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.


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.

Goa Gaja – The Elephant Cave

Goa Gaja, known as the Elephant Cave, is nothing short of extraordinary. Dating back to the 9th century, this was and still is a sacred temple site of the Hindus. The entrance to the cave is covered with carved figures. Upon entering through the yawning mouth of the beast, the air instantly becomes oppressively thick and dead. The cavern is small and ‘T’ shaped with Ganesha in a niche straight ahead. The two chambers off the center each hold another deity.

The monsters guarding the entrance wear plaid sarongs with the colors of the three-part god, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, red, blue, and white. Brahma is fire, Vishnu is water, Shiva is wind. Maybe this is true. Maybe not. Sometimes it depends upon who is telling the story!

In 1950 the baths at Goa Gaja were excavated. It was believed by the early Balinese that this was the fountain of youth. Now the waters that pour from the jars held by six maidens are considered holy water and used for purification in the ceremonies. For this photo I am standing high above on a path cut into the side of the mountain. You can see the thatched roof below me.

There are three maidens below and to the right, and another three maidens holding their jars stand beside the pool just to the left of these.

This is a community meeting place where they plan the ceremonies and festivals that are held here.

We walked around this building and there below us was a lush jungle valley with a b’zillion steps leading down into it. As I descended the stone stairs I had to stop on each landing to take pictures and to breathe, and that was going DOWN. The air was thicker and more humid with each step.


I remember reading a book in high school by Richard Llewellyn about a Welsh mining community. It was a wonderful story. The title was, How Green was My Valley. I thought of that today gazing at the impossible green-ness of this valley.

On the valley floor were huge carved pieces of a Buddhist temple scattered in an irregular line. At some point in history an earthquake or a mudslide tumbled them from their perch on the side of the mountain and deposited them in the midst of the stream.

I followed a narrow path (in spite of my aversion to high, narrow places) around the side of a jutting rock and found this cascading waterfall.

It came from up there…

I was mesmerized by this incredible root system…

and this cluster of delicate white flowers with the orange blossom surprise adding a splash of color.

Being in this place is pure magic and I suddenly realize why. It’s because I can actually see it. There aren’t hundreds of people tramping up and down the stairs and stopping in front of me to take pictures. The only others here at this hour of the morning are a woman placing offerings and a gardener. I feel like I have stepped into the pages of a fairytale where colors are brighter, trees are taller, scents are sweeter and life is bliss.

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