Photo of Tao Porchon-Lynch, 93, the world's oldest yoga teacher, rocking her peacock pose!
7 Yogic Practices That Support Graceful Aging
Today ( Sept 13, 2015) is Grandparents’ Day, which is a wonderful reminder to honor the older generation in our yoga classes. If we peel away the superficial layers of jump-backs and handstands that are staples in the most popular time slots, yoga offers unparalleled care for aging bodies and minds. Here are seven yogic practices that support graceful aging:
- Active Backbends . Active backbends like salabasana (locust) and setu bandhasana (bridge) strengthen the muscles that support the spine. Not only does this help prevent low back pain, it increases the density of the spinal bones, which may prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis.
- Inversions. As we age, headstand and shoulderstand may become less accessible, but supported inversions — such as viparita karani (legs up the wall) with a blanket or bolster under the hips — provide the same benefit of reversing the effects of gravity. Inversions drain excess blood from the legs and hips, which relieves varicose veins and hemorrhoids while improving circulation to the heart and head. As blood drains from the legs, other fluid gets pulled along with it to ease inflammation in the hips, knees, ankles, and feet.
- Uddiyana Bandha. The practice of uddiyana bandha, which is characterized by the abdomen pulling in and up under the rib cage, tones the transverse abdominus muscle. Keeping this key core muscle strong and active supports the spine to prevent low back pain. The transverse abdominis also contributes fundamentally to balance, so cultivating awareness of this muscle helps prevent injuries from falls.
- Mula Bandha. Mula bandha is practiced by engaging the pelvic floor, another component of the core. Maintaining a supple pelvic floor supports both the spine and pelvis, and may help prevent or ameliorate incontinence.
- Community. We don’t always think of the group dynamic of a yoga class as a part of our practice, but the social aspect of yoga may profoundly affect health. Studies show that strong social ties improve immunity and increase longevity. Start a conversation with another student before or after your next class!
- Gratitude Meditation. It’s okay to acknowledge that some of the changes that come with age are unwelcome; however, these changes become more bearable — or even celebration-worthy — when we can approach them with a sense of gratitude. As Maurice Chevalier once quipped, “Old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative.” Meditation in general has been shown to improve memory, focus, mood, and overall health.
- Moderation. Akin to the serenity prayer, t he practices above help us improve the adaptable aspects of ourselves and accept those that are permanent (in this lifetime, anyway). A robust yoga practice isn’t all about transformation or all about being still; it is a dance of moderation between the two. How this ever-changing balance manifests for each individual can only be discovered through many years of experience, dedicated practice, and self-study.
Author: Barbie Levasseur