Healthy Aging

September is my birthday month. Just around the time my license renewal shows up I start thinking about the year behind me and the year ahead. And of course, thinking about the number that is attached to the years I have lived. What is that saying…”? It’s only a number”? That may be so, and yet we can’t help but see the changes that take place as we age, number or no number. 

Aging does have its benefits. Wisdom of age often leads to a happier outlook and hopefully wiser choices. 

Just the other day, a student mentioned to me that she feels what must be the aging process. When I asked her to explain she said she now wakes up in the morning with stiffness that she never had before. Then she asked me if I experienced that. I chuckled a bit and said that I have experienced that most of my adult life!

My thoughts went back to the horse racing accident in 1985 that changed my life forever. Chronic pain was my closest companion for 28 years before receiving a total ankle replacement nine years ago. Fortunately, my ankle no longer experiences chronic pain but just enough discomfort and pain to always remind me that it will never be my God-given joint. Unfortunately, the pain I have chased around my body since 1985 from that very same accident seems never ending. You just can’t have a horse fall on you without long lasting effects. 

Chronic conditions, illnesses and injuries can make getting older a difficult process at times.  While some people are able to embrace the aging process, for others it instills fear. 

What is healthy aging and how can we promote it? 

Healthy aging is a continuous process of optimizing opportunities to maintain and to improve physical and mental health, independence, and quality of life.

Healthy aging is influenced by healthy behaviors over the course of a lifetime, including good nutrition, physical activity, high quality healthcare and social engagement. The intent to age well should be fostered early in life. But it’s never too late! 

If we don’t move our bodies in a way that strengthens it, we become prone to pain, injury and other bothersome physical adventures.  Older adults are particularly receptive to the benefits of Iyengar yoga. I have worked with students at all stages of life. Some are retired, others are still working; some are sporty, others are not athletic.  For some, the kick-start that gets them going to yoga is an injury. Others want to recover more quickly post-surgery. Their doctor may recommend yoga (many do). Some people come to yoga injury-free and healthy, just keen on staying that way. 

Before long, all these students start to see the benefits of Iyengar Yoga, way beyond recovery from injury. They see improvement in movement in places that used to be stiff and sore. They simply move better and feel better. 

I can only imagine how I would be aging had I never held on to my yoga practice over all these years. Wait! I can imagine and it is not a pretty sight!

And for those people that are young, it is never too early to think about your intentions to age well and take action.