5 Tips for Aging Gracefully with Yoga
By Stephanie Keach
1. Pelvic Floor
Usually we think anti-sagging, anti-wrinkling, anti-balding when we see “Aging Gracefully”, but honestly those things don’t make us graceful. How about not having to wear a big, bulky diaper? Yup, GBK (Go Beyond Kegels) I say. My students will tell you I am not shy to drop anatomy terms like vagina, testicles, and anus in a yoga class. I’m a frequent flyer with pelvic floor anatomy because lets face it: Use it or Lose it. So squeeze often down there. Squeeze different things down there. Trying to isolate genitals from anus for instance – this might take a lifetime but the practice itself can enrich so many aspects. Elimination and sexuality, yes, those are the more obvious benefits. But how about becoming more grounded and certain? How about healing lower back issues? Oh yeah people, get your squeeze on!
Now, these fantastic appendages may not get sexier with age, but we can keep them limber and strong. Consider how many hours a day, each week, each year of your life your sweet little feet have carried you and spend some time daily literally massaging your toes. Touch them and Love them- they are going to (hopefully) carry you through ’til the End! Trying to grab / pick up things with your toes is a common activity in my “shoes-off” household, helping our feet stay healthy and limber.
Another common saying out of my mouth is “Your neck will not age well. Period. I am sorry for this news.” Yoga doesn’t prevent aging anywhere, and our vulnerable necks take a beating for sure: life, sports, computer screens, headstands… The best we can do for our necks is awareness and gentleness. Whenever you can remember, Check your Neck! meaning watch alignment and posture (driving and looking at screens are really bad ones!) Add in frequent neck stretches and neck rolls and that’s great. Get neck massages and you are on your way to Neck Nirvana!
I can’t think of a more loaded topic in the yoga world, yet regardless of diet: We Are What We Eat. Mindfully pausing before purchasing, preparing and ingesting can help us make better choices for our overall health and well being. But regardless of the ever controversial Vegan vs. Paleo, ask yourself these things:
How do I feel while I am eating this?
How do I feel after I eat this?
How are my bowel movements?
How is my mood after I eat?
How are my energy levels throughout the day?
How are my hair, skin, nails?
How is my menstrual cycle?
All these things listed above are very affected by what you eat. It takes deep self-reflection to determine the least violence towards the planet but also yourself! Moderation and flexibility is really the kindest food mantra we got in the yoga world. (Oh hey, it’s a pretty good Yoga body AND Yoga mind mantra too!) As most long-term Yogis agree, I believe listening to what your body TRULY needs is one of the most important forms of non-violence.
Oh stress. Our dear, uninvited guest doesn’t always get the hint that his welcome is over! So alas, our rhythm of deep rest and healing gets disturbed, and this disturbance can wreak havoc in all parts of our lives. This isn’t news, almost half the population is experiencing insomnia for either short term or long term reasons. Yoga gives us amazing tools for rest: Restorative yoga, Deep breathing, Meditation, and my all time favorite, Shavasana. Taking mini-naps has been a life-saver since I began having babies 20 years ago! To survive my pregnancies, when insomnia first visited, I began to get really good at Quick Shavasanas. Meaning, I would get into bed, put pillows around my head to cover my ears and eyes (my husband uses earplugs and an eye-mask), then lie on my back, comfortably like corpse pose in a yoga class, with a blanket, then I would super efficiently scan my body to deeply sink into the mattress, then my mind, and poof! I was out. I would either have a timer, or would naturally “awaken” after 20 minutes, refreshed and restored! Superbly miraculous and way more important to “master” than handstand, in my opinion.
I think it would be awesome if we edited our colloquial saying to “Aging Healthfully.” Now that is something to achieve! We are all aging, every single second. Yoga will not prevent it, and it may not even slow it down. But we can start right now with new practices to help the process feel more comfortable. Upcoming workshops like Yoga and Ayurveda will educate us in Nutritional healing with Yoga. Our 300 hour Therapeutics Training gives you every tool Yoga has to utilize our tools for healthier aging. Workshops like Senior Yoga with Libby Hinsley, Restorative Yoga with Sara Levine, Yoga and Meditation with Michael Johnson are only going to expand on my Top 5 suggestions above. I will leave you with one other great Tip:
“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
― George Bernard Shaw