By Michelle Owens
Last week I was fortunate enough to spend three days studying advanced yoga skills with a leading yoga teacher in the United States. This master teacher, as well as one of the yoga students in our training session, were both older than 70 years of age, yet they looked and acted at least 20 years younger.
To see and watch these ladies ease into demanding yoga poses such as handstands forearm balances and deep backbends was nothing short of inspirational. Their joint flexibility, body strength and stamina seemed to defy stereotypes of women their age. And their trendy, youthful yoga togs put my plain black leggings and tank top to shame.
The question I kept asking myself over those three days was “what’s their secret to aging well?” What I discovered wasn’t so much a secret as it was a reminder of things we already know. So here are the three most important pearls of wisdom I gleaned from my experience with the ageless yoga master.
1) You are what you eat. If you want to be healthy you have to eat healthy. Our ageless teacher has consumed a macrobiotic diet for more than 30 years. This is a diet that revolves around fresh grains, beans, and seasonal fruit. The macrobiotic lifestyle encourages eating with the seasons and chewing food slowly and thoroughly. The word macrobiotic derives from the Greek words macro (long) and bios (life) and was first coined by Hippocrates, the father of Western Medicine. Hippocrates, if you remember, also said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
You don’t have to eat a macrobiotic, vegan or vegetarian diet to age well, but you do need to significantly reduce your intake of animal fat, processed and refined foods, sugar and caffeine. We all know by now that these products lead to heart disease, diabetes and obesity – all conditions that can significantly reduce your quality of life as you age.
2) What we think, we become. It was Buddha who said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” Our teacher reaffirmed this ancient bit of wisdom by instructing about the power of positive thinking. Negative emotions stemming from depression, anger and anxiety can age you. Instead, use those emotions to create positive situations, like helping others thru those same feelings. And if you think you’re too old to try new things, then you definitely will become it.
3) Move it or lose it
Staying active is key to staying healthy as we age. Even at the age of 72, this master yoga teacher practices yoga everyday and maintains a busy travel schedule hosting retreats, teaching private sessions and conducting workshops around the globe. It’s true what people say. “Yoga is the fountain of youth. You’re only as young as your spine is flexible.” Even if yoga isn’t your thing, find something that is, such as walking, tai chi, or cycling. It’s important to keep the joints flexible and the muscles strong and supple. It’s also important to maintain your balance and postural alignment as you age, to prevent falling and impaired mobility.
So put down the cookies, think positive thoughts and get moving. You’ll look and feel better for years to come.
About the author: Michelle Owens is a Yoga Alliance-registered yoga teacher and owner of Yoga East studio (www.yogaeastorlando.com) in downtown Avalon Park. She can be reached at email@example.com.