Thursday, May 13, 2010

Aging, Part 2

If you haven't yet heard of Harriet Anderson, the 74 year old who won the World Iron Man last October for her age group, with a broken collar bone from a crash during the race, you will be hearing more and more about women just like her. (She trains with spin classes, takes Pilates, runs, swims and has learned to listen to her body by giving it rest when needed... pretty wise.) As the baby boomer's age, have discretionary income, and are in search of the elixir of youth, they will begin to make headlines for amateur competitive sports. I've been thinking a lot lately about aging and how to raise awareness about the benefits of integrating yoga into daily life. (I'm approaching 40 (young, I know!) and have a baby boomer parents who tend to boarder on the obsessive over various health issues. Which I'm actually thankful for. Early detection on illness and disease is critical to healing.) Just yesterday, an informative article on yoga and aging by Nancy O'Brien in Yoga Journal highlighted the need for yoga in our health care system as a part of total wellness.
This week has taken me from one end of the spectrum to the other: teaching a youth yoga class and my first presentation for the Alzheimer's Association at a nursing home. I feel like I'm in the valley in-between, like in the book, the Middle Place. I'm enjoying where I am today-- I've never been stronger, felt more aware of my body and alive with passion for what I do daily than I am today. However, I feel such a responsibility to go deeper and practice ahimsa and restraint now in my life, so that I can continue to do the physical practice of yoga as I age. I'm sure it will evolve as I do. I hear seasoned yogis say they no longer enjoy the hot, sweaty, pace of a rigorous flow practice, but more of a restorative and meditative one. Never mind that as we age, we'll need to consume only half of what we ate earlier in our lives just to maintain the same healthy weight. And, we will require less sleep. (Right now with small kids, all I can think about is how can I fit in more rest, sleep, and quiet, alone time while eating coffee ice cream! I'm currently
reading, Just Let Me Lie Down. Seriously true sentiments & her own definitions of life's adventures. If you don't have kiddo's, not so funny. If you do, well then, you'll feel like you're in good company. See below for my favorite definitions.*)
After completing the training to educate groups on Alzheimer's disease, I wanted the first time out to witness how the presenter responded to the caregiver's & families questions. For someone who has a loved one with Alzheimer's it was very moving. There were only a handf
ul in attendance, so the speaker weaved her way around asking names (and remembering them) and giving examples of how the brain works and when it doesn't work in a functional way (Alzheimer's). The brain's neuropathways are all connected, and, when those routes are broken (by these plaques and tangles in Alzheimer's patients), the brain can no longer comprehend what it's seeing. A startling fact: 1 in 8 over the age of 55, will develop Alzheimer's.
There's a lot of studies right now on how to prevent it. One of the biggest discoveries is the effects of meditation on developing your concentration. (One of the key risk factors to many diseases, not just Alzheimer's is the inability to concentrate.) I'm very excited to begin studying how all of this impacts us as we age. It gives me hope that we are going in the right direction and that there are possibilities to preserving our dignity as we age. Besides, I want to BE a yogi version of Harriet when I grow up! Inspiring.

*"Coup de moi"- when you can suddenly beg out of an obligation and find unexpected me time. A rare thing indeed but accomplished yesterday as I got to stay home & breathe while the boys went to the park.
*"Conflict of interest"- everything is scheduled a the same time, for all family members, taking a magic trick or two to get everyone where they are supposed to be on time, fed, in one piece (how do we always end up in the car on the way and someone forgot to put on shoes?) and sane. (my interpretation, as sanity is optimal, but not always possible.)

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