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Can Yoga Really Make You Young Again?
The New Yoga for People over 50 Says Yes!

The New Yoga for People Over 50
Admittedly, B.K.S. Iyengar is not your typical senior who practices Yoga. He was a sickly child who was introduced to Yoga as a teen. But this ailing youngster grew up to be one of the world's foremost and well-respected Yoga teachers. Now in his 80s, he still has a rigorous and demanding daily practice. B.K.S. Iyengar is worlds away from many other people his age who are frail and have only limited mobility. But the chasm doesn't have to be quite so wide. While Yoga isn't a miracle cure (although to some it may seem that way), it can restore something very important to a lot of elderly people - their independence.

(Article continued below.)

The truth is that aging - or what is perceived by the majority of folks as aging - isn't that at all. The body degenerates from misuse and abuse. Spend 40 years sitting at a desk, eating greasy food, slouching in front of the TV every night and never exercising, and your body is going to degenerate, pure and simple. Common sense points that out. People forget that their body is a living machine - in many ways, it's really not all that different from a car or any other man-made machine (one big difference is that the physical body can renew itself on a cellular level - think about that). One of the best things you can do for your car is to give it regular maintenance. The same thing goes for your body. Yoga is a great maintenance tool for the body and there are literally dozens upon dozens of instruction manuals (or, rather, books) that will point you in the right direction when it comes to starting your practice. One of the best for those who are past their prime (or so they think) is The New Yoga for People Over 50 by Suza Francina.

Depending on how you feel about yourself, the photos of the seniors in this book are either inspiring or intimidating. White-haired Betty Eiler does not have the flexibility of a 20-year-old - a 20-year-old could only wish to have Betty's flexibility!
 More of this Feature
• Yoga for Seniors
• Baby Get Back! Part One
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Yoga Keeps Many Feelings Young
• Downward Facing Dog Posture
• Down Dog With Props
Sixty-something Eric Small is shown doing a Lotus Pose in Headstand (and keep in mind that he has multiple sclerosis). Granted, many of the people photographed for this book have devoted their so-called old age to the practice of Yoga (both Eiler and Small are teachers), but the majority of them also started late in life. That's a testament to the body's ability to recover lost health. And no one has to devote all his or her time and energy to yoga to benefit greatly from it. All that is necessary is the desire to try and the patience to let it happen.

Francina is a certified Iyengar instructor who directs a center in Ojai, California and, she blends the precision she learned from this style of Yoga with the enthusiasm and encouragement of her writing. She explains why Yoga is an ideal weight-bearing exercise for the prevention of osteoporosis, discusses the anatomy of the spine, offers suggestions for elderly feet and knees, and shows how Yoga can offer relief to those suffering from arthritis. Since she specializes in teaching Yoga to people over 50 (and a lot of them are considerably older), she understands her audience - some students that have come to her couldn't even get up from the floor without assistance. With the help of Yoga, these people can see their ease of movement return.

Iyengar Yoga is ideal for individuals who are not merely detrained, but whose bodies have suffered years of neglect. It's a vicious circle - if you don't use your body, your joints stiffen and your muscles weaken. When this happens, you're less likely to want to move. Start throwing various ailments into the mix and that's why some seniors have difficulties getting around. An elderly person who has not been active for a long time needs to be introduced to any form of exercise gradually and gently - that's where Iyengar's use of props comes in. By using blocks, straps, chairs, bolsters and other Yogic implements, a modified version of most Yoga poses is available to nearly anyone. Francina devotes a whole chapter to props, and many of the photos in the book show silver-haired Yogis making good use of them. And significantly, Francina encourages her readers to continually challenge themselves to progress, to not just settle for easy poses. She points out that seniors are rarely as frail as they - or we - think they are.

Although this book is titled The New Yoga for People Over 50, in a lot of ways it's really geared more towards seniors in their 60s and beyond. As Francina points out, 50 is not really that old anymore, and most people are still quite active at that age. It's really meant to inspire people who think (mistakenly) that their best years are behind them. The personal stories sprinkled throughout this book show people who are making the absolute most of their lives - they're vital and excited about every day. They're physically fit (and many of them didn't start out that way). Many of them are in their 70s, 80s... and older. The main objective of this book is to inspire seniors to try some Yoga classes, and it does this very effectively. And if you're not a senior yet - or even close - you can take this book as a promise of the good things to come, especially if you start your Yoga practice today.

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