Rita guides you through a most loving and sacred yoga practice. Her gentle nature and lightness allow for the most wonderful unfolding to take place in her class. As a fellow student and teacher I am always appreciative of her gifts and radiant smile she shares with others. ... Aarti Ganesh           Read more...

Happy and Healthy Ageing

The human cell is one of the most basic units of life. There are millions of different types of cells. In any living being, at any given moment, some cells are being born, some cells are growing and maturing, and other cells are degenerating and dying. When the process of degeneration exceeds the other two processes, then the ageing process is set in.



To stop the ageing process each degenerating cell must be replaced with a new cell and irreplaceable cells must be repaired adequately. A properly planned Yoga program, if followed with sincere and regular application, will reverse the characteristics of age and give one a new lease of life. Before we get to know about the Yogic management of ageing we must know what is the definition of old age.

DEFINITION OF OLD AGE

Stiffness, immobility, tension, insomnia, fatigue, weariness, inadequate blood circulation, flabby muscles, poor skin tone, obesity, senility (poor memory), depression, fearfulness are all characteristics of old age.

YOGIC MANAGEMENT OF AGEING

Yoga has a threefold role to play in the management of the ageing process. Firstly, it helps to improve longevity. Secondly, it helps to alleviate the problems of the aged – physical, mental, emotional and social. Thirdly, Yoga provides older people with a positive direction in life. Therefore, the first principle in Yogic management is to delay the onset of ageing and its associated problems, starting with young adults. The second principle is to maintain the health and happiness that older people already have. The third and most necessary principle is to alleviate the already existing problems of old age. This major task can be achieved using three tools viz. Yogic practices, Diet and lifestyle and Changing Attitudes with the aid of various Yogic techniques.

1. YOGA PRACTICES

To regain health and vitality, the right combination of Yogic practices, breathing and relaxation techniques can, to a large extent, correct most of the problems associated with ageing. The selection of practices depends upon the particular problems and the capacity of an individual.

YOGASANAS

Asanas such as flexibility exercises, leg rotations, cycling, Pavanmuktasana from a supine position, Vajrasana, Majariasana, Shashankasana, Surya namaskara, Sarvangasana, Vipareeta karani asana, Tree pose, one forward bending, one backward bending, one twisting asana everyday and Shavasana are particularly helpful in the prevention of ageing. Amongst the Shatkarmas, Neti and Kapalbhati can be practised every day. Kunjal, Laghoo prakshalana and Trataka should be done periodically. Drinking two glasses of warm water, plain or salted, every morning and performing at least three of the Asanas for Shankhaprakshalana will keep the digestive system in shape.

Yogic practices increase the life span and the quality of life by decreasing the metabolic rate, decreasing the respiratory rate and oxygen demand, providing total relaxation of the body, conscious mind and subconscious mind, preventing leakage of Prana and aiding in the regeneration of Prana. Yogic practices and Shatkarma can also stop the disease process thereby reversing or slowing down the process of ageing.

PRAYANAYAMA

Omkar, Bhramari, Sheetli, Ujjayi, Nadi-shodhana and Abdominal breathing practices are highly recommended.

Pranayama keeps the body free from accumulated tensions and toxins and revitalises the brain, the nervous system and the Pranas.

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES

Among the various Meditation practices Yoga- nidra provides relaxation at the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels. Antar mouna is important for reviewing and letting go of old memories and detaching oneself from the past. It can be performed by itself or combined with other practices like Japa and Ajapa japa. Trataka improves the mental faculties and trains one in how to internalise the mind. Hridayakasha dharana is beneficial for purifying the emotions and Chidakasha dharana assists in expanding the consciousness.

MANTRA JAPA

Mantra japa is essential because it works on all the five koshas or levels of the body – physical, mental, pranic, psychic and blissful. Similarly, Seva or service, Bhakti or devotion, Satsang and uplifting reading help to change and focus the attitude and lifestyle in a positive direction.

Relaxation techniques provides a time for resting and rejuvenating the nervous and endocrine systems, and for generation of Prana in Pranamaya Kosha. The brain is revitalised and the memory loss and senility associated with old age are prevented.

2. DIET AND LIFESTYLE

Next tool that Yoga uses is diet and lifestyle.

