Yoga and Ayurveda; A Whole Health Approach to Senior Fitness
You don't have to change your religion or even have a religion to enjoy the rewards of yoga. Although it is commonly understood as a form of exercise, the true value is in it's philosophical approach to whole health wellness. The exercises alone are beneficial but when you really get into the whole body, mind, spirit attitude, benefits multiply.
Ayurveda and Yoga are not really parts of each other but have the same origins, traditions and goals. They both come from the ancient Vedic traditions of India in about the same historic era. They are often linked because of this and other similarities.
- Both pursue a state where the physical body, senses, mind and soul are integrated in a whole health approach.
- Both emphasize that physical health is the basis of mental, emotional and spiritual wellness.
- Both work on the balance of the three Doshas; Vata, Pitta and Kapha which are Ayurvedic terms for the three types of subtle energy.
- Both advocate the use of diet, herbs, asana, pranayama, meditation, prayer and other rituals for healing the entire being.
- In the U.S and other western countries where yoga has become extremely popular, especially with senior fitness programs, the most successful proponents emphasize the Ayurvedic philosophy.
Why should I start with this at my age?
The short answer to that is: “Nothing is more important than feeling good.” Pain relief is a major goal of any senior fitness program. We have all dealt with pain throughout our lives and the older we get the longer the history of dealing with pain. Some of it comes and goes and some of it is chronic. Treatments include massage, chiropractic, prescription drugs and surgery. There must be some way that we can live without pain even as we age. Part of the problem is how we perceive or understand pain and illness.
Ayurveda and other ancient, mostly oriental, practices see illness and pain as obstructions of energy. The natural condition of the body is wellness. That natural condition, when interrupted by vital energy blockage or imbalance, turns to pain or illness. We in the scientifically conscious western world have a hard time grasping that concept. If you have a pain in your stomach you go to the doctor and most likely the first thing he will try is a prescription drug. He treats the symptoms so as to relieve the pain. In Ayurveda, the practitioner recognizes that the stomach is just a location where imbalance chose to manifest. He then concentrates on the whole being in trying to locate and alleviate the energy blockage.
If you view yoga simply as an exercise to stretch and strengthen the body, don't waste your time; go to the gym. The great value of this discipline is it's concentration on wholeness and the interconnectedness of all things. In other words, your pain is not caused by your stomach, it just presented itself there. Something in your world is out of balance. It could be mental, spiritual, social or even environmental or a combination of things. Once you begin to grasp this concept of “wholeness” you will also begin to see that other things in life are not simply isolated incidences but are related or connected to a lot of other influence. It is now becoming more obvious that things like anger and resentment are major causes of illness. The peaceful being is a healthy being. Inner peace leads to the ultimate in senior fitness.
It is practically impossible to get into this type of thinking without examining our own spirituality. At our age that isn't a bad idea. Examining who we are, where we came from, where we are going can be confusing and discomforting but absolutely necessary if we are to experience the peace of mind that leads to harmony and balance.
Why not start now?
Many older people who take up yoga report amazing improvements in overall wellness and attitude toward life. If you chose to try this do it with confidence and commitment. It can be beneficial to anyone almost regardless of present physical condition. Here are some tips for getting off to a good star.
- Learn More...Learn as much as you can about the workings and philosophy of yoga before you begin. Loads of information can be found on the internet, bookstores and libraries. You don't have to learn all the word meanings etc. but a general understanding will help you know what to look for and what to expect.
- Find an Instructor...Although there are lots of good instructional DVD's available, personal instruction with an expert professional is the best way to start so that you get the whole picture. When choosing one ask questions that will help you choose the right one for you.
- Have Fun-But take it Seriously...This could be a life altering experience. Enjoy it, work at it and get your money's worth.
- Keep a Record...If you like diaries or are into journaling keeping daily records of lessons, experiences and progress can be very rewarding.
- Get a Little Selfish...You may have been taught that selfishness is bad and you should think of others first. Fine, but if you can't take care of yourself and feel good, how can you really help anyone else? This is just for you; make it a gift from you to yourself.
Enjoy yourself, be happy, think whole health, and feel good; wellness is a normal condition....Namaste
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