If you read yoga books or blogs for any length of time, it isn’t long before you come across personal stories in which the yoga practitioner will say “yoga saved my life.” Kate Lebansky credits yoga for saving her from death by addiction. Chelsea Roff writes elegantly about how yoga saved her from anorexia. The singular Ana Forrest says that she was on the “suicide track” when she found yoga. Some version of the phrase “yoga saved my life” is even incorporated into the title of several books.
These stories are real and profound, but most practitioners simply want to improve their health and wellbeing, gain some strength and flexibility, or age more gracefully.
The Problem with Modern Life
Our modern sedentary lifestyles often result in tight hips and hamstrings, hunched shoulders, and neck flexion in a forward position. This can lead to lower back pain, tension in the shoulders, sore neck and poor posture. Years of neglecting these poor mechanics can sort of solidify, resulting in a permanent forward hunch. My elderly neighbor, bless her heart, is so stiff and immobile she is basically shaped like her recliner. She uses a walker and can no longer stand up straight. I’ve been next door to her for a long time and she wasn’t always like this. But years of staying immobile indoors has resulted in the posture of a comma.
It doesn’t have to end up like that. My motto is “keep moving.” Keep moving so the body is energized, the muscles are engaged, and the nervous system is humming.
A vital key to antiaging is circulation. Circulation of the blood and lymphatic fluids, circulation of oxygen throughout the body, circulation of nutrients into cells and toxins out of them, and circulation of fluids through our digestive and elimination systems. In short, circulation of energy. The less you move the less you move, in a downward spiral toward immobility, inflexibility and stodgy, sludgy tissues and fluids.
Sitting in the car/at the desk/on the couch will not promote circulation. Movement will. The simple but effective stretching, strengthening and balancing poses of yoga are the perfect system to correct postural problems, loosen joints, exercise the spine, and promote circulation.
Where to Begin?
If you are new to yoga and coming from a sedentary lifestyle, seek out a gentle yoga, Yin yoga, restorative yoga, or beginner’s class. Find a reputable studio with experienced and certified teachers. If the first class you take doesn’t spark your interest, try another. Yoga is an extremely personal experience, and different teachers with almost unlimited variations may mean there is trial and error to sort through. I was lucky to stumble into an excellent class on my first try, a class I took for the next four years before branching out. But I’ve taken enough classes that I didn’t enjoy to know that won’t be the case with everyone.
There are also great options on line – search for online yoga classes, and a plethora of options will pop up. YouTube.com has the ever-popular Yoga with Adriene series. And Silver Sneakers has a 7 minute yoga workout for seniors that is easy to start with. If you prefer the analog experience, many books are on Amazon or the shelves of your local library. Read reviews to find a good fit for you.
Whichever way you do it, just do it! Move, stretch and circulate.