Yoga is not a “one-size-fits-all” activity.
A Yoga practice should reflect where we are in our life. As we age, we become less resilient, recovery from illness or injury takes longer and the fascia that holds the body together contracts.
In medicine, old age is big business. Baby boomers have an opportunity to re-shape the definition of middle age. How do we want to redefine aging?
Beauty, youth and ambition are aspects of self identity. Their loss creates suffering. The good news is that we can embrace aging as a gift that brings freedom from suffering.
Osteoporosis, heart conditions, bone fractures, arthritis, incontinence, memory loss, breathing difficulties and a long list of others can be mistakenly blamed on aging.
I am of the opinion that I have been sold a bill of lies. Who says we need to lose flexibility, height, strength?
OK, I do admit that I no longer have the ambition to climb every mountain I see. Over the years, however, a Yoga practice has kept my 60-something body flexible, strong and more balanced.
I like the feeling of expansion and opening that happens in my current practice.
The most visible physical signs of aging are seen in the shortening and the deterioration of the spine.
Our culture promotes the symptoms as we engage in activities that pull our upper body forward and round our shoulders, causing our chests to sink, which spirals into shallow breathing.
This has adverse effects on our cardiovascular system and other systems.
Yoga is an antidote to these causes and effects. Our spinal alignment affects not only the neuromuscular system, but every other system such as the endocrine, respiratory, digestive and lymphatic system.
Compression of organs occurs in a misaligned body. This is often the source of illness and fatigue. Our blood and breath flow are restricted, interfering with access to vital organs of elimination and digestion.
A common myth is that Yoga is not weight bearing. Yoga is a stellar preventative practice for the “silent disease” of osteoporosis.
At least half of my daily practice is comprised of postures in which my weight is borne through my arms and upper body. Headstands, arm stands, shoulder stands, downward dog and bridge are but a few.
Bone deteriorates with disuse. They thicken in response to use, preventing fall fractures, improving coordination and body mechanics off the mat. Should a fall occur, the impact is lessened because of increased flexibility and mind control.
In my 30s and 40s, I wanted to understand the form of a pose, to build strength. Now I am more content in how the pose feels and how it unfolds. My practice invites me to turn inward, to see the truth of who I am, so that I can live that truth off the mat.
This is what feeds me and gives meaning.
Those downward dogs are worth the effort. Those inversions lower our blood pressure. I agree with Deepak Chopra when he wrote, “People do not grow old; when they stop growing they become old.”
One is never too old to step on the mat or sit on the Yoga chair. B.K. S. Iyengar sums it up when he wrote, “Yoga teaches us to cure what cannot be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”
Lillian Strauss is a Yoga practitioner, reflexologist, Thai massage therapist, movement and music teacher at Energy Works. For information on her classes, contact her at 393-4541 or firstname.lastname@example.org.