Why You Must Learn and Practice YOGA
(Youthful Opportunities Giving Always)
Let’s talk about movement and yoga. For years I resisted yoga, until I was writing my first book (The Healthy School Lunch Action Guide), while living in Santa Cruz, around 1995. At the time, I was working for EarthSave International, a non-profit organization. We were not getting paid much, if at all at the time, so many gifts came our way from supporters. Kali Ray of TriYoga Studio gifted us full access to her studio, anytime we wanted. Free was enough to motivate me. After a full day of work, my boyfriend and I would ride our bikes across town to the studio. We would settle in the class, practice, and then ride back to our office and work on the book until midnight. If anyone has ever written a book, you know how grueling it can be. It was this year that I learned how energizing yoga was, how settling it was, and how strengthening it was. I was fifty at the time. One day, I stood folding my arms and felt my newly revitalized strong muscles. Wow, I thought! The best part is that is was so enjoyable to do at the studio, to be in a space of soft quiet sounds, with a still body and mind, and with lots of new breath coming in to oxygenate every cell.
There is more that I have learned about yoga, over the years. Three years ago, I decided to take a yoga teacher training because, at age sixty-seven, I knew a teacher training would be the only way to kick my butt into gear and establish an imprint for a strong sustaining practice. The training was in Mexico and it was rigorous. I felt like I practically killed myself. Trust me, if it had been closer to home, I might have bolted. But I stayed, and I did build a foundation that has kept me on the mat regularly. In other words, it was worth it!
More recently, I discovered Kundalini Yoga (with Ana Brett and Ravi Singh). I love their DVD workouts, as I do Kali Ray’s and many others’. With Ravi and Ana, I discovered the profound value of practicing yoga to keep the spine and mid-section strong. Here is how I see it, and why I think a yoga practice is a MUST as we age:
1. Everyone’s spine shrinks and, therefore, we get shorter over time. Lifting weights or resistance training is known to create stronger bones. But, think about this. What position is your spine in when you are lifting weights and/or doing some sort of resistance training? Your spine is most likely not elongated, and quite possibly even contracted, during your movements. So, while this movement builds a stronger muscle, and perhaps creates more bone mass, it is doing so while the spine is in the position it has most likely been all day. Gravity always wins, so, over time, compression continues to happen, whether you are walking, stomping, dancing or weight training. A yoga posture is meant to get you into different positions that elongate the spine first, creating new space, then filling the space with breath, and ultimately holding it to create strength. This way the muscle is built while in an elongated position. This practice builds muscle while the spine is lengthened, thereby not only building the strength but also the shape of the muscle. When the spine and the muscle are elongated to a new shape that supports the spine, it will help to hold your spine up while gravity continues to nip at your heels. Yoga is a very smart thing to do to help us counteract the spine’s wanting to collapse. I call it “defying gravity decline.” We will never win, but we can sure stand tall, meanwhile.
2. There is more. When you move in the way described above, you are also delivering fresh, nourishing blood, while strengthening and revitalizing the very core of your body, that houses your vital organs. Your organs need exercise, too. Movement, and the breath that yoga postures inspire, are two of the best ways to give your organs new life.
3. There is even more. When you come to the mat, you come to a new place that is reverent, quiet, focused and sacred. It is the time for you to be with you, and your body, in a collaborative way. You will have to go inside, to listen and to let go. It is gentle, fluid and sensual, while it opens you to new possibilities that will be yours for a lifetime.
4. If you get into Yoga it will provide you with the same awakenings any study or practice does. Think of an athlete that finally breaks a record, or a golfer that hits a hole in one. It can be thrilling. Yoga will do this for you "forever". The continual discovery it offers is un-ending. One day, after working on a pose for months, you will suddenly accomplish a new threshold. The opening this provides is nothing short of riveting. The good news is that it never stops. Going further is always available, and if you are anything like me, you might just love the excitement of growing. A yoga practice with consciousness is a never ending treat of discovery that will spill over to all aspects of your life.
I picked out these beautiful sketches, by Dimitar Hristov, that illustrate what I am saying. See how the body is moved to positions that elongate the muscles and the spine. Now, not even I can move like Dimitar’s imagination, but moving in the direction of these postures will provide an opportunity for challenge and results that will matter to you greatly, as you age.
There is nothing pretty about a slumped spine. I see women, putting fillers in their faces, dyeing their hair and getting face-lifts, and they still look old because their spine is weak and curved in the wrong direction. Strong and straight is sexy and beautiful, especially as we age.
So, even if you don’t like yoga, do it anyway! To get started I recommend committing yourself to a practice for thirty days, at least twice a week. Then, see how you feel. You can get some DVD’s (I love Ravi and Ana’s: www.Raviana.com), or join a nearby studio or gym that has a variety of classes. Go to them. Play. Learn. Feel good. Remember, there are many just like you, and you don’t have to do every posture like the teacher does, or the person in front of you, on the mat. Just rest if you don’t feel like moving. Give yoga a chance, and get the gift that keeps on giving.
If you want to know more, chat with me and explore some areas where you might like to go or grow, please let me know and we can set a time for a complimentary consultation. It would be my pleasure to speak with you. Let me know your contact and time zone. Email me: Susan@ChefTeton.com
How is yoga working for you? Leave a comment and let's discover the gifts and challenges from each other!