by Cyndy Edwards
Aging. Growing older. Elder.
What comes to mind when you hear those words? Are you picturing some feeble, bent, shuffling person with nearly white or graying hair? A person who can barely move from chair to chair and loses track of people and events? Or, perhaps, you’re picturing someone who is mobile, quick witted, and fiercely independent?
What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to do?
I must have heard and answered those questions dozens of times. And, I bet, you did, too. Maybe you’ve grown into one of your answers. Maybe you discovered what seemed exciting and fulfilling in your early years became routine or even boring in its day-to-day reality. Maybe you didn’t settle on one or two things to do. Maybe you explored lots of options. Maybe you’re still exploring.
Personally, I think the better question is “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” or, even, “Who do you want to be when you grow old?” Because that is inevitable. The growing old. The only requirement is that you keep breathing and if you’re reading this, then you’re meeting that. How you grow old, what that experience will be for you, requires a bit more.
Maintaining Your Vitality
If you’re interested in being vital and independent in your elder years (and those start in your 60s), then there are a few things for you to attend to. Staying mentally, physically, and emotionally well takes a bit of effort. How we choose to live our lives, our daily routines impact not just today, but tomorrow and the next day and the next.
Out of the tons of information available – articles, blogs, videos, courses, books – I’m sharing a few insights that I’ve gleaned in my searches. Neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin in Successful Aging (2020), boils our choices down to circadian rhythms (no, that’s not a typo), what we eat, how we move, and our sleep habits. If you add social connections, then many others like the Blue Zones folks align.
But what does all of this have to do with yoga? Why is this a topic on Namaste’s blog? Yoga provides practices that support you in your choices. The research is growing and our Western medical community is recognizing how getting on your mat to do sets of poses (asana), pausing to notice and consciously manage your breathing (pranayama), and taking a few moments to be mindfully present (meditation) all have a positive impact on how you age.
Healthy Aging Flow at Namaste Yoga
The Healthy Aging Flow class teaches all these practices. The classes are organized in a rotating sequence of themes particularly applicable to us as grow older. Information and tips about each theme are threaded throughout. Some of the themes are about our muscles & bones (strength, flexibility, balance, agility), others are about our body’s systems (circulatory, neurological, immune) and yet others focus on our mental-emotional states (stress reduction, equanimity). Every class begins with breathwork followed by movement and then closes with a guided meditation during savasana – the final resting pose.
Build a routine wherein you are more active when the sun rises and quieter as it sets will help to align your internal clocks (circadian rhythms). Asana is exercise and how we move, as you undoubtedly know, can be energizing or calming or a bit of both. Meditation and breathwork facilitate mental clarity and sleep. Instead of counting sheep the next time you awaken in the wee hours of the night, try paying attention to and counting your lengthening out-breaths. Practicing yoga has been anecdotally associated with eating in a healthier manner (more fruits & veggies than meats & dairy). And that all-critical social connection? Community. The friends and acquaintances and open-hearted acceptance found in yoga, notably at Namaste, supports us all.
Mental – physical – emotional well-being.
Mind – body – spirit. Yoga.