June 2016 By Saraswathi Vasudevan Old age will creep in on all of us sooner or later. Expand your yoga practice to include its spiritual components to prepare you for that day, says Saraswathi Vasudevan When I go for my morning walk on the beach, I see a lot of people engaged in frenetic physical activity, and since most are past their 60s and 70s, it scares me to see the speed and compulsivity of the movements with no regard to the abilities of the body! The time will come for all of us, when our body becomes less efficient, joints stiffen, sleep and energy levels dip, our senses fail, and younger people lose interest in us. What then can we fall back on? The answer lies in yoga, not the asanas alone, but even more in its other limbs. Traditionally, yoga was taught to children, adults, older people, and sick people differently, taking into account various factors such as age, abilities, need, and activities. We start with active vinyasas for children, and move into stay postures and pranayama in adulthood. As we grow older, we slowly deepen the sadhana through practices that will help us to find the inner anchorage when the external world is not as engaging anymore. By the time we reach this age, it is important that we have already established a deeper spiritual connection that can nourish our being. The study of philosophy, self-reflection and meditative practices are core elements of this transition from the outward movement of the mind through the senses, to the inward seeking of quietude and contentment that actually has nothing to do with our external achievements or failures. We call this the adhyatmikakrama. For this transition to be smooth and natural, we have to prepare much earlier. Yoga practices work more effectively as tools for preventive care. Patanjali says, “Heyamduhkhamanagatam” (YS 2.16) meaning, “anticipate and avoid future suffering”. This is one of the fundamental principles that underpin yoga as a system of practice. The goal, the road map, signposts and tools are all given. We cannot hold on to just one or two tools and hope to get to the destination. Who will you be 20-30 years from now? Can you imagine? Protecting what we have and preventing future problems is called Rakshanakrama. A customised asana-pranayama practice with some meditative and self-reflective activity will be a good insurance policy to take right now. When the mind is inclined to experience inner quietude, it rarely gets disturbed by external issues, even with our own physical health, because this inner joy is far superior to anything we can experience outside. Old age does not jump on us suddenly, it creeps in slowly. Let us get our priorities right, make a sound investment. Care enough about ourself to grow inward as we continue with our outward pursuits. Tune in Do you want a practice to start with this inward journey? Start investing from today! Find 20 minutes everyday, preferably early morning or when there is minimal external distraction. Sit in a comfortable position. Begin to watch your breath. Focus on this space in the centre of your chest – the heart space. Chant a mantra or visualise light in a little cave in the heart. Invite this light from your heart to fill your whole being. Continue to stay with your natural breath. For a full 20 minutes! About the author: Saraswathi Vasudevan is a yoga therapist trainer in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya. She specialises in adapting yoga to the individual. (www.yogavahini.com).
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