Sunday, December 15, 2013
Viniyoga: A Practice for All Stages of Life
I'm always happy to get calls from senior students looking to begin a yoga practice for the first time, as well as from parents looking for yoga classes for their children. Of course, the sooner you start yoga, the better, but yoga is not simply a practice for the fit and the young. Viniyoga, in particular, is well suited to serving individuals of all ages, fitness levels, and conditions of illness or health. Since we offer a methodology, or approach, to yoga versus a given posture form, sequence or temperature range, we can teach a variety of clients from the hospitalized and very ill, to teen-aged gymnasts, to everything in between. Krishnamacharya (the founder of this lineage) practiced yoga his entire life, until he was well over 100 years old. In short, Viniyoga is a practice that can (and should) serve a person throughout their entire life. The goals and methods of yoga practice should change to meet the specific needs of each stage of life, however.
In youth (the sunrise stage of life), we focus on increasing strength, stamina, and concentration while promoting balanced development of the body and mind. This typically means stronger, fitness oriented asana (postures) with a stricter focus on form. Of course, even children often benefit from a more therapeutic type of yoga, and in that case we focus on healing practices while still integrating the play and challenge children love.
From about the mid 20’s to mid 70’s (the mid day stage of life), our goal is to stay healthy, active, and to heal from the injuries and illnesses our bodies have picked up along the way. We therefore decrease our focus on strong asana and increase our focus on developing the breath. We also use yoga postures therapeutically to overcome injury and illness, and to promote balance in the musculoskeletal, physiological and emotional systems. Yoga can still help us gain strength and flexibility, but the goal shifts from stronger asana to more breath-centered, adaptive asana.
In our later years (the sunset stage of life), our goals shift yet again. From the time we enter our late 70’s until we pass on, our goal is to stay as self sufficient, mobile, and healthy as possible. We use meditative asana and breath work to maintain physiological health and to keep our bodies functional as we age. We also incorporate more meditation to help us focus the mind and prepare for our next journey to whatever is beyond this life.
No matter what your current age, you can definitely benefit from yoga. You’re never too young or to old. Age is no excuse for not starting a yoga practice, or not continuing it. As you change with time, so will your practice. And in that transformation, you may well find a depth and beauty you never thought possible.
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