A Motivating Story
While I was conducting an early morning session with Sangita, a desire to quench my thirst led me into her kitchen. The scene I witnessed there taught me a few important life lessons especially regarding how one can age beautifully.
Mrs. Madhu Khetan was kneeling on a stool (around 2.5 to 3 feet tall) and was cleaning the kitchen window mindfully (mind the term mindfully). This might not sound like something one would be all agog about as we have seen our maids doing this. But, how many of us have seen a 73 year old, draped in a saree, doing this kind of activity diligently.
I was very impressed by what I had just witnessed and was curious to know more about Aunty. I knew that the daughter- in- law and the mom –in- law share a beautiful relationship. Also, keeping a maid for these chores is not a problem for them as they are financially sound and mentally liberal. During my conversation with Sangita, I glimpsed into the life of this awe inspiring lady who lives life liberally and with panache. I discovered that she insists on doing daily chores all by herself to keep her body fit and active, along with her regular exercise and stretches. Any kind of dependence on others is like a punishment to her. She mostly lives alone and manages everything one her own. Interestingly, at this age too, unlike many others who feel that life has come to an end, Aunty loves to explore new dimensions of life. In fact, she recently consulted with a leading nutritionist, followed the recommended diet plan religiously and thereby registered positive changes in her lifestyle and weight. That’s not all; she has another facet to her personality. She loves to spend time at club with her friends. What a dynamic personality!! “I Love Life” seems to be the Mantra of Aunty’s dynamic personality.
The concept of old age is clouded with confusion
This beautiful stage of life should have its own variance like all the other phases. There are people like Mrs. Madhu Khetan who cherish each and every moment of life even at this age. But then, they are in a minority. A majority of the population has a very different outlook about this age group, including the aging people themselves:
- A great number of people believe that “This is the end” and nothing much is left to be done. Almost as if “They are waiting for death to happen to them”.
- Whether it is the kids or their aging parents, majority of the populace automatically start associating aging with ‘dependence’. As if “aging and dependence are synonymous”.
- Younger generation, (majority of them ) believe that their parents are at the stage of life where they should be occupied with television soaps, going for pilgrimages etc. even if the aging parents are young at heart and want to have a different lifestyle.
People at this stage ought to take active responsibility of their health. Kids too, have a responsibility to keep them engaged with mainstream life.
There could be many such opinions apart from the above. But one concept is crystal clear. Those who approach this stage of life with love, fun and maturity, enjoy the most of it. They are also the ones who are physically active and still exploring new things in life; enjoying the company of like-minded people and living life meaningfully. “Independence and Enjoyment is the mantra of their life”. As kids, it is our responsibility to encourage our aging parents to remain in the mainstream of life rather than allowing them or pushing them into isolation. Life will be positively different for them as well as for the kids. “Stress” in any form will get converted into “De-stress”.
Strength, Flexibility & Endurance is must at this stage too and one of the pillars of their Independence
Like any other stage of our life, this stage of our life too needs appropriate combination of Strength, Flexibility & Endurance. In fact, more than ever, as the body starts getting in the grip of stiffness, muscle mass loss, reduced – flexibility, alertness, balance etc. due to natural process of aging.
The Sanskrit word ‘Jara’ means old age and is derived from the root ‘Jri’ which means “to decay.” Loosely, it refers to the state of body where the decaying process starts. This decaying process is accompanied by hypertension, rupture of blood vessels, asthma, osteoporosis, drooping shoulders, flatulence, arthritis, diabetes, loss of hearing, loss of tooth, hair loss, danger of cancer, dementia, alzheimer etc. – The common problems associated with old age (though our lifestyle has not spared the younger generation either).
Can we do anything about the natural progression of our chronological age? The answer is ‘No’. But we can definitely accelerate our ‘Functional Age’ and delay or control the conditions associated with aging. That’s what matters the most. YOGA can play a crucial role here. It can touch upon the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects to keep one going in a balanced manner.
Focus on the Functional Age rather than the Chronological – By the way, YOGA is anti-aging
What can be better than YOGA. This multi-dimensional science, with its versatility has something appropriate for all age groups. In fact, any asana can be modified to meet one’s needs as per one’s abilities and requirements. Even a person who has never done Yoga can practice it with ease. Practicing yoga at old age can have following benefits:
- Degenerative disease like arthritis, chronic pain, stiffness in the body etc. can be controlled with regular practice of yoga.
- Similarly, pranayama can be incorporated to enhance the capacity of one’s lungs, improve the sleep pattern and control stress.
- Balance is a common problem of this age leading to falls and fractures. Balancing yoga postures will help improve balance.
- One can choose to perform postures based on different systems of the body and thereby keep the systems stimulated and the associated problems at bay.
- Targeted yoga postures help strengthen the bones, decreasing the risk of bone degenerative diseases like osteoporosis.
Last but not the least, regular yoga practice brings one to a state of physical relaxation and mental tranquility, wherein, one can perform functional movements with ease and enjoy this journey of life in peace and without any dependency on others.
I am listing out a few stretches, which can be done “Anywhere and Everywhere”. These simple but highly effective stretches would cover each and every part of the body. The body and with it, the mind would remain active and alert. Those constant aches and pains that would otherwise remind you of your aging process would be easily eliminated with regular practice. You can also check videos or detailed description for many of these stretches on http://www.shammisyogalaya.com.
Nadi Sodhan Kriya / Alternate Nostril Breathing: It is alternate nostril breathing in which, you inhale from left nostril while keeping your right nostril softly locked, block your left nostril after the inhalation is over, release the lock of right nostril and exhale from the right nostril. Then, inhale from the right nostril, block right nostril after inhalation and release the lock of left nostril and exhale from the left nostril. This is one round.
Vivekananda in his book Raja Yoga mentions, “practicing this three or five times at four hours of the day, before dawn, during midday, in the evening, and at midnight, in fifteen days or a month purity of nerves is attained.”
Arms & Chest Opening: These arm stretches and various asanas with emphasis on the upper part of the body helps keep the upper part of the body mobile dealing with:
- Strengthening the neck
- Cervical spondylitis
- Frozen shoulder / stiff shoulders
- Increasing the lung capacity and many others
Stretch your back from all angles: These asanas stretches your back, twists your spine, and releases tension from your legs, thereby helping deal with back pain, sciatica, slip disc, neck pain, bloating and indigestion.
Back stretching & Strengthening: Below are given mixed of the postures targeting different parts of the body.
- Spinal movement helps keep back supple as aging process has a tendency to make our back stiff thereby restricting our day to day activity.
- Standing postures develop the strength, stamina and at the same time increase the flow of energy.
- Twisting postures release all the tension from the spine and thereby keeping it mobile
Restoration and Relaxation: Lying down postures with or without the wall not only stretches and strengthens your body but at the same time provide a solid support so that you can stay in the posture in a comfortable way for some time and restore your body back to normal. Apart from helping your body and mind to restore to its normal position, these restorative postures are also recommended for back pain, sciatica, slip discs.