DIET

• According to Yoga, a vegetarian diet keeps the mind and body healthy. Vegetarian diet is easier to digest and it is nutritious. This diet is also good for the heart, as it is low in cholesterol and saturated fat. It includes fresh and dried fruit, fresh seasonal vegetables and edible green leaves, whole grain cereals (wheat flakes), whole wheat bread, unpolished rice, nuts and seeds (especially almonds and sesame seeds, sprouted seeds), honey, dates, jaggery and dairy products like milk, curd, buttermilk, It is easily digested and supplies maximum energy. It does not strain your digestive system and promotes overall health. A Yogic diet plays an important role in keeping the weight down, the bowels moving and the Pranas high.

• Regular mealtimes should be maintained and snacks or eating between meals should be discouraged. The stomach should be kept partially empty, not stuffed to the brim, to enable peristalsis or effective churning motion of the food. Food should be considered as Prasad or from the grace of God, and consumed with the attitude of offering it into the Yajna, or sacrificial fire.

• Fasting or eating only fruit one day in a week rests the digestive system and assists in the regenerative process.

LIFESTYLE

• The Yogic concept of correct lifestyle depends on regularity in activities like eating, Sadhana, resting and sleeping.
• A medium-paced lifestyle, varied activities, avoiding extremes of any kind, togetherness in family life, and expansion of awareness from 'me and mine' to 'us and ours' and beyond.
• It is important to maintain physical, financial and emotional independence.
• Cultivating a hobby, taking up light sports such as swimming which brings one closer to the element water.
• Brisk walking with breath awareness, spending time with children, keeping pets, bringing uninhibited laughter into daily life, taking vacations, changing the environment and being with nature are some practical ways to put these concepts into practice.
• It is important for older people to understand and accept the changes in the body and try to remain physically and mentally active in a creative manner. One should be as diligent in the practice of Yoga, Meditation and study as one was in a job.

3. CHANGING ONE’S ATTITUDE

• The third tool of changing and adopting a positive attitude is most important. By practising Yoga sincerely, with faith and with regularity, the personality automatically starts to change.

• Extend help to your youngsters but do not impose yourself.
At this stage, it is also the duty of grown up children to take proper care of their parents and they should not forget that these older people have brought them up by facing many difficulties. These seniors have given them protection and education. Now is the time for them to shower all the love that their parents deserve. In fact, the older generation has a wealth of experience to offer and if the children can utilise this knowledge they will benefit greatly. A little love and care can make elderly people bloom happily.

• Analyse the years lived. Try to work out the aim of life and to realise that goal.

• The concept of the four Ashramas in life Brahmacharya, Grahasta, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa are very useful in providing a positive direction for older people. It says that the third station in life, Vanaprastha Ashrama, is intended for a gradual withdrawal from the external world and obligations in order to turn inward on a spiritual journey. Balance the chariot of life equally on all the four wheels of Artha (financial fulfilment), Kama (emotional fulfilment), Dharma (social fulfilment) and Moksha (spiritual fulfilment). Seva, Bhakti and Satsang, when practised in their true sense, are excellent ways to bring these Yogic concepts into real life.

SIMPLE YOGA BREATHING PRACTICE

This simple exercise can reduce stress, teach mindfulness and relieve spinal compression.

Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep knees and feet hip-width apart, hands by the side of the body and palms facing upward. Be comfortable (you can use a small pillow to support the head if you want).

1. Close the eyes and observe your natural breath…
2. You will notice that your stomach is moving up & down with each breath…
3. As you inhale, it is rising… as you exhale, it is falling…
4. Take slow, deep, unforced breaths…
5. Avoid straining to increase the length of inhalations or exhalations…
6. Keep watch on each breath…
7. Do this practice 10-12 times …
8. When ready to come out of this position, roll onto one side & sit up as slow as possible.

CONCLUSION

A positive mental attitude can actually reverse the ageing process by stimulating the nervous system. We can achieve this by providing ourselves with an interesting and stimulating environment, continually trying to expand our knowledge, understanding and wisdom. By inculcating a sense of wonder and interest in life, setting aims and goals to pit ourselves against, we will live life with a sense of purpose and direction.


AGE GRACEFULLY!


Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Aum Shanti