The Benefits of Yoga and an Update from your Panorama Yoga Team

Written by Panorama resident and yoga instructor, Charles Kasler. 
August 2017

Panorama has a very active yoga/meditation community. We are friends as well as we practice together and look after each other. These pictures are from our annual summer solstice vigil in the Pea Patch garden. We also had a recent workshop on breathing. Our next event will be high tea for the fall equinox in the Seventeen51 Restaurant and Bistro.

Why is yoga so popular with seniors? Because it slows down aging, helps us feel better and maintains quality of life. There are five primary areas in which yoga can be therapeutic for seniors:

  1. Preventative – high blood pressure, heart disease, falls
  2. Curative – musculoskeletal conditions (this also requires maintenance)
  3. Maintenance – maintaining quality of life with chronic illness such as muscular dystrophy or rheumatoid arthritis
  4. Palliative – improving quality of life with terminal illness such as cancer

[yoga is medically recognized as a support for side effects of chemotherapy: fatigue, nausea, digestive problems, loss of appetite, anxiety & depression, weakened bones, pain, nervous system disturbance, cognitive problems]

  1. Rehabilitation – after heart attack, stroke, surgery

Yoga massages the muscles: relieving chronic pain and tension, reducing fatigue, improving flexibility and symmetry, toning and strengthening muscles as well as connective tissue. Balance also improves.

Yoga stimulates circulation of all of the fluids: blood, the lymphatic system, and the very fluids that are within and surround each cell of the body. This improved circulation lessens stress on the heart, lowers blood pressure, and promotes healthy metabolism of each cell. It thins the blood and increases the number of red blood cells. Improved lymphatic drainage boosts immunity and enhances detoxification. Circulation to the skin improves as well. The heart becomes stronger even as its workload lessens. The resting heart rate lowers. Improved circulation transports hormones released by the endocrine system.

Skeletal structure improves: joints align increasing their range of motion as well as being supported by (newly toned) muscles. Pain in the joints may decrease, especially the back. Bone density increases through weight bearing. Symptoms of arthritis can diminish. Posture improves dramatically. Movement is more efficient and requires less effort. Balance and kinesthetic awareness improve. Feet open up.

The respiratory system functions better as we learn proper breathing: we release tensions that restrict the breath, the volume of air we breathe increases, exchange of waste products improves, cellular respiration improves. Longer and slower breathing is therapeutic.

Digestion and elimination improve: the entire digestive system is massaged, stress releases, and dietary changes contribute to better digestion.

Organs and glands: yoga contributes to hormone regulation and regulates the adrenals. Yoga can lower blood sugar levels as well. Body weight may normalize. Yoga sometimes lowers the need for medications.

The nervous system: the entire practice shifts us from the stress response to the relaxation response. The mind quiets, concentration and alertness improve, mood becomes more positive – happier, better self-esteem, better sleep, more body awareness. Relationships may improve and addictions may have less power over us.

Immune function improves: as the body functions more optimally, we are better able to fight off disease and infection.


A Resident’s Perspective – Meet the Yoga Team

  Written by Panorama resident, Charles Kasler. March 2017

Meet The Yoga Team: Connie, Jean, and Charles. We are all seniors ourselves and residents of Panorama. We bring years of training, practice, and teaching experience to our classes.


“Do what you can and that is perfect for you.” – Jean

Jean Garwood is a certified Yoga instructor who has been teaching since 1995. Jean started the yoga program at Panorama. She was certified at the International Sivananda Yoga Vendanta Center. She is also a certified Chair Yoga Instructor. She taught and worked several times at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas. She has attended continuing education programs at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm in California. She has taught in various centers including her own private studio. Jean taught Chair Yoga as manager of the Chalet for three years and Chair and Floor Yoga at Panorama for 10 years.

“Remember to breathe.” – Charles

Charles Kasler has been teaching since 1990. He is a former resident of Esalen Institute and Kripalu Yoga Ashram, and a founding member of the Kripalu Yoga Teachers Association. He also studied at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California. He completed the first Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga training at Spirit Rock. He has several audio recordings that were featured in Yoga Journal Magazine. He is the author of Dharma: 40 Essays On Yoga, and Light To Dispel the Darkness – both available at He was a member of the teacher training faculty at Yoga Center of Carmel, California as well as teaching at Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula and Hospice of the Central Coast. He teaches Moving Meditation and co-leads the Mindfulness Meditation program with Connie.

