The Next Best Thing to the Fountain of Youth…Yoga?

Quality of life is important to me. Nothing can be taken for granted as I age. Achy stiff joints, decreasing mobility, loss of strength, and a depressed attitude cramp my style. I happen to like my style very much and I don’t want it cramped!

Yoga was not love at first Uttanasana. I was in my fifties when my daughter cajoled me into attending a class. I pulled out a pair of ancient leggings and a tee-shirt I’d never wear anywhere else and trotted along. Of course with the kind of competitive spirit I possess, I threw myself into it that day, determined to keep up with the much younger crowd. It was a struggle. Even the Sanskrit words the instructor used to name the positions conspired to confuse me. The next morning every muscle screamed revenge. But my daughter’s enthusiasm was impossible to resist and after a while the poses became familiar. When I no longer had to concentrate so hard to keep up, I enjoyed the feeling of well-being that followed an hour on the mat. But I wasn’t dedicated. Months slipped by without so much as a downward dog.

Big changes took place as I launched into the sixth decade of life. I looked and felt older. Once it began, it was appalling how quickly wrinkles appeared, skin lost elasticity, and a roll of flesh settled on top of my hips. In addition to that, I didn’t have the flexibility I’d once had. My joints ached.

Then a younger friend died suddenly.

It was a painful reminder that I didn’t have forever. I recommitted to yoga and had a personal routine designed for me. Now there was no excuse. I didn’t need to go to a studio or enroll in classes. Everything could be done in the comfort and privacy of my own home whenever it suited me. I began to practice with dogged persistence and the results in my psyche were immediate. There was a sense of well-being and relief knowing that I was doing myself a great kindness.

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Photo from a post in January 2014: Monsoon Yoga on the yoga platform in the old house

Over time, the changes in my body were even more pronounced. I lost the fat around my belly and muscle appeared. My hamstrings stretched and I could balance on one leg forever if I wanted to. Even though I could see and feel the benefits, every day was an exercise in willpower. I’d bargain with myself: you walked three miles yesterday so you can take today off.

And then I got sick. For two months I couldn’t have dragged myself to the mat if I’d wanted to.

When I finally felt able to attempt the routine again, I was shaky and winded within minutes. It scared me how frail I’d become. But something had shifted. In spite of weakness and the physical effort required, each morning I awoke eager to practice. It felt like a gift. I knew that every day I could do yoga was a day of health and I didn’t want to miss it. With gratitude infusing my movements, it became far more than a physical workout. Time elongated, I disengaged from thought and entered a meditative state more in keeping with the spiritual roots of this ancient art.

Yoga in the new house: August 13, 2017

Now I’m 67, well past the stage where being lazy about self-care is an option. I’ll do my routine daily for as many more years as I can. When my body is unable to withstand the rigors of sun salutations and warrior poses, there are other options. Gentle yoga is one of them. I’ve heard the excuses people use: bum knees, weak wrists, bad back. If we do what our bodies will allow us to do, strengthen those parts that we can improve, we’ll be so much better off than if we do nothing.

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