Yoga – Waking up Your Body

Have you ever thought of trying yoga? Perhaps your daughter does it, but you think you are too old. Perhaps you feel it requires you to look like the young and supple woman in this picture.

Think again. People of all shapes, sizes and ages can do yoga. It is not a matter of donning a leotard and aiming to look beautiful. No, it is a matter of using your body to gain improved strength and flexibility. And, just as important, feeling better.

And you will probably never be asked to do anything resembling this pose. Or, if you are really enthusiastic and practise frequently, who knows, you might move in that direction. But I have never gotten there.

Yoga and exercise

Years ago, when I thought I should be doing more exercise to keep fit, several friends suggested I try yoga. When I asked what happened there, I was told you went into odd poses and held them for awhile. This seemed a rather bizarre thing to do – and certainly appeared to have little to do with exercise. I did not pursue it at that time.

Well, how wrong could I be! Some yoga does involve a lot of movement and feels very much like an exercise class. The type I eventually went for is slow and purposeful, but my goodness, you do get your muscles exercised! You need to learn to separate being visibly active from being equally – but less visibly – so.

There is no question that yoga is a form of exercise. The strange postures are there for a purpose – to use all your muscles, both external and internal. You know that if you simply stretch your arms with all your might toward the ceiling, something inside begins to say ‘hello’. Yoga takes this many steps further by working your system all over.

The wider impact

The result is both subtle and profound. You will slowly begin to feel more supple (or ‘bendy’ as one friend put it). All sorts of day-to-day movements will become easier, which is both pleasing and practical. You may find your balance is better.

Indeed, you might well find yourself healthier, less prone to colds or other diseases, as your circulation improves. The yoga postures work on all your internal systems, so that they work better. And your breathing may be easier. Some say sleep improves.

But yoga is also much more than exercise. It puts you in touch with your own body – wakes it up and gives it a good shake – making you feel more in tune with its ways. You will rediscover the joys of actively using your body, rather than seeing it as something you carry around without thinking much about it.

Yoga has the effect of being both energising and relaxing at the same time. It requires so much concentration that you forget the things that are worrying you and feel much more refreshed as a result. The challenges it offers – little hills to climb one by one – create a sense of achievement, especially important as you age. You may even like yourself more as a result.

Getting started

We all know we should be doing more exercise of any kind, but it is definitely hard to get started. My husband found the best way to ensure he exercised was to put the ball, perhaps surprisingly, in my court. He now complains if I don’t nag him enough.

I started yoga because I had back problems. I had gone to an osteopath, whose ministrations would work for awhile, but then wear off after a week or two. She encouraged me to try yoga to get my body stronger, so that any changes she produced might last longer. The result was I got so much stronger, I didn’t need the osteopath anymore!

You may need a little push – or pull ­– of some kind. Talk to friends who do it and see if their enthusiasm gives you that added spur. And make it convenient. Having local classes can be a help. If not, there are some online courses – indeed, I know of one yoga programme that is specifically tailored for older people who have not done yoga before.

Go on, have a try. What do you have to lose?