“May the light within me recognize the light within you.” – Connie

Connie Ruhl is a certified Yoga instructor who completed 200 and 500 hour Yoga Alliance authorized training programs. Connie also completed a Yoga for Healthy Aging training program in Berkeley, CA in August 2015. She has sat in a number of extended meditation retreats. She began practicing and studying in 1983 through 2000 with Mady Sharma (formally trained in India from classic hatha yoga schools). She participates in yoga classes in various studios in US and internationally as opportunities arise. She has been teaching Yoga II and Chair Yoga at Panorama since 2009, and co-leads the Mindfulness Meditation program.


Intergenerational Forum – On Life and Issues of Death & Dying

Intergenerational Forum at PanoramaWritten by Panorama staff. May 2016

“Do you remember thinking about death when you were younger? Or even thinking about aging for that matter?

As we age, our perception of life and thoughts about death change but is it something we can talk about? How do we bring it up with our kids or grandkids? These are some of the questions we’re exploring with our year long Embracing Life program.

One concern of vital importance for each of us is communicating to our loved ones how we want our lives to go on as we age and what a good death looks like to each of us as individuals. If there comes a time when we need their support at the end of life or if they need to make decisions on our behalf, we can feel more confident knowing our wishes are understood.

In exploration of this, we hosted an Intergenerational Forum which included a panel of 4 High School Seniors and 4 Seniors Who Once Were in High School. The four high school seniors joined us from Timberline, South Sound, Riveridge, and North Thurston high schools, while the four “young but not as young” seniors were all Panorama residents. Questions were posed to each age group and surprisingly, we found more commonalities than differences.

1) What is old?

High School Seniors:

“Old is not a number; it’s how mature you are.”

“Old isn’t necessarily a thing you have to be; it’s all about mentality.”

“The older you get, the more you mature as a person; it’s about how you grow.”

Panorama Seniors:

“Being old is a privilege; you can really appreciate the wonderful things around you and let go of the petty things.”

“I’ve enjoyed every era of life.”

2) What do you want your life story to be? How will you “Embrace Life”?

High School Seniors:

“I want to do the most I can to help people; I want to be remembered as a good person.”

“I want to know that other people enjoyed life because of my presence.”

“I want to know that I built something good. It’s so easy to tear apart but I want to know that I built.”

“I think about how I want to feel at the end. On my death bed, what will I wish I did more of? Top of the list, for me,  is time with family.”

Panorama Seniors:

“Are we making a difference? That’s something I’ve come to think about every single day as I’ve gotten older.”

“My mother always said ‘To make life worth something you must live with as much joy as you can.’ and that’s something I’ve tried to live by.”

3) Do youth today have respect for seniors like the generation before them did?

High School Seniors:

“Lack of respect comes from lack of empathy.”

“We just have to understand that we’re not different; we were just born at different times.”

“We have to know that one day we have the option to be what they are.”

“Contact is crucial to find common ground – to work together to grow the community as a whole.”

“{If intergenerational communication was more common} kids wouldn’t be so scared of growing up.”

Panorama Seniors:

“Each generation thinks the next generation is not as good as they were. But maybe they could be better. It varies from person to person.”

“Lack of intergenerational communication contact creates a lack of understanding and respect. Communication bridges that.”

“{My wife and I}…participate in Road Scholar and have had the opportunity to see our grandkids interact with kids their age in a positive way – that helps provide perspective for us.”

“I must be the only 80+ person playing online Playstation but I get to interact with multiple generations in the game and we talk generally about everything together.”

“We have so much in common – if only we just talk to each other.”

4) Do you talk about death and dying?

High School Seniors:

“We do talk about it but in the way of living your life.”

“I don’t really think about death. I don’t want to think about it. I want to have a life where I know I built something bigger than death – I built life.”

“A lot of younger people don’t think about their actions now; they don’t think ahead to the legacy they will leave behind.”

Panorama Seniors:

“I look forward to the time when I can speak openly with my family {about death} & we can express our love.”

“We’ve dealt with the administrative issues {of death} but not the deep stuff, such as what we want our legacy to be.”

“When you’re really young, you just don’t relate to it. When we get older, we think much more about the manner of death we want.”

“The difficulty is family members struggle with hearing us talk about it and hearing our wishes.”

“Many times, grandchildren can talk to grandparents easier than they can with their parents. It’s a good thing to talk to grandparents.”


Register online for our Embracing Life Conference (June 9th) for an opportunity to learn about how to talk to your loved ones about your legacy and your wishes.

To read about last year’s  Intergenerational Forum visit this post.

How to Help Someone Who Has Fallen

This article is featured in the December issue of the Panorama News. Although it was written specifically for our campus, the information is important for all to know.

Written by Panorama Health Services Director, Marla LeFevre. 
Introduction by Panorama resident, Judy Murphy.

