The Purpose of Yoga: Aging Gracefully

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The Purpose of Yoga: Aging Gracefully

yoga teacherBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Most Yoga practitioners, and teachers, begin to realize the anti-aging benefits of Hatha Yoga training, within a short time. However, with all of the anti-aging scams in abundance today, most Yoga teachers hesitate to utter the words “anti” and “aging” in the same sentence.  The many benefits of steady Yoga practice, to all age groups, are enhanced, when we explore the physical limits of our bodies. There are times when we surprise ourselves with what we can, and what we cannot, do.

The more experienced students usually do not take risks. They have “been there and done that.” New Yoga students are warned not to force, while they learn their physical limits.  Have you ever heard the saying, “Youth is wasted on the young?” When I first heard it, I was quite young, and the words were shouted at me by a man who was about the age of my Grandfather.

Unfortunately, I took offense because of his tone, and I did not understand his message. My reaction was silence, because of his age; he deserved respect, and I did respect him, completely.  In my mind, I thought, “I’m not wasting my youth.” I really did not understand. His whole point was lost because my mind was not open to the message, and he did not explain it in depth.

Ten years passed, and I heard the words again from a mentor, and friend, named, Harry, but his tone was one of equanimity. He explained the words from an older person’s point of view. When we reach middle age, most of us stop taking risks. These prospective risks can be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, occupational, or financial, but when we age, we tend to think, “Been there and done that.”

Most children, and young adults, will come up with new and creative ideas, but older adults want to protect them from risks. Older adults want to keep their children and grand children safe from harm. Children can learn a lot from parents, but many parents could receive a refresher course on youthful living by observing and listening to their children.

Children are not afraid to learn new skills. Children often have more than one solution to a problem because they are not “set in their ways.” We become conditioned with age to react to situations in a predictable way. We think “inside the box.”

You see – it is the attitude, within us, which most often ages first. If we never take calculated risks from middle age on, we have “played it safe” for the rest of our lives.  Now, I am not suggesting that seniors should start sky diving, surfing, and hang gliding, next week, but the in the twilight of our lives, we often regret the opportunities we did not take advantage of. The thrill of a challenge makes life worth living. A calculated risk is a “breath of fresh air.”

For example: The seniors who take chair Yoga are the “mavericks” of their time. Most of them did not have the opportunity to receive Yoga instruction as children, but they are not afraid to participate and receive the benefits.  Now, that is an inspiration to the rest of us.
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