I was lucky enough to turn 60 and celebrate before the great lockdown. And although I am well aware of sagging jowls and skin, I am enjoying my age. In this world of Instagram, I am quite happy to go with the grey hair and wrinkles. And luckily for me, yoga is something to practise all your life. In fact, it is probably of most benefit to older folk. I recently read the obituary of Archie Young, a Scottish professor of geriatric medicine who spent his career proving through extensive research that old age is no reason not to be fit and healthy. Regular exercise (let's say yoga in this case) in old age prevents:
Disease—osteoporosis, non-insulin dependent diabetes, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression, colon cancer
Disability—caused by intermittent claudication, angina pectoris, heart failure asthma, chronic bronchitis, age related weakness
Problems—Arthritic pain, poor sleep, falls, fractures
Immobility—can cause faecal impaction, deep vein thrombosis, gravitational oedema
Isolation—can cause loneliness or depression or both
Which is why at my ripe old age, I love to teach other equally ripe students. Please get in touch with me if you fancy coming along.
I know from experience that thighs can cause misery. Especially for women who hate to expose them on the beach. Or who find hot weather particularly trying because their thighs rub together.
To some extent, I think you are just going to have to accept and love them. If they are jiggly, then doing simple things like moving them as much as you can is going to firm them up - walking, jogging, swimming.
A person with big thighs is likely to have a kapha constitution in yoga terms. That means an earth mother type with broad hips and a heavier build. 'Women of the Kapha type have big thighs, full arms and big breasts, a little bit short and fat legs but their walk is graceful.' (Ayurveda Clinic Bankso)
The best action is to be as healthy and fit as you can. Look at what you eat. A tan can also do wonders for thighs. Tanned thighs can look sensational.
Also, get your legs in the air (no footwear). Do air cycling. Single legs cycling forward, then backward. Then try cycling with both legs together. Backwards and forwards. Having your legs in the air also draws blood and lymph from your feet and legs to get cleaned up and back into circulation. If you find it difficult to keep legs in the air, place them against a wall (with bottom touching the wall if possible) and do scissors. Opening and shutting legs.
Kaphas have enormous stamina. Being active is the key to keeping in shape. A curvy shape.
What I love about yoga is how practical it is. The first step on a yoga journey is getting your body healthy. Obviously this means exercising, but it also means eating food that helps your body function at its best. Really, it's just common sense. In today's world we always need hard evidence. A recent global study (see below) acknowledges that a bad diet is the biggest killer in the world.
The analysis, in the Lancet, found that our daily diet is a bigger killer than smoking and is now involved in one in five deaths around the world.
Salt - whether in bread, soy sauce or processed meals - shortened the highest number of lives.
Researchers say this study is not about obesity, but "poor quality" diets damaging hearts and causing cancer. (BBC news).
Yogis don't need a global study, they know this from their ancient texts. Just look at what it says in the Taittiriya Upanishad:
'Food is the most important of all things
For the body; therefore it is the best
Medicine for all the body's ailments.'
Practising yoga regularly and diligently leads you to appreciate healthy, natural food that is your body's premium fuel.
Just by looking at the two faces you can tell where all the energy is going. But what a waste!
Both the quality and the quantity of life energy are determined by the intake of food, water and air, as well as by the elimination of waste products and by thought and emotion. Anger, jealousy or hatred actually create poisonous substances within every cell; whereas love, kindness and compassion have a healing, soothing and regenerating effect on the body. Day by day we build ourselves by what we eat and drink, by the air we breathe and by our mental processes. Contemplation on this can teach us that every day we have a choice: to build or destroy.
Dr Svami Purna – Yoga, A Practical Introduction published by Element Books
According to St Augustine (a very wise man), 'It is better to need less than to have more.' Gandhi (another very wise man) echoed this sentiment when he said, 'There is enough in the world for everyone's need; there is not enough for everyone's greed.' In other words by renouncing things you are freer to enjoy life. But it's difficult when society wants us to be consumers. We are led to believe it is the only way for wealth to be created. But increasingly the wealth is for the privileged few. The rest of us end up with credit card debt, wardrobes full of unworn clothes, fat bodies, a drink habit. The path of yoga involves controlling desires and reducing wants. This means deciding what you want out of life - not what the supermarkets, car dealers, holiday companies, mobile phone companies, betting companies make us believe.
The new year is always the time we want to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately it often follows a period of over indulgence. So, be gentle with yourself. Be patient. Attending your first yoga class can be the first step into a whole new world. Do a little research into what yoga has to offer. And do get in touch if you have any questions. The trick is to keep going once you have taken that first step.
This year, as well as my usual Glasgow Life classes, I am teaching at the Phoenix Centre in Easterhouse with YoGlasgow! Our aim is to transform Glasgow into a yoga city.
And if you live in Anderston or nearby, come along to the Pyramid on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 9.15 to 10.15. This is a wonderful opportunity to weave yoga into the fabric of your week and community.
The new YogaScotland magazine is now out. Priced at only £3 it offers interesting articles, information and upcoming yoga events in Scotland. I will bring a few to sell at my classes over the next week or so.
Wherever I look, I see anxiety bubbling below the surface of society. The first way to tackle it is in action. Walking and deep breathing are first steps. Then it's time to tackle the mind. Adopt a mantram. Don't allow anxiety to seep into the nooks and crannies of your brain and take up residence.
I was looking through my address book today (yes, it is the Christmas card season) and found this quote from one of my dad's books - Prophet of a New Hindu Age. How true the words are.
'The stable, peaceful mind is the best cave. And so one can have inner stability and serenity while going out to perform the services of the world.'
For 2019, why not adopt your own personal mantram and start excavating your own personal cave by training your mind to be stable and peaceful. Once you have excavated it, no one can take it away.
That's our first week already over. What's so nice about community yoga is that people introduce themselves and we find out a little about their lives.
Do come along and join us next week. It is 9.15 to 10.15 on Tuesday and Friday. £2 per class or £3 for the week. If you want to find out a bit more, just text or call me on 0794 6294658.
The Pyramid is now a community centre in the heart of Anderston and they are keen to engage with the local residents.
On Tuesday and Fridays in the run up to Christmas I am teaching morning yoga classes from 9.15 to 10.15. The cost is £2 per class or £3 for both classes. Six classes for under a tenner can't be bad!
If you are new to yoga, come along and find out how yoga can help
The Pyramid, 759 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8DS. If you have any questions, contact me through the website, or text me on 0794 6294658.
Pranayama is the breathing side of yoga. It is a very important aspect and one that is probably not taught as much as it should be. Especially given how much anxiety seems to be around. Calling it breathing is not quite accurate as it includes the circulation of prana (energy or life force) throughout the body.
Here is how BKS Iyengar describes it in his Light on Pranayama:
Pranayama is a conscious prolongation of inhalation, retention and exhalation.
Inhalation is the act of receiving the primeval energy in the form of breath.
Retention is when the breath is held in order to savour that energy.
In exhalation all thoughts and emotions are emptied with the breath. Imagine being able to let go of all your anxiety in the out-breath.
The practice of Pranayama develops a steady mind, strong will-power and sound judgement.
Not bad for something we all get for free! Make sure you make your lungs strong and elastic to receive the gift of air.
Caroline practises and teaches yoga in Glasgow Scotland and runs The Publishing Cupboard. She is the creator of the Nod off Series (where yoga meets grammar learning). If you want to get to grips with French, Spanish, Italian or Portuguese grammar, in a pain-free yogic way, visit www.nodoff.co.uk
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