I started Yoga at the age of 45. Back then, I was working full-time in the high-tech industry, raising two middle schoolers and married to the love of my life. I was living the American Dream with two cars, a house mortgage and not enough time for me. Like many women of my generation, I wanted to have it all: a career, a family, financial stability and, yes, love. Although I had acquired all of that, I came to realize that I was wearing myself out. That is precisely what aging is…slowly wearing out. Like the tread on a tire — the more miles, the more wear.
Now I’m 65 and have the luxury to look back over the past 20 years of practicing Yoga to reflect on how it has positively affected me and how it has served me well as I age. Here are the principles for Aging Well that I have followed:
#1 – Stop chasing calorie burning
At age 45, I made the explicit switch from seeking exercise to burn calories to doing movements that relieved tension. What I found was surprising! My weight remained more steady and predictable. And like most middle-aged people, weight control was high on my list of aging worries. Now, I never think about managing my weight because my body is in homeostasis. In other words, my body remains in a relatively stable state of equilibrium because I practice Yoga every day. No matter if it is just 5 minutes of breathing and stretching… or 60 minutes of an energetic and/or strengthening practice. My Aging Well advice is …
Seek homeostasis in your mind, body and spirit and you won’t have to count calories ever again! Thank goodness!
#2 – Self-care is not Selfish
For those of you in life that are “givers” like myself, you know we can struggle with receiving. Receiving is allowing goodness to flow into us and accepting it guilt-free and with deep appreciation. That is what my Yoga practice is to me. It is the Holy Grail of self-care. To me, it means taking time to unwind my body and my brain from the everyday demands of life. Taking the time to stop, breathe, twist, bend and move helps me release the tensions of daily life. And most importantly, I allow myself to enjoy the somatic sensations of pleasure that come with physical movement. That is the icing on the cake of my Yoga practice! When our body is free from tension, tightness and pain, we are open to receive more life force that brings us energy to fully participate and enjoy all that life has to offer.
If your body is tense and contracted, it will age into a body full of pain and stiffness. On the other hand, consistently providing self-care for your body can help it age gracefully and with freedom of movement.
#3 – You can always feel better
I know many of you are thinking… “Truly, starting a Yoga practice at 45 is different from starting at 65, 75 and beyond.” But my response is this: you can always feel better. That is actually the goal of adding Yoga into your life. I guarantee that you WILL feel better physically, mentally and emotionally if you keep up a daily Yoga practice. For those of you in pain, you will find relief and comfort. For those of you who struggle with anxiety and/or depression, you will find a reprieve from your heavy thoughts. And for those of you who feel out-of-shape, you will enjoy feeling your heart pumping, your lungs expanding and your muscles getting stronger. The benefits of Yoga are not short-lived; Yoga creates a more vibrant “being” that equips us with inner strength and prepares us to take on challenges that may come our way with more ease and grace.
Yoga helps you move in the direction of positive change — no matter what age you are.
#4 – Movement matters, it’s mechanical
“If you don’t run, you rust”. Tom Petty, RIP
Bones, joints and muscles are the parts of us created for movement. Tending to the mechanical part of us is just as important as taking care of the emotional and mental aspects of our being. Your anatomical structure is what helps you get up out of bed, climb the stairs, carry the groceries and feed your pets. When we lose our physical capabilities, we become more dependent and depressed. For those of you with past injuries or physical limitations, Yoga is a practice that is accessible to everyone! Because with Yoga, you are in complete control over what you choose to do or not do, and that keeps you mindful and safe.
If you want to Age Well, move your body every day. Yes, it is that simple!
#5 – Busting the Myth of the Fountain of Youth
“I ain’t as good as I once was. But I’m as good once as I ever was.” Toby Keith
Don’t seek youthfulness, seek vibrancy. I stopped coloring my hair at 60 and decided to let the natural gray threads start to weave into my hair. I don’t seek out lifts, fillers or nips and tucks because I find that is a vicious cycle that can be time and life consuming. Vibrancy is ageless. We all can admire the spunk and energy of a 90 year old as much as we admire it in a 9 year old. Vibrancy is a state of energy, activity and vigor and it can be obtained at any age. The more life force you bring into your being through your Yoga practice, the more vibrant you will become, despite the number of years reflected on your driver’s license!
Aging Well is honoring your Youth, but not seeking to keep it in suspended animation. Instead, find ways to become more vibrant.
#6 – Self-Discipline: The Most Important Ingredient to Aging Well
All of this advice, reflection and encouragement mean nothing without the most important ingredient for Aging Well… And that is self-discipline! Yoga is not a quick-fix for what ails you. Nor is it a practice that you do only when you feel like it. Yoga is a lifestyle choice and a philosophy of life. Let Yoga become a natural part of living just like your personal hygiene practices are etched into your daily routine. Self-discipline is self-maintenance! That discipline reaps grand rewards but does not come without dedication to the longer term goal of feeling and looking your best at any age.
We all have choices… and the way you age is a combination of all the life choices you make along the way. Aging Well means you have chosen the better options available to you!