My grandpa, Honey, is turning 100 in June. One-hundred years old. This is the same grandpa who decided to go skydiving 2 years ago which gave me and my sister the courage to go, too.[See that post here] He is in good shape… sharp, active, and able-bodied. I’ve only paid attention to his last 30 years or so but from what I can tell, he has made a very sincere effort to embody the values of his faith, follow the advice of doctors and live a healthy life. He does everything in moderation – food, wine, tv… He also does exercises every morning. I asked him about this the other day.
Me: Honey, when did you start doing your morning exercises?
Honey: Well, must have been sometime in the early 70’s.
Me: How did you start…I mean, how did you choose the exercises that you do and why did you decide to do them?
Honey: A doctor gave them to me and told me they’d be good for me and I should do them every day, so I did.
Let me help you with that math: Doctor said it would be good in 1970, it’s now 2014, that’s 44 years of morning exercises. I’m not kidding. Not only is he the ideal patient, but he’s been doing morning exercises longer than I’ve been alive. His routine involves taking some deep full breaths, touching his thumb to the tips of all his fingers a few times, some arm raises, gentle joint movements for shoulders and hips, some neck turns and a few other things I can’t remember. They are all very functional, reasonable and useful movements and it sounds a little like yoga, doesn’t it?
Sometimes I can feel inside of myself the desire to be more hard-core–To push myself to be stronger or even to feel sore and worn out just because I can or because it seems like that’s what yoga people do around here and I want to fit in. I think there’s something, too, about stretching to a place of just a little bit of pain so that there’s this release, a rush of endorphins maybe, that feels kind of amazing. Stretching to that point is something I miss a little, but I don’t miss the problems it caused my already hyper-mobile body.
Here’s where I’m going with this: I want to be like Honey (not only in body and mind, but also his light-hearted and loving spirit) and I’ve taken to cross-checking my decisions and the direction of my yoga practice by wondering, would Honey do this? Is this movement or practice going to help me to have functioning and mobile joints, be sharp, active and loving when I’m 99? Does it help me to live a long and healthy life when I put my legs behind my head or strain my already bummed-out shoulder to get into that super fancy arm balance? If I can’t actually ask him when he’s over for happy hour in the evenings, I close my eyes and wonder if the movement would be useful for Honey or I try to imagine how he’d respond to the question at hand: would he cringe like it hurts him to hear it, raise his eyebrows and laugh as if it sounds fun even if it’s a little crazy, shrug and shake his head as if confused by young people of today? This little check-in has had a big impact on my decisions and the direction of my yoga practice. It means I don’t really get the sensational, pain-induced rush I used to get, but I also don’t have the too stretched or too worked-out hangover either. Imagining myself at 99? It helps put things into perspective.
I came across this video-demo by Ana Forrest this week and can’t stop thinking about it. I’m more than impressed by the amazing stability in her handstands, and deeply concerned about the condition of her hips, shoulders, and wrists when she reaches 99 years of age. Want to see the video? click the photo. I need to consult Honey and see what he thinks of it all.
Amanda teaches people how to work with yoga postures and breath practices as preparation for meditation. It’s a wonderful and effective practice that is sure to help you reach 99 with more ease in body, mind and spirit. Contact Amanda to find out more or to begin your practice. Click here to contact Amanda.