By Camella Nair (Swami Nibhrtananda) C-IAYT, ATRI-C, author and owner of Aqua Kriya Yoga.
Continuity of consciousness as the physical body inevitably changes!
I think if we keep that concept in mind as our body does undergo changes
over time, it will ensure that we never give up the practice, although
it will definitely change from our concept of where we start and how our
practice of hatha yoga evolves. Wisdom does not mean that we have to be
super bendy and strong physically thank goodness.
Challenging poses that we may have loved practicing in a younger body
may start to prove more elusive as the body ages or injury occurs and
when it does, we have an opportunity to watch our mind throughout that
process. The avenues of accessible classes may seem narrow at this stage
with so many clubs and studios offering lots of vinyasa and power styles
of yoga. Many of the baby boomers have been practicing some form of yoga
for decades however and should really be able to find plenty of suitable
classes and styles to encourage them to continue to move the body.
My mum introduced me to yoga in my teens in England and as her body has
slowed down and I am sad to say she has given up her yoga practice. She
simply cannot find a teacher that understands her physical challenges.
As a long time practitioner, maybe she could develop her own home
practice but that is very hard for many. It requires discipline and of
course knowledge. The formal class environment can help to provide
social integration that keeps us feeling a part of something special as
family dynamics and loss affects our emotional stability.
Establishments that offer yoga for a “lifetime of practice” can be found
in many local communities like YMCA’s who cater for very diverse
populations. Very often there is a pool and hopefully a teacher that can
lead an aqua yoga class which introduces a new audience of people to
yoga as well as offer a place of rehabilitation for others. I began
teaching Aqua Yoga almost 2 decades ago as part of an exceptional
inclusion program at a local YMCA.
Environmental factors may become more intolerable for the elderly and in
England it is the wet and windy weather that keeps people in doors
rather than venturing out to exercise. For those in the Texas area,
keeping cool can be a challenge in the hot summer months and finding
balance in the water might just be a variable that makes sense. It
provides an environment that is safe for joints as well as helping to
improve balance for starters.
Aquafit in the Plano area of Dallas is now teaching Aqua Yoga to members
who may have come from a love of being in the water and fear of
practicing yoga on land. The goal I think for physical exercise is to
make people ambulatory and lucid in body and mind. Some people have
graduated from the water onto land based yoga classes where gravity
takes over from buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure. Students can then
translate what they have learned in the water and feel the different
effects of the pose on land while hopefully retaining their improved
Able bodied people may get injured and it happens sometimes to the fittest of us. Rehabilitation in the pool means that we don’t have to give up exercising, rather change the environment in which we are exercising. World class athletes have bounced back to the top of their sport after training post injury in the water.
With experienced yoga teachers trying to create a yoga therapy niche for
themselves in some area, now is a great time and especially in Texas, to
teach Aqua yoga to many of the ageing people in our country. It will of
course serve us all in the long run as none of us can escape the ravages
of time. How wonderful if we can keep on practicing hatha yoga for as
long as possible.
If you have never tried yoga in the water before, check out some local
classes or just get into the pool and play. Proprioception surrounded by
water makes for an amazing journey of self-discovery. Even if a person
has a strong sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the
body and strength of effort being utilized, there may be elements to the
practice that is yet to be discovered. I know my land practice has
improved by practicing in the water and I have been able to better
address a long term problem in my hip, finally.
We really don’t have to give up our yoga practice at any age. What we
may have to give up is our concept of what our yoga practice looks like.
In the Kriya Dharma