Old yogis? Young fitness age

We’ve noted quite a few times that if one maintains a regular Ashtanga practice — five, six days a week, an hour plus each day — it’s fair to consider that person an amateur athlete.

And we’ve written about the uncharted territory that is Ashtanga and aging.

So it seems worthwhile to pass this on as another bit of motivation to keep on keeping on — especially here in the U.S., the day after a holiday that may have compelled some extra indulgence. (Because a country’s birthday is a great reason for too much beer and hot dogs!)

Older athletes are surprisingly young. From the New York Times online piece:

Older athletes can be much younger, physically, than they are in real life, according to a new study of participants in the coming Senior Olympics. The study found that the athletes’ fitness age is typically 20 years or more younger than their chronological age, providing a clear inspiration to the rest of us to get out and start moving more.

[snip]

The effect was similar for both male and female athletes, he pointed out. Virtually every athlete, in fact, had a lower fitness age than his or her chronological age.

Dr. Peeke and Dr. Wisloff have not yet determined whether athletes in certain of the sports at the Senior Olympics, particularly endurance events such as distance running and swimming, have a younger fitness age, in general, than athletes participating in less-vigorous sports.

But they plan to parse the data extensively in the coming months to answer that question and to look for other patterns among the Senior Olympians. They expect to publish their findings soon.

At the center of this piece and the research it covers is an online calculator that can give you your “fitness age.”

I’ll admit, I started with it and as soon as it wanted to include my info in the research, I bailed. I’ve gotten more concerned about privacy matters; yes, having a blog probably isn’t a great way to maintain that. (The secret is to lie — obviously I never practice yoga and have not been to India.)

But the research still offers an inducement for those of you who do practice to keep at it. (An.d maybe also this proves Ashtanga was designed for old people)

Posted by Steve

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Local Greenwich mag touts Jois Yoga studio, calls Ashtanga ‘part of fitness regimes’

I’m not going to pretend there’s anything extraordinary or eyebrow raising in this quick write-up of the new Jois Yoga studio in Greenwich, Ct., but… well, we aim to bring you the news about Ashtanga when it happens.

Via Greenwich mag, but I think originally via Jois Yoga

So I guess this counts. It is from Greenwich magazine:

Many women in town credit yoga for their toned, flexible bodies. But Sonia Jones considers Ashtanga yoga, which she began practicing twelve years ago, “life changing in every aspect.” She says, “Taught correctly, traditional Ashtanga yoga helps with so many things—anxiety, stress, medical issues. I tell everyone I know, you have to try this.” Now it will be easier for Greenwich residents to learn the discipline because Jones, wife of financier Paul Tudor Jones, has opened a studio called jois yoga. Named for Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who first taught the method, the local shala offers daily classes with teachers who were trained directly by members of the Jois family in Mysore, India. A classical form of yoga that involves movements, deep breathing and meditative gazing, Ashtanga is part of the fitness regimes of Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting (who attended the opening party for Jois in Greenwich along with his wife, Trudi). The new location also showcases the Jois Yoga clothing collection; profits from apparel sales go to the K. P. Jois Foundation, which aims to bring Ashtanga yoga to children by making it a part of public school curriculum. All the more reason to feel good about visiting this place that Jones calls, “an oasis away from the stress and hustle and bustle of everyday life.”

I guess I do kinda, sorta have to mention the opening “[m]any women in town” yoga stereotype — or maybe it is a Greenwich stereotype? (Or Santa Monica, or the Upper East Side, or Miami, or … you get the idea.) Also not sure why Jois Yoga gets the “jois yoga” treatment. (Is it lower case? Anyone know?)

I really am not meaning to toss stones at the magazine; this is a quick write-up, and I suspect the readership is largely women in town. (In the past, I’ve been involved in similar magazines, so I think I speak with a little authority; call it an educated guestimate.) So I don’t begrudge them the other phrase that really leaps out — in the leaps out and dives into my craw, kinda way: the description of Ashtanga as “part of the fitness regimes” of our main trio of celebrities. It’s hard to dive much deeper than that in a few hundred words.

Heck, it’s hard to dive much deeper than that when you’re a practitioner.

Posted by Steve

“The Fascination of What’s Difficult”

There's a dance party in my head, and you're invited. Dancing Ganesha, from the Norton Simon museum.

Today is my birthday. Because it falls around Thanksgiving, I’m used to a sort of mixture of remorse (for what I ate), gratitude (it is a day to give thanks, after all), and a deep sense of my own mortality (a natural by-product of all birthdays over 30).

And with all the Ashtanga news lately being totally preoccupied with things that are most decidedly not one of the Eight Limbs (whether or not it makes you skinny, whether or not it’s from the Devil–that sort of silliness), it’s part of my contrary nature to take stock of my own vanity.

It’s true that I didn’t come to the practice to deepen my connection with the universe or learn Vedic philosophy. But it wasn’t to get skinny, either. I had early onset degeneration and arthritis and was trying to beat back death (see earlier sense of mortality, but I was in my 20s). Ashtanga was the only practice where the teacher never told me to “stop when it hurts.” Everything hurt. I felt, instinctually that I needed to do it, even if every forward fold was excruciating. Steve remembers all the times I would come home from practice, weeping.

Now a new study out of Northwestern University is suggesting I’ve made the right choice. (NPR did a story on it this morning–very timely.) Those of us who practice in pain are doing the right thing.

It’s not like there was never any doubt. You might check out this poem by W.B. Yeats, the poem of my title above, to see what that’s like. But it was the philosophy of yoga, and Ashtanga in particular, that got me through it, and still does. Reading Ramesh Menon’s translations of the great Indian epics, classic translations of the Upanishads, the poetry, and learning to connect to the divine through the image and stories of Ganesha, the Lord of Obstacles.

What’s a goal? Me and my ego still have long discussions over my second series practice (I hear Tim in my head: “Avoidance is not the answer”). I try hard to remember the whole journey. Every time I put my hands together over my head in a suryanamaskar, there’s a little party in my head, a little dance (I couldn’t do that when I was 28). I suppose you could say that’s vanity. Or demonic. Maybe, though, it’s more “daemonic,” in the ancient Greek sense, a moment that belongs to the intermediary between me and the universe. Whatever it is, it makes me smile, even on the day I complete my 47th year.

Posted by Bobbie