So many of our perceptions are formed from our senses. These outward sensations create values and often effect our actions, our way of being. When it comes to aging most of us would perceive aging when the wrinkles appear, the hair grays, the vision blurs, and hearing becomes less keen. These attributes may be true as the body matures or changes over time. But is this truly aging- the passing of the years, the lost of that youthful appearance (this is what the media wants us to believe as it sells convincingly millions of dollars of products to turn back time) Or is aging much more deeply rooted – the loss of balance, agility, strength, determination, flexibility, and the ability to simply breath? It is well proven that an active practice of yoga can slow down the aging process and even improve one’s health and well-being.
Within any meaningful yoga practice there are at least five basic benefits that directly impact the aging process – balance, flexibility, strength, breathing, and awareness.
Balance– how often have you yourself or noticed someone trip over something or sometimes nothing at all, did the body recover its balance or did it fall? The American Academy of Orthopaedics data banks on at least 1 in 3 people would fall and possibly suffer a fracture. Practicing yoga on a routine basis helps to instill balance and agility as the body and mind learn to function as one.
Flexibility- One of the most misperceived notions about yoga is that is only for those that are flexible with cheerleader or gymnast like bodies. This is so far from reality as yoga stimulates flexibility through distinctive movements associated with various postures or asanas – taking those stiff or under-utilized muscles and adding fluidity.
Strength- Over time yoga builds strength through weight bearing poses like Downward Dog and Plank. One may argue that the results are not quickly noticeable, but remember the race between the tortoise and the hare- yoga being the hare is a slow and steady approach to strengthen and lengthen muscles with low impact on one’s cartilage and joints.
Breathing- Simply said breathing is life, and this essential life force is the central focus of yoga, more so than any other physical activity. The breath is the get up and go for all bodily functions. A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania showed that with proper breathing techniques the blood pressure dramatically lowered thus reducing the need of hypertensive medications.
Body Awareness- With each and every movement, the mind sends a message to the body stating a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” response – the movement is either deemed safe or could present danger or pain. Yoga teaches the mind and body to work in synch offering alternate opportunities to change or modify a given movement to avoid discomfort and still achieve an intended purpose or outcome.
So what is aging or better said growing old? One may say it’s defined by an age, or is it when the mind and body begin to disassociate with balance, flexibility, strength, breathing, and awareness. At Decatur Yoga & Pilates there are multiple opportunities to foster the ability to stay young within mind and body through a dedicated and meaningful practice. Your body will thank you for years to come. Namaste!!!
If you desire to tap into these mindful attributes or know someone who can benefit from a unique, alternative form of yoga consider coming to the next Chair Based Yoga Workshop on October 16th at 1PM – Utkanasana Comes Home – an all level class.