Aging Gracefully With Yoga

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It is never too late to start Yoga, says Rajvi H Mehta,Yoga teacher from Mumbai and an editor of the journal Yoga Rahasya. Here she writes about how Yoga can help you stay healthy as you grow older.
For the sake of convenience, people are categorised as being young, middle-aged and old. But, when does one shift from being young to middle-aged and middle aged to old? There are no strict demarcations. In fact, most often than not, the realisation that one is old comes from extraneous timelines. You retire at the age of 58 or 60 and thereby become ‘senior’ citizens. You experience some aches and pains and with no definitive answer for the cause of these aches and pains – it is attributed to ‘aging.’ For women, the onset of menopausal changes is the onset of ageing! Ageing, as commonly perceived, starts when one starts thinking and talking about the past and in my opinion has nothing to do with the chronological age.

BKS Iyengar – The Greatest Example

Birth, death, ageing and disease are part and parcel of life but how we perceive them, handle them and negotiate them would reflect the way we look at these milestones. One of the greatest examples that we have had in the modern era is that of Yogacharya BKS Iyengar who left this world at the age of 96, 2 years ago. There was no way one could add any adjective before his chronological age as old age, ripe old age, etc. He stood erect till the very end; the students would see him silently practicing Sirsasana and various other asanas in the Institute hall for hours together – wherein he was immersed in the world of the ‘consciousness, citta’ and at times, his consciousness possibly merging with the Universal consciousness going into a deep state of dhyana! Even in the outer worldly affairs, he was sharp and alert with intact cognitive functions, full of joy de vivre and an ability to communicate easily with people of all age-groups, making the concept of ‘generation gap’ irrelevant.
As Guruji Iyengar says, “Yoga makes you live in the moment and not in the movement of moment.” There are limitations that come in the body as it has faced the impact of the journey of life; the emotional upheavals that life could bring but in Guruji Iyengar’s words, “Yoga cures what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”

Madhubhai Tijoriwala doing the Sirsasana

Madhubhai Tijoriwala doing the Sirsasana

Yoga At Any Age
Yoga is a practical subject. Talking about it, giving some examples surely motivates one but it is the experience that overshadows all the verbal expressions. And, the beauty is that it is never too late to start yoga. Way back in time, the Queen Mother of Belgium, expressed her desire to stand on her head and she was 82 then! She had confidence in her teacher BKS Iyengar and even went on to tell him that if you have confidence in the subject of yoga then you will make me do it. And, lo and behold, she was up in Sirsasana and continued practicing it daily with the aid of her gardener for the remaining days of her life!
Then, we have in Mumbai, our very own inspiration, Madhubhai Tijoriwala, a solicitor by profession, who on the last International Day of Yoga decided to come up on stage to a deafening applause to demonstrate his Sirsasana – something that has become a part of his daily life for decades. Thanks to Guruji Iyengar, he uses the support of two boxes so that there is no strain on his neck but still experiences a very refreshing feeling in the head. After all dullness and stagnation are the first signs of aging, which is reversed by the King of asanas, Sirsasana.
I am not asking all the readers to start doing Sirsasana right away. I am trying to make a point that there is no age-bar for the practice of yoga. However, when you start anything, you have to start at the base and with the help of a good teacher.

How Asanas Help
There are many asanas. Some asanas bring lubrication to the joints helping one to function fairly independently. When the joints are mobile then the ‘contents’ of this musculo-skeletal body – the organs, can maintain their function. The abdomen is where the digestive, excretory systems are located. When the abdomen sags then these organs do not functional optimally. Certain asanas ‘extend’ these organs and help them function. And most important of all, the practice of asanas helps the practitioner attain emotional strength. There are limitations of the body, which come with age making it difficult to perform the asanas. So one compromises the quality of the asana which means its efficacy is also compromised. Guruji Iyengar has utilised ordinary household material like chairs, tables, blankets, bolsters, belts, ropes, etc which help one do the asana to its fullest potential. In the forthcoming articles, we shall elaborate more on this.
It is never too late to start yoga so let’s start it from today!

Featured Image: Guru Iyengar in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

All images courtesy: Rajvi H Mehta

About Author

Rajvi H Mehta

Rajvi is an Iyengar Yoga teacher from Mumbai and an editor of the journal Yoga Rahasya. She will be sharing her insights on Yoga with our readers frequently.