I am a yoga teacher, and over the years I have seen students who seem to defy the aging process. I really believe that yoga is a big part of why they appear to be younger than they really are.
When I first became interested in doing yoga years ago, my teacher was 60 years old and had the body of a 30-year-old. The only thing that gave her away was her grey hair! Many years later, a yoga studio opened up in Brandon, and I became the student of Shirley Smith, the owner of the studio. I saw that she too had the appearance of someone much younger than her 70 years. I can remember when Shirley decided to rent an apartment on the top floor of an apartment building so that she could get in more exercise every day by climbing the stairs!
I have noticed with these people, their mind plays a part in their youthfulness too. They seem to live life with excitement and an almost childlike awareness. Yoga incorporates body, mind and spirit, so it isn't all about the physical. Looking younger is just one of yoga's benefits.
I believe that as we age, it becomes important to reverse the downward pull of gravity that we face each day on this earth. In many of the yoga poses, we turn our body upside down, whether it is by something as simple as a standing forward bend, or just putting our legs up a wall for a few minutes. Reversing gravity has a beneficial effect on our circulation, lungs and brain. Also, every time our head goes below the heart, we are bringing fresh blood to the lines in our face and also to our good friend, our brain.
One of the most common signs of aging is a rounded spine. In an effort to delay the signs of aging, many people spend money on plastic surgery and other things. No amount of money or cosmetic surgery can correct a rounding spine, but yoga can!
The beauty of yoga is that you don't need any equipment other than a yoga mat. and you can practice anywhere at anytime.
Recently when I was staying on Anna Maria Island, I had a wonderful yoga experience. Each morning I would take my mat out to the hotel's shuffleboard court to do yoga. On this particular morning it was still dark, and as I was laying on my yoga mat, I looked up and could see the moon peeking between the pine trees overhead. You never know where your yoga practice will take you.
I am including pictures of my friend Betty Eihler. Betty is on the front cover of one of my favorite yoga books, "The New Yoga of Healthy Aging" by Suza Francina. I was lucky to have Betty come to my studio for a workshop and stay with me at my home. Betty is well in to her 70s and is a real inspiration. She had a sweetness of spirit and wasn't one to brag or boast, but it became apparent that she was in very good shape. I came in to my living room one morning and there she was, standing on her head. Betty didn't even start yoga until she was in her 50s! It's never too late to start doing yoga.
Yes, I think I have found the fountain of youth with yoga. It seems to me that the younger people who do yoga stay younger longer, and the older people who do it become younger somehow.
Sharon Summerall is a Certified Kripalu Teacher who teaches in the Brandon area. She is also a gardener, mosaic artist and grandmother to three beautiful grand-daughters.