As a young person who has been paying attention to the amazing beauty in long time yoga practitioners and the short-term effects on older beginner yoga students I have realized what people stand to gain from a regular yoga practice. Here are my seven reasons and then you MUST to watch this video of a 74 year-old Ashtanga practitioner and see these pictures of a 93 year-old yogini for further proof.
- Body Awareness: A yoga practice, unlike any other exercise out there, encourages practitioners to notice what is happening within the body. The ability to notice changes and recognize early stages of disease could save your life several times as you grow older.
- Ability To Sit On The Earth: Whether you are on a yoga mat, on a picnic blanket or rolling around with a grandchild, the ability to sit on the ground at any age is priceless. I can’t believe how many young people wouldn’t even consider sitting on the ground. Whenever I’m at a party and seating is limited I just plop down on the ground and everyone (even people my age) look embarrassed and astonished. Sitting on the ground in jeans at a party is like popping up into crow in the middle of the supermarket. Please people we all need to be able to connect to the earth and you can’t do that through a chair.
- Balance: The only time I can tell age in the classroom is during standing balances. All the sudden I can see the above 50 and below 50 crowds. After 50 you need to fight with all your heart to maintain and hold onto balance. It is possible, but it is much harder and much more important. Our bones as 30 and 40 year olds can handle a fall to the earth if we lose our balance walking in slushy snow, but as we age our bones become more brittle and building better balance and a stronger lower body helps you not test those weaker bones.
- Healthy Feet: Continuing on with the balance theme I would like to address the state of a non-yoga practitioners feet (terrible). It astonishes me how many beginner yogis are flabbergasted at the thought of exercising without their sneakers on. How will they stand up? How will they balance? Won’t they hurt themselves? The average American is a shoe-wearing glutton. So many people take their shoes off to go to bed and put them on again first thing in the morning. This lack of mobility weakens the foot muscles that help us regulate the subtle weight shifts of the standing body. Not to mention how rigid feet get from lack of freedom. Think of how much mobility your sneakers have, don’t you want your feet to have more mobility than that?
- Flexibility: Life requires flexibility. Whether it is cleaning out soap scum in the shower, bending over to pick up a dropped item, looking for something that rolled under the couch or washing your feet; life requires flexibility. Practicing yoga even once or twice a week makes it so much more manageable to live life.
- Body Pride: As we get older the list of things we can’t do only grows. At a certain age a 40 hour work week is just too exhausting. At a certain age we need more rest after travel. At a certain age we know how much exercise at one given point will invigorate us and what will exhaust us for a few days. But yoga allows practitioners of any age to continuously get better. Every once in awhile I push the envelope in my gentle classes and watch everyone eagerly work to keep up. They always leave bright-eyed and excited that they survived such a challenging practice. They didn’t know they were that strong when they woke up that morning.
- Always Be Getting Younger: I’ve realized in the last six months that I’m younger right now than I’ve been in nearly ten years. I’m eating better, exercising more and have a lower stress level than I did through all of my 20s. Even though I’ve got several gray hairs now I feel healthier and stronger. I’m starting to finally overcome back pain that I’ve had since I was a teenager and my body is starting to release negative emotions that it’s carried around all this time. Aging is inevitable, but becoming healthier, happier, brighter and more buoyant is always an option.
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