of student? Do you accept beginning students? What about those who already have a yoga background?
LA: A huge influence on my teaching is from the Iyengar method.
B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014) was an Indian yoga teacher and author. Much of what we practice here in the West has his stamp on it. His Light on Yoga is an exhaustive book on all the poses which he breaks down into their detailed and minute parts. One of his protégés, Francois Raoult, has been my guru for many years and gets much of the credit for the development of my teaching style. It’s important to honor and thank all the wonderful teachers that came before us.
Since Raoult started offering virtual Zoom classes from France, I’ve gotten to study with him more in the last year than any time before. I’m a big Zoom yoga fan. And, it sure saves me a lot of money on airfare to France!
As the years have gone by, I’ve very much added my own signature to my teaching style and consider it a hybrid of many best practices. Gentle stretches held for prolonged periods of time characterize Yin Yoga. So, I definitely inject that into my teaching and classes. I always offer modifications to poses and use yoga props (i.e. yoga mats, blankets, straps, blocks, etc.) for best support and alignment in my classes. And, over the years, I have learned so much from student feedback. Their loyalty and dedication are priceless.
At the start, I taught a more aerobic-flowing type of yoga called vinyasa. But, as I have aged and my students have too, my approach has changed. I’ve slowed things down. I want students to find the right balance between effort and ease. This is not a “flop ‘til you drop” exercise or intended to cause 9-1-1 pain. But, we must keep the body supple, agile, strong, and stretched. That takes work.
Students of all ages and levels are welcome in my classes. The focus is on fitness and function. So, one student may stay with level one of a pose while another can move up to level three of a pose, but everyone can customize the practice to suit their needs, limitations, injuries, and preferences.
Elite athletes can benefit too!
I give a lot of explanation and instruction. (Some might say TMI!) So, beginners and the more seasoned yogi can co-exist in my classes. Private sessions are a great way to go for beginners before joining a group. Again, I offer classes online, only, using Zoom.
And, fitness levels in general, and injuries or issues, specifically, must be factored into practicing smart and practicing safe.
There is not a one-size-fits-all answer in Yoga…ever. As a teacher, I need to know what an individual student is dealing with. Granted, that list may be longer for the older adult, but students of all ages have strengths and weaknesses, abnormalities, and asymmetries.
Spoiler alert: If you are perfect in every way, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, you don’t need yoga. All the rest of us do.
The goal is to have each student establish a regular and steady practice so that with repetition, they learn for themselves what’s best and what to avoid. Paying attention to and taking care of the body is the essence of yoga. Instinct and intuition are major assets on the yoga mat.
And, that gets developed over time and comes more easily for some than for others.
The brain gets strengthened by yoga, too. Concentration is required.
Having a good teacher to motivate, correct and adjust students is also a plus.
Again, you get the idea that yoga must be a very personal experience in order for it to have optimum benefits.
CZ: Why are you passionate about yoga? What health benefits do you find for yourself and your students from practicing yoga? How does yoga differ from other forms of exercise or movement? Can a student pick and choose various types of yoga to achieve certain goals? If you are a beginner, what do you recommend students start with when trying out yoga? Especially older beginners!
LA: If done right, yoga can release and relieve tension, soreness, and pain in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, and more. It can help and speed up the healing process after injury, illness, or surgery. It also helps with better sleep and digestion. Really! And, it’s calming and can help relieve anxiety and stress.
A daily practice is great for beginners and experienced Yogis, alike. One doesn’t even need an hour to practice. Setting aside even 15 minutes a day to keep the body limber and strong can go a long way. Students have to do the best they can with the busy and demanding lives they lead and practice when and for however long they can. Once a week is better than nothing! I know it’s hard to stay disciplined on one’s own, and taking classes with teachers that motivate you is the best idea for many. It’s hard to push yourself to practice without a teacher urging you on. I’m so in awe of all my students who, from home, continue to connect with my classes on Zoom every week, sometimes several times a week. Kudos to them!
