"You're only as old as you feel." "Age is mind over matter -- if you don't mind, it doesn't matter." "You're as young as your spine is flexible." "Everyone is the age of their heart."
You might have heard one -- or all -- of these at one time or another. Age can be a sensitive topic for some. We definitely live in a society that's preoccupied with age and that favors youth. There's talk of mid-life crisis, cougars (gotta love that term), "rejuvenation" procedures, trading your spouse in for a younger model, etc. Of course we're living in 2008 where 40 is the new 20 or some such marketing spiel. It would seem that we're a bit touchy about our age.
Well, I'm fessing up -- I'm 36. That's right -- I'm in my mid-thirties and damned proud of it. Despite what I'm hearing from my peers, I don't feel old. In fact, I'd say that I'm healthier and in better shape now than I was in my 20s. Just this past weekend I saw some favorite people of mine, both of whom are 5 years younger than I. They complained about sore knees, aching heads, and exhaustion -- and they chalked it up to being "old."
Call me a crazy optimist, but I really do believe that age is a state of mind. I once worked for a lovely woman who believed that as a 42 year old mother that she could only wear her hair a certain length and should act according to some "older, more mature woman" code of ethics. I don't have that cut-off age in my mind, the age at which I will officially deem myself old. The truth is -- I want to be doing headstand when I'm in my 80s or 90s or whatever.
The yoga helps. Not to say that eating healthy, some decent face cream with a high SPF, and good genes don't help. It's my practice that keeps me mentally fit as well as physically fit. It gives me a different perspective on age -- way different than what modern society would have me believe. A good yogi friend of mine talks about reinventing herself many times in her life -- and at a time that others consider mid-life. I, too, imagine that I will reinvent myself quite a few more times before I've worn this life -- and myself -- out.
In the meantime, yoga keeps me grounded, feeling good, and feeling youthful. Here are just a few things that happened to me AY (after yoga):
I didn't step foot into a natural foods market until I started practicing yoga. Needless to say, my food intake left a lot to be desired (can you say processed junk food?!?!). Yes, I admit it -- I thought that natural food stores were for crunchy hippy folk. Gee, not too judgmental there, was I. Well, I'm proud to consider myself that sort of folk. I shop at natural food stores all the time now. I buy organic too. My, how times have changed.
I was much more closed-minded before yoga. Once I started meeting people in the yoga crowd, I started seeing that people lived different types of lives. I met a lot of people "outside the norm" of my old safe antiseptic type of life. I met people with tantric sex partners, people living abroad, people earning a living outside of the 9-5 world, and a whole cast of delightfully unusual characters. I can't begin to explain how much joy and perspective that brought to my previously small-box life.
I had more structural problems prior to yoga. I started practicing yoga regularly about a year after knee surgery. At the time I was still experiencing pain despite all of my physical therapy and rehab attempts. My posture led something to be desired, and I had a lot of bad habits from working in front of a computer all day. I didn't realize any of these things because I wasn't all that connected to my body. It was amazing that I even knew where my knee was much less figure out what led to my injury in the first place. Yoga gave me an awareness that's only grown over the years. This awareness helped me to heal my imbalances and strengthen my weaknesses. And why at 36 I have little to no aches and pains.
I worried more before yoga. Worry shows on your face -- you can't hide it. Before I started practicing regularly I would think, re-think, and over-think just about everything. Lots of thinking and not all that much feeling. Over the years I've flipped that so that I'm doing lots of feeling and less thinking. No, thinking is not a bad thing -- it's a natural function and often occurs to protect us. What I learned from yoga is that I don't need protecting and that it's okay to listen to -- and follow -- my heart (regardless of what my head is saying).
I could go on, but you get the idea. As you can see from the above -- it ain't all physical. I routinely get people guessing my age to be about 5-10 years younger than it is. I credit yoga. And no, you don't have to be a supreme yogi to reap the anti-aging benefits of yoga. Here are some cool resources (no, nothing takes the place of a regular yoga practice -- these can supplement a yoga practice) for any level yogi:
Following your bliss and living a passionate, joy-filled life definitely keeps you young. There's a great interview on theBlissChickblog today which offers up the following quote:Our work and play should be the same. If you're not yet following your bliss, get some inspiration by reading about others that are. Check outBlissChicktoday for a little nudge in the right direction.
What you put in your body makes a huge difference in how quickly -- and healthily -- you age. I have two recommendations to help in the nutrition, healthy eating area:The Self-Healing CookbookandThe Slow Down Diet. There's so much nonsense about what you should or shouldn't eat, how you should work out, etc. Not only is a lot of it contradictory, but much of it is counterintuitive. It's time to quiet down and listen to your body -- it'll lead you exactly to where you need to go.
Make sure your laughter doesn't get rusty. Let your laughter out. Laugh more and laugh loudly! Yogi Ramesh always makes me laugh, so I highly recommend hisDVDs(I enjoy his Stress Free Yoga to Go DVD).
Put good stuff on your face. If you wouldn't put it inside, don't put it outside either. No, skin cream doesn't have to cost a lot of money to be effective and good for you. One of my favorites isBee Yummy Skin Food. It's not cost prohibitive and its ingredients are good enough to eat. I also highly recommend (I use this as well)Egyptian Magic. Neither of these have an SPF, so don't forget to add it if you're heading outdoors.
For some more thoughts about aging and yoga, clickhere.
As for the quotes above -- I believe 'em all. May you always be young at heart.