There are little toy people that have no feet. Their bottom is a weighted ball. Their motto is, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” I was thinking about how handy that capability would be as we age and discover our balance is less sure and that on occasion we do fall down.2,3

I want to talk about the effects of yoga on balance but first I ran across a curiosity at the Urban Dictionary. It seems that “weeble” is a noun and is a term of endearment for someone who is struggling emotionally, but still functional. 4 So when someone is feeling sad, you might comfort them by saying, “Poor weeble.”

I find an immediate connection here between the word, weeble, and the notion of aging and its attendant possible limitations. As we notice changes in balance, strength, motivation, happiness, etc. we do struggle emotionally. Aging can be accompanied by a sense of loss and loss can open the door to feeling sad. I sometimes think aging gracefully is a combination of physical and emotional factors. One needs to be mindful about both the body and the mind. The weeble then might be struggling but he does not fall down. I like that.

Back to yoga.

Many claims are made for the benefits of yoga. As a beginning, a recent review article 5 found that yoga was as good as exercise (any old sort I presume) for physical and emotional health. That’s not too compelling but a limited trial 6 did show yoga practice to make people feel more positive. And a larger study 7 reached these conclusions, “The yoga intervention produced improvements in physical measures (eg, timed 1-legged standing, forward flexibility) as well as a number of quality-of-life measures related to sense of well-being and energy and fatigue compared to controls.”

In my little town, an instructor offers yoga classes for $2 a session at the community center and about 70 people (mostly older) show up. I’ve spoken with some of the participants and they find it helps them to avoid falls by being more flexible and to feel better. Science not withstanding, yoga can make for happier weebles.

References

  1. Playskool, Airfix and Hasbro Weebles discussed at http://www.weebles-wobble.com (Image used comes from this site)
  2. Lord, SR, Clark, RD & Webster, IW. Physiological factors associated with falls in an elderly population. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 1991, 39(12), 1194-1200.
  3. Tinetti, ME, Speechley, M & Ginter, SF. Risk factors for falls among elderly persons living in the community. N Engl J Med, 1988, 319, 1701-1707
  4. Urban Dictionary is found at http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=weeble
  5. Ross, A & Thomas, S. The Health Benefits of Yoga and Exercise: A Review of Comparison Studies. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, January 2010, 16(1), 3-12.
  6. Lakshmi Narasimhan, L, Nagarathna, R & Nagendra, HR. Effect of integrated yogic practices on positive and negative emotions in healthy adults. International Journal of Yoga, 2011 Jan-Jun, 4(1), 13–19.
  7. Oken, BS et al. Randomized, controlled, six-month trial of yoga in healthy seniors: effects on cognition and quality of life. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2006, 12(1), 40–47.