Falls are a common occurrence among people of all ages, but they can lead to serious consequences, particularly among older folks. Many people are embarrassed that they have fallen and immediately try to get up, which is not the wisest thing to do.  We may think we are still 20, but our aging bodies do not respond to a fall like a 20-year-old would.  In addition to potential physical injury, a fall can sometimes cause dizziness or confusion. 

If you see someone who has fallen or are with someone who falls, you may wonder what the best course of action is.  Here are some brief guidelines to help you help someone else.      – Judy Murphy

*Call 911 immediately and then the Urgent Response Aide (using a SARA pendant, pull-cord, telephone off-hook, or dialing 413-6000).

*Stay with the person who has fallen (the patient)

*Ensure that the patient is in a safe place (divert traffic, etc.)

*Do not move the patient unless their life is at risk in the current location (i.e. burning car, building collapse)

*Do not assume there is no injury even if the patient states they are fine; many patients don’t realize they are hurt until after they have tried to get up

*If a person is bleeding profusely, apply pressure to the wound with a clean item (if a First Aid kit is not available, clean clothing is ok to use) until the Urgent Response Aide or fire department arrives

*The fire department crew is trained to do a full assessment to determine injuries and can stabilize wounds/injuries until full medical care is received (such as transporting to a hospital)

*All head injuries should be evaluated at a hospital


There have been questions in the past about the role of Panorama’s Urgent Response Aides (URAs) when a person has fallen. URAs are Nursing Assistants who are certified in First Aid/CPR/AED, but they are not qualified to make comprehensive injury assessments, which is why 911 is always called.  The URA carries a cell phone and will call 911 if nobody else has called.


Urgent Response Aides will not lift a person up, because this may cause further injury to the patient and may also cause injury to the URA. Fire dept crews have sufficient staff numbers to lift an uninjured person safely.


The URA can assist with basic first aid, supporting/reassuring the patient and their loved ones, crowd control, obtaining medical history, gathering items needed if a patient is transported to a hospital, notifying emergency contacts and primary healthcare providers, and tidying up/locking up the home. The URA will call the resident the day after an incident, to see if any further assistance is needed.


Please contact the URA Supervisor Tim Templet at 7561 or Independent Living Services Coordinator Marla LeFevre at 7564 if you have any questions about emergency care.    – Marla LeFevre, Health Services Director

The Story Behind Our Newest Fitness Program

What Is NIA?

Written by Panorama's Fitness Coordinator, Melissa Thoemke. April 2015


We have all heard the expression “no pain, no gain.” The idea behind this popular sentiment is that in order to achieve real results you need to push your body beyond your comfort level. Debbie Rosas, the creator of Nia had a different idea. Debbie was no stranger to pushing her body past its limits; from 1972 to 1983 she operated an exercise business in San Francisco known as the Bod Squad.  After a series of exercise related injuries, she decided to find an alternative method to her high impact fitness lifestyle.

After observing martial arts, Debbie realized that with all of her intense exercise, she had forgotten to how to move her body. After making this realization, Debbie Rosas spent 13 years developing Nia. Nia stands for Non Impact Aerobics and combines Yoga, Modern Dance and Martial arts. The practice is done barefoot so that the participant can more easily experience the mind/body connection.

The wonderful truth about Nia is that everyone who participates will see a benefit regardless of their physical abilities. The Panorama Aquatic Center has started hosting a weekly Nia class taught by Sandra Caldwell, Certified Nia Instructor. The class meets every Wednesday at 7 AM in our newly renovated Quinault fitness room. Residents who attend the class say that it makes them feel free and powerful and that it is a great way to start the day.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month at Panorama

 April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month.

Nearly one million Americans live with Parkinson’s – approximately 30,000 here in Washington including dozens at Panorama. Fortunately, Panorama has many programs offering help and support to residents coping with this disease.

Panorama Social Services facilitates a Living with Parkinson’s support group. The group provides an opportunity for residents with Parkinson’s and their caregivers to come together to share and receive information from guest speakers, staff and each other. Topics include self-help tips, nutrition, art and music, speech therapy, legal advice, exercise and more.

Studies consistently show exercise helps alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms so Panorama offers a Parkinson’s Exercise Class twice a week at the Aquatic and Fitness Center. The class is taught by a certified Movement Class Instructor.