Yoga can satisfy all needs for maximum body, mind, and spiritual well-being. Our bodies will wear out. So, it’s incumbent upon each of us to stay as fit and as functional as possible for as long as possible. Bodies need strength and flexibility. Yoga has that covered. And, everything about the practice is about balance and centering, and alignment.
My teaching is yoga, physical therapy, balance clinic, emotional boost, strength training, stretching, and meditation/relaxation- all packed into one. Classes are one hour and fifteen minutes long.
I’m almost 68 years old. So, I know what it is to have an aging body. Regardless of one’s yoga experience and/or fitness level, it’s never too late to start a yoga practice. It will help students maintain the stretch and strength they have and to avoid injuries. So much of practice for seniors is about maintenance and conservation. I often remind students that we’re not in training for the Yoga Olympics. Yoga is not a contest or a competition. And, one of the benefits of virtual yoga is the reinforcement of that notion. In the privacy of their own homes, students can customize and curate a yoga practice to serve them best.
Most of my online classes are low impact. Other activities, like tennis, running, or CrossFit are higher impact. That works for some seniors. But, it places much more wear and tear on the joints and the body and is more likely to speed up the decline rather than slow it down. If you’re doing those activities, at any age, you need yoga as a complement to stay agile and toned even more.
Breathing well is also a huge component of yoga. There are exercises, called pranayama, that teach us and train the body to breathe fully and well.
Good breathing, flexibility, balance, relaxation, and strength will take you a long way.
Fostering symmetry and yoking together all parts of an individual into harmony is the goal of an ongoing yoga practice. And, each person’s road to “harmony” is unique.
And, let’s not underestimate the relaxation and meditative piece of the practice. Our lives can become chaotic and bombarded by “noise.” I can’t tell you how many times I hear students say they’re so grateful for the calm and quiet they found in class on any given day after, perhaps, a crazy work week, or the weight of so many stressors in their lives. Time on the yoga mat is dedicated to taking care of one’s self, and to blocking out all the external distractions and stimulation. At work, at home, in school, we don’t have that privilege. I happen to have a very soothing, calming voice and way about me, so students are able to chill, release and expel tension, and truly relax. Although, admittedly, it’s not so easy to do.
CZ: Let’s focus specifically on older adults. So many of us have had more sedentary lives since the pandemic began. Would yoga be an appropriate activity to take up? Are there risks of injury from practicing yoga? What if you have trouble getting on the floor (or getting up from the floor!)- would yoga still be an activity you recommend? What if you’ve been inactive for a long time? Can you start a yoga practice at any age? What are the benefits of practicing yoga as an older adult?
LA: It’s never too late to begin a yoga practice. Again, the practice meets you where you are. So, being careful and being selective, and avoiding injury is the crux of any yoga practice. If getting up and down off the mat is not available to someone, there’s the option to sit in a chair. We can do an entire class using the chair for sitting and holding onto if the student can stand up. Any movement, nourishing breathing, stretching, and strengthening, big or small, is beneficial. If someone’s out of shape, due to the pandemic lifestyle and /or for so many other reasons, the foray into yoga has to be thoughtful and smart. The benefits are feeling better, being fitter, and increased function. So, all ages can start anytime, regardless of past lapses.
And the relaxation piece of the practice brings you in closer touch with yourself, to help improve your relationship with yourself, which then carries over to better and healthier relationships with others. No age limits. No physical requirements.
CZ: Let’s discuss what you offer your students. If a reader does not live in your area, how would s/he access your classes? What if you are not technically savvy? Is it hard to take a class on the computer with you? How would a reader find out about your offerings? How often should a beginner think about taking a class? What if a student just wants to sample what you offer before making a commitment? What is the cost of your classes? Do you offer private sessions or only group classes?
LA: Presently, I’m offering online classes only, using Zoom. I pivoted to virtual at the start of the pandemic. The learning curve was steep. I lost some students who found the technology too mind-blowing and just too hard. I totally get that. Fortunately, most slogged through, like me, and we all figured it out.
