Maintaining an active lifestyle while also getting adequate sleep and nutrition are some of the many challenges of aging. Yet balancing these components is a great way to maintain one’s health. In order to help educate and stimulate both the body and mind, Zenshuji Soto Mission in Little Tokyo hosts weekly Zen Aerobics classes to teach the community about both aspects of healthy living.
The bilingual class is hosted every Sunday afternoon with instructor Ted Uekuma and his assistant, who provide tips and instruction that cater to participants of all ages, abilities, and skill levels. Open to anyone in the community, Zen Aerobics offers a chance for participants to be active, socialize, and discuss a variety of health tips, including sleeping positions and nutrition.
This unique class allows participants to practice breathing techniques and exercises to let the body move in a natural and comfortable way. As participants begin to warm up and stretch out for the day, a sense of calmness and control fills the room. In addition to the physical benefits of exercising and stretching, there are community and social benefits as well. Participants share laughs and challenge each other to complete the exercises. Conversing like close friends, everyone encourages each other to try new movements and to persevere through the different sets of workouts. When asked what the class means to her, participant Amy Honjiyo shared, “Zen Aerobics has shown me that [the] exercise and breathing [I] learned from the class helps me apply a positive way of thinking to my daily life. Meditating and controlled breathing are things I do every day and it feels healthy.”
As another component of the class, participants take part in Zen meditation for 15 minutes, where they are encouraged to clear their mind and maintain a calm, natural rate of breathing. During this time, participants say they feel a strong sense of peace and tranquility. Following the meditation, the group comes together to share nutritious fresh fruit, tea, and Japanese snacks while socializing and chatting about the day’s activities. For both caregivers and older adults, having this opportunity to engage in conversations with others can be an invaluable social interaction. This, combined with the healthy snacks and exercise, provide a small sense of a balanced lifestyle for all who participate.
“The class brings people together,” Amy added. “Some people come from the San Gabriel Valley and others come from the South Bay. There are aspects of socialization, learning new exercise techniques, controlled breathing, and a better sense of overall balance when one is able to take part in this class.”
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