The road ahead....
I have been thinking a lot about healthy aging and what that looks like. Now let's chat about that word "aging" , because we are all aging every single day, no matter how old we are. I have spent a lot of my yoga career learning how to help others live better with yoga, heal from injuries and joint replacement and just undo the demands we all place on our bodies every single day. I am personally over the age of 50 and seeking to find the ways to mitigate a life lived as a full contact sport for a vast majority of it and a lot of my regular yoga students are mid-life and older as well.
As younger people we think only in terms of what we want to do, learning how to be more proficient at a sport, a hobby, an interest without really thinking about the consequences long term of what we may put our body through. We all come through life with the collective bumps, bruises, breaks, accidents, surgeries, you name it, whatever you body goes through over the years, your body houses it. Not only does the body hold all of that, it leaves an imprint on the body, wear and tear can show up from repetitive motion, injuries and accidents that we ignore and heal from quickly when we are young, come back to haunt us later in life.
The reality is that the body as it ages doesn't heal as quickly as it used to, habits of movement create patterns that lead to issues over time and some don't want to admit that they need to treat themselves with better care... I learned after playing softball for almost 40 years that though my mind still said I could do it at the same level, my body had a different message, "Are you fucking CRAZY!!" I decided to stop playing because I couldn't play at the level I was used to and I also wanted to be sure that I didn't do something that would hinder my ability to continue teaching yoga, travel to all of my dream locations, walk as much as I want, lift weights and have my own personal yoga practice.
Healthy aging is becoming more of a concern as we try to live our lives with as much freedom, flexibility and independence as possible. The sooner we start thinking about healthy aging, the better the odds for a longer, more mobile lifestyle down the road. A yoga practice will go a long way to helping with healthy aging and the sooner you have the practice, the more you set yourself up to be in pretty good shape. It doesn't mean that starting a yoga practice later in life is not worthy, it so is worthy. I have worked with people of varying ages and had newbies step into my class that are 60, 70 and beyond. Yoga can help you build stamina, stability, balance, agility (depending on your practice) and help unwind years of just living life. The practice changes over time as the body changes, one of the things that diminishes with age is balance, but it is also one of the things that with a consistent and regular practice that you can improve!
I'm not saying to live your life in a bubble and not do the things you love and experience all of the life you desire... What I am saying is to try to mitigate and care for your body over time with healthy practices so that you can continue to do all of the things that you want to do in your long life. Falling is the main concern of most of my older students. A lot of them have lost or forgotten their connection to their core muscles and moving into and out from the core. Those muscles help stabilize your hips, pelvis and spine and they need attention in order to stay strong and functioning at a high level. Did you know that the most at risk age group for falling is 55-65? Why you might be wondering, well that is the age group that is still working, maybe still raising a family and/or taking care of aging family members, still doing activities and rushing around living life. The body is changing during those years and if you are not tuned in to what is going on and paying attention, falling is a real possibility. Again yoga can help with your balance and your mind/body connection and awareness, but it takes consistent, regular practice.
Here's one more interesting fact, we all have nerve sensors in our feet that help us find stability, balance and agility. Did you know that wearing shoes most of the time deadens those nerve receptors over time so that they are not as responsive?? I know a lot of older people who wear shoes most of the time, even if they are just inside their home. I would offer that you spend a whole lot more time barefoot both in your home and outside in the grass, the sand, the dirt. Revive those sensors in your feet, do some rooting and grounding down into the earth and keep your stability, balance and agility as strong as you can for as long as you can.
Healthy aging can start at any age, the more you do to care for your body and the stresses and demands of living life, the more it can reward you with freedom of movement, balance and stability. If yoga isn't your jam, find another practice that help you maintain all of those, but do yourself a favor and find something you can stick with for the long haul. I don't just have a 25 year yoga practice, I have a practice that I love and that is a totally new thing every time I step on to my mat with curiosity and openness to what my body has to say in that very moment. That very practice has set me up for a better road ahead I believe. And yes, I would rather be barefoot than anything else.