Students join in from across the country. Mothers and daughters living in different cities; best friends living in separate towns; and siblings. Pets often also make cameo appearances. I’m all for anything that elicits a laugh or a smile.
I also sell recordings of my classes, which means anyone can watch and take a class at their convenience. Purchasing a recorded class for mixed-level gentle yoga is a great intro to my teaching style and to seeing if yoga is right for you.
Joining my Zoom classes is easy and just takes one click to open up one link. No passcodes are required. The website, www.zoom.us, provides tutorials and will give answers to Frequently Asked Questions if anyone wants to brush up on their Zoom skills.
And, I won’t lie. We can’t always rely on technology, so mishaps happen. I’ve lost connection to my class and students and had to figure out how to get them back. I usually assign someone to have a phone nearby, just in case we need to start a text or phone conversation so everyone knows what’s going on. Mostly, the blip is quick and easily repaired. Zoom has allowed us to challenge the brain, learn new skills, and overcome unexpected obstacles. So, I like to look at adapting to online classes as a great triumph! Who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks?!?!
Plus, I’ve become a great fan of virtual yoga. Find a quiet, private place in your home; don’t worry about what others are doing; make sure you have a good view of me, the teacher, and then customize your practice for optimum benefits and results.
Also: Nobody can see you on Zoom during my classes. Students are able to mute their devices and turn off their video. They can still see me but nobody can see them. So, there’s total privacy.
I have a website, www.delnorteyoga.squarespace.com, that has my schedule and fees. One group class is $25; a series of six is $105; a series of 12 is $175. A private class is $85. There are discounts for a series of privates, too. I accept Zelle, Venmo, and checks. Nothing complicated. My website lays out the details.
CZ: Finally, let’s talk about you. As someone who is committed to a healthy lifestyle, what else do you recommend to your students beyond yoga for healthier aging? And what other passions do you have?
LA: I’ve been an avid walker for years. I really think yoga and walking cover all the bases. How long or briskly you walk is a personal choice.
I also love to cook and to eat nourishing foods. And, I’m a big believer in respecting mealtime, whether you’re dining solo or with a crowd. That means sitting down to a meal; maybe even lighting a candle; taking the time to slowly chew and taste your food, and not to guzzle down your drinks, and to express gratitude.
Family and friends are also a great source of sustenance for me.
In addition to teaching yoga and maintaining my own personal practice, I love to garden, read and write. And, with isolation at home during the pandemic, I’ve also started playing the piano again. It’s so relaxing and satisfying, not to mention super challenging.
The only problem: Not enough hours in the day to fit it all in.
I think the pandemic has really forced people to take a closer look at their lifestyles and what matters most to them. I think people have become more discerning about priorities and allocation of limited time, energy, and emotion. There’s the idea of applying that to the macro look at life. I think the same principles can be applied on a more micro level to yoga, specifically, and how best to use the practice to improve the quality of your life. It’s a tall order. But, I think many folks have recognized just how fleeting and fragile life can be.
CZ: If someone wants to follow up with you regarding more information or to try your classes, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
LA: Email is the best way to get in touch: [email protected]. And, I send out weekly newsletters. So, if anyone wants to be added to my mailing list, they’ll learn about yoga, my classes, special offers, and life. Send me an email to ask to be added to my list. It’s free!
CZ: Any last words of advice or inspiration you’d like to share with agebuzz readers?
LA: The reality is staying fit and functional requires discipline and an ongoing exercise routine. I’m a true believer and living proof of a smart and careful yoga practice being a great route to go. Others may choose other routes to well-being.
Most important is a steady diet of stretching, strengthening, moving, and eating well; plus, surrounding yourself with kind, loving, and supportive friends and family members.
Life is not a rehearsal. This is the real deal and it’s important to make the most of it.
For me, yoga has to be part of the formula.