These groups are an essential way for residents to maintain a healthy, supportive and engaging lifestyle at Panorama. “It reminds us that we are not alone,” said the spouse of one resident who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s eighteen years ago. The partnership among residents, staff and professionals in the community is what makes our programs special.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month will conclude with a showing of the PBS documentary My Father, My Brother, and Me on April 30th at 1:30pm in the Panorama Auditorium. In the hour-long film, journalist Dave Iverson shares his story of how he, his father, and his older brother were all diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  Iverson sets off on a personal journey to explore the scientific, ethical, and political debate that surrounds the disease. The film is both educational, inspirational and a must see for everyone. There will be FREE Parkinson’s publications, worksheets and information on how you can support research toward finding a cure.

If you would like more information about these and other programs, please contact the Living with Parkinson’s support group facilitator and Campus Social Services Worker, Sara Wasser at 438-7776.



Active Retirement – A Yoga Program That Fits Everyone

Yoga InstructorIt’s been said before how extensive our list of groups and activities at Panorama has become. Looking at the popular Yoga program, it’s easy to see that this list just keeps on growing!

Thanks to three talented instructors and our beautiful fitness center, Panorama residents have the opportunity to participate in a number of yoga classes happening right here on campus.

We have three teachers, all Panorama residents and certified yoga instructors, who offer a variety of class types for all skill levels throughout the week.

As our resident population varies in physical ability, it is important to consider accommodations for all levels of physical activity. The first question our fitness coordinator will ask a resident who is interested in yoga class is “Can you get up from the floor without assistance?” Each person’s physical ability and their desired focus designate which class will fit best. Although these classes differ from each other, the basis of yoga practice on which they are founded is bringing awareness to our bodies and serenity to our souls.

Chair Yoga, taught by Connie on Monday and Jean on Wednesday, is a class for those of us who are less comfortable getting up from the floor. ¾ of the class involves movements and stretches that are practiced while seated. The remaining ¼ of the class is performed while holding onto a chair for balance.

Yoga 1Yoga I is a beginner’s introduction to yoga. Designated for people with moderate to strong physical ability, this class allows for extra support options as needed. It’s taught on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons by Jean. The focus of this is relaxation of all muscles. We begin with pre yoga traction and focused breathing, filling the lungs with life-giving breath. Then, we move throughout the body, isolating our focus on individual muscle areas, including the eyes.

“We try to move everything that’s supposed to move.”

We continue on, opening the chest, stretching shoulders, wrists, ankles, fingers, and toes, calming the spirit and the breath.

“We are as young as our spines are flexible.”

Active Retirement Yoga

Yoga II, taught by Connie on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, is for more experienced residents with strong physical ability. This class focuses on basic yoga practices, uniting the body, mind and spirit.

Laughter Yoga is a unique class that is centered on yogic breathing and the physical activity of laughter as a tremendously efficient way to release tension. It does not require a sense of humor, nor do you need a reason to laugh, but it will leave you feeling the psychological and physiological benefits of laughter. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been there so this is one we recommend trying for yourself.

Moving Meditation is taught by Charles on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. With the use of fluid yoga movement and breathing exercises, this practice focuses on self-awareness, stress reduction, and balance improvement.

Active Retirement YogaMindfulness Meditation involves meditation through guided sitting and walking. This class meets on Thursday afternoons, with the occasional half-day retreats that include instructive dharma talks.

The Yoga and Meditation Sangha gather together each quarter for a social event that cultivates the supportive yoga and meditation community.

Living Well Workshops are offered quarterly. Some upcoming workshops, for example, include “The Relationship Between Yoga, Fitness, and Aging” and “Yoga and Osteoporosis.”

This yoga program has grown tremendously over the years and shows promise for continued growth. We are lucky to have such dedicated instructors who provide these outstanding wellness options!


November Food 2 B Fit

Once a month Panorama residents gather in our own Chambers House Restaurant to learn about nutrition and to taste it in action. Our Fitness Coordinator, Melissa, teaches while our Catering Manager, Meggin, cooks a meal with the featured food items. Yesterday we learned more about the topic of food synergy, which describes the increased benefits of nutritious foods when they are combined with certain other nutrients. This time our focus was on the super duo of spinach and beets. When eaten alone each of these vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients. So why bother putting them together? Well, the benefits they provide the body are facilitated by the presence of one another. In other words, nutrients work in teams. The vitamin C found in beets helps with the absorption of iron found in spinach.

After learning about the benefits of spinach and beets on their own, as well as together, we all got to dig into the lunch that Meggin had prepared, which was a Roast Beef, Beet, and Spinach Salad with Orange Vinaigrette.


Olympia Top in Health and Well-Being

According to the Thurston County Economic Development Council, the Olympia area recently scored second nationally in the small cities category of the Well-Being Index which includes: Life Evaluation, Physical Health, Emotional Health, Healthy Behavior, Work Environment, and Basic Access.

Click here to read the full Thurston County EDC article.