Living Longer and Better. . . Yoga May Help

Hello, friends. Feliz Año Nuevo! My sincere hope is that you had a wonderful holiday season and are settling in to these truncated days and protracted nights of winter. On the bright side, we are seeing the duration of light each day increase a little and have more to anticipate. What images or parallels come to mind when you consider this?

John and Lonnie at Jardin Botanico Vallarta, aged 61 and 60

I had the good fortune of spending my 60th birthday in lovely and bustling Puerto Vallarta. Not only did I enjoy seven days not worrying about dressing for the weather or plowing through the snow with a shovel or a vehicle, but I also reveled in my husband’s attentive company, met new people, tasted delicious food, and blissed out on all the sensory delights a mountainous seaside area has to offer. And, to boot, I experienced none of the challenges so many people have faced in their recent travels.

for many years, I seriously doubted I would attain this milestone

For many of you, making it to 60 may not sound like a noteworthy achievement. It is true that life expectancy has increased dramatically over the last several decades. Nevertheless, I should tell you that, for many years, I seriously doubted I would attain this milestone. The health history of my family of origin is a scary one. Both my mother and grandmother died in their fifties. An aunt and an uncle died in their twenties. A few more passed in their thirties. Very few have lived beyond sixty-five.

Looking back, I was interested in both in wellness and the meaning of life as early as my teens and that continued to show itself through my twenties. With the death of my mother in 1996, I knew I didn’t want to take this precious life for granted or fritter it away with obsessive workaholism and perfectionism. I vowed that I was going to beat the statistical odds. Ever since, I’ve had a deep and driving desire to learn what I might be able to affect, to make suitable changes, to evaluate the effectiveness of what I had tried, and so on.

Several factors are known to contribute to length and quality of life. Among them are genetics, epigenetics, nutrition, clean water and sanitation, secure shelter, a relative absence of adverse childhood experiences, exercise, level of exposure to disease and pathogens, lifestyle habits, social support, stress management, and other social determinants of health such as high educational level and socio-economic status. Much of what happens with our health later in life depends upon what was going on with earlier on in life, according to the life course health approach. Although the actual interplay among variables is complicated and continues to elude full understanding, at this time it seems that parental length of life has not been a significant predictor of offspring longevity except in the outliers: the very-short- and very-long lived. Sadly, I my ancestors fall into the former group.

There is a connection, a simultaneous coming home to myself as well as a wider and fresher perspective.

As you’ve probably guessed, the study, practice and sharing of yoga has been a major player in this heart song of mine. Yoga seems to positively influence so many of the factors that contribute to health status, like epigenetics, exercise, lifestyle, social support, stress management. But, when I take time to examine its effect on me, yoga very much continues to reel me in because of how I feel when I am living in accordance with it. There is a connection, a simultaneous coming home to myself as well as a wider and fresher perspective. Often these are followed with responsive and supple tissues and physiological ease – freer breathing and a feeling of flow. The health effects of these states, while significant, are side benefits to me.

And yes, I’ve made it to 60. None of us can predict what the future will bring. However, I feel reasonably confident that I have many healthy years ahead. Perhaps more importantly, I know that there’s not much I would do differently . . . 

So I ask, what about yoga calls out to you?

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