Saturday, 23 May 2020
The last time I saw my mother she was aged 89 and despite not having any diagnosed medical conditions, or requiring prescription medication, she was lying in a nursing home bed wearing nappies and being spoon fed. Over a period of several years she lost the will to push herself to keep going. She lost muscle tone and eventually became to weak to support herself slowly loosing the ability to perform every day simple tasks.
After attending her funeral in England, I returned to my home in Darwin determined to keep my body strong that was the easy part, working on my scattered mind was the bigger challenge. I joined a seniors gym class (easy) also attempted a daily meditation as I had previously learnt TM meditation (not so easy). Since childhood I have been challenged with poor alignment due to rolled in ankles and shoulders and slight scoliosis in my lumber spine and over the years I have acquired several sporting injuries. After 8 years of gym work I had improved my muscle tone but not my posture or quietened my overactive mind and the repetitive exercises were starting to give rise to pain in my joints.
January 2014 my husband and I moved to Hervey Bay I knew I had to find another way to exercise but with physical limitations chronic back pain and difficulty walking I was not sure what to do other than aqua aerobics. It was my daughter who suggested I try yoga. Due to poor balance I had never consider yoga was for me as the images most often seen in posters and magazines show perfect bodies with amazing balance. November 2014 a few weeks before my 71st birthday I walked into my first yoga class. I had signed up for a 5 week coarse and believed naively that I was going to learn it all during that time then would just attend classes to practise, how wrong I was.
The first classes I attended were challenging, I required support for my balance during standing poses, I could not sit crossed legged or sit on my heels but soon realised this did not matter as asanas are adjusted with the help of props to fit individuals. I also realised the stretches performed at the end of my Darwin gym classes had over stretched some areas of my body which were too loose and neglected other areas leaving them stiff. After 5 weeks I knew this was what my body required and decided to commit to regular practise but found it difficult to loose the gym mentality of hard work. Slowly my body responded and after just 10 months I was able to reduce pain medication as my back pain was easing. Next improvement my stiff painful feet were loosening and I was learning to spread my toes, then my damaged stiff right ankle was free and I was able to point and flex for the first time in 20 years.
Two years into my practise I had a set back contracting Ross River Virus which led to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. During this period I was only able to do a few restorative asanas which I started to enjoy with a new feeling of calm, this allowed me to realised yes there is much more to yoga than just exercise. I now understood the meaning of the word asanas (a comfortable seat to meditate) and realised my previous efforts to meditate had been hindered by discomfort in my sitting posture.
I have been asked “is it worth all the effort at your age” or heard people say they feel they are to old to start a yoga practise, my answer is “YES” yoga is even more important as we age for the following reasons.
Seniors have experienced a life time of stress, raising a family, paying the mortgage, working at our chosen careers as well as balancing a family household.
We have all experience grief, loosing grand parents, parents, aunts and uncles now at age 76 I am loosing cousins and life long friends.
Our bodies have endured a life time of wear and tear from injuries, poor posture due to sitting and working at desks and repetitive actions such as housework and gardening.
Yoga is ideal for all seniors even those with physical limitations, in our classes it can be quite normal to have several variations of a pose to suit individual needs. Learning to work with your body not against it is the same challenge regardless of age. Nursing several old injuries I do not want to add to them, I am very grateful to have well qualified teachers who are attentive to my needs and dedicated to keeping all students safe whilst practising.
Yoga is not a quick fix for all ailments, I still experience some back and ankle discomfort but now rarely need to take pain medication. Today I am sleeping more soundly but occasionally still have a restless night. My time management has improved although at times I still talk to myself and loose focus. The big difference is I feel I am in control of my afflictions they are not controlling me. I am coping better and with my regular yoga practise I hope to prevent my health concerns from becoming chronic. Hopefully I can reach nirvana with less suffering and with more dignity than my mother.