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Some people, on reaching the age of fifty, feel as if they have reached the beginning of their twilight years. For others, it is a cross roads of sorts where they start to prepare themselves for the enjoyment they have deprived themselves thus far. Either way, turning fifty should not mean living sedentarily. We should not cease being active. Practising yoga can be a lifelong advantage for the human body. It tunes the body, providing flexibility, strength and endurance for the practitioner. It provides balance and stability, not only physically but mentally. It awakens and relaxes. It de-stresses, detoxifies and heals. It provides the practitioner an open opportunity to find one’s inner centre, that perfect place of peace and calm. It is a journey of understanding on three levels, that is, of body, mind and spirit.

Yoga requires only one main intrinsic payment: time. Investing time for regular, scheduled practise (at the very least three times a week), practitioners will be able to familiarise themselves with various asanas. Adaily schedule is of course a better option. The practise of asanas, takes one on a journey of knowledge; knowledge about one’s body, learning of the combination of breath and pose and strengthening the mind by improving concentration. In other words, learning to focus on the moment. One learns about balance whilst moving from pose to counter pose. There is a sense of grace and fluidity that grows with continuous practise and repetition. And it helps to maintain one’s youth.

Take a page from the lives of these three gentlemen, whose ages range from the early fifties to the age of sixty. They live active, hectic lifestyles at work and socially. The first is Phillip Yap. Aged fifty-one, he is a self made business man. The second is Rajnikant B.M. Kamdar, aged fifty-nine and is attached to Kamdar’s (a departmental chain) as a Director. The third is Datuk Sivaloganathan, aged sixty, a lawyer. These gentlemen practise yoga together three times a week, regularly.

Phillip Yap
Phillip has been practising yoga for eight years. He was introduced to yoga through a friend who invited him to a class. He feels fortunate that he did go and has followed through ever since. He finds that his body is healthier, more flexible and more obedient. Mentally, yoga has helped him control his temperament. He is able to calm himself especially in moments of agitation through the use of breathing techniques. His work can be stressful and demanding. He finds that during these moments he is able to de-stress himself by doing a series of stretches. While any asana can serve this purpose for him, his favourite is the cobra pose. Apart of the sun salutation routine, it is understandable why he feels this way; the asana is one of the most energizing poses.

Practising yoga has given Phillip a more positive outlook in life and he is able to meet the various challenges he encounters with equanimity. He feels rejuvenated and enjoys more restful nights. On a spiritual and mental level, he feels that yoga has helped. He feels more together, something he had not experienced before. Prior to beginning his yoga practise, Phillip used to jog and lift weights at the gym. It is part of what has helped to increase his endurance and firm his physique. However, his flexibility suffered from the weight lifting. Yoga rectified that and also gave him sharper mental and spiritual acuity.

His advise to the potential practitioner is simple and straightforward. “Put in more effort. Practise makes perfect.” Performing the headstand came as a surprise to him. It took him only a little more than two months to achieve this. His most difficult poses are the spinal twist and the table asana. Thus, he says, “Yoga must be started from the bottom. It can’t be built up overnight. You have to be gradually introduced into it and build up from there.” He encourages beginners to start because it is relaxing and not too strenuous for the body. In his opinion, “when you go into yoga, you do a lot of stretching, so it takes quite a while to be committed to it”.

Datuk Sivaloganathan
“Yoga is a spiritual thing; a oneness of mind and body. There is a physical aspect to yoga and there is a spiritual aspect to it. The epitome of yoga is when the mind meets with the spirit, so it is a soul searching process and yoga helps you get into the process. You may spend your whole life doing researches and invariably you never find it but the process is on.”

Siva has been practising yoga for fifteen to twenty years. He started because he was a long time sufferer of sinusitis. He had tried all the different types of antihistamines available but they never helped. On the advise of his doctor, he started yoga. It worked! Breathing techniques and other asanas helped him. The headstand especially, because, “you reverse the processes and you reverse the gravitational forces, so I did that and within six months I lost my perennial sickness that I suffered for thirty, forty years”. Two of the breathing techniques he mentions in this endeavour is the Kapala Bathi and alternate nostril breathing.

For the mind and de-stressing, meditation plays an important role. In his case it has helped him be calm. He finds himself more at ease with others and his conduct, friendship oriented. On a spiritual level, he says that he has not hit those areas of meditation yet. He considers his efforts very basic. “If you want to get to those areas there are things you have to give up; you have to give up the common day living of man…If you want to live that way which requires total renunciation”. Yoga has helped Siva become fitter. It has kept him from sickness. It has helped him stop smoking, because it removed the addictive nature of cigarettes from his system. He is alert, mentally alive.

His advise to beginners is to remember that “If you look at yoga as a health promoting exercise you must accept the fact that you have to invest time for health. Health doesn’t come for free”. The second is that “yoga is an exercise (you can consider it an exercise) that you can start at any age; as long as you are alive and you can walk, you do the exercises according to your need and according to your ability and progress from there on. No pose is challenging because you are not in a competition; you are here to do what is within your ability and what you are physically able to achieve…so if you ask about challenging poses, every pose is challenging because we do it according to our abilities otherwise we can hurt ourselves.”

Rajnikant B.M. Kamdar
Rajnikant practised yoga in 1984 for about six months, then stopped. He started again at Siva’s suggestion around 2004 when they discussed it on one of their walks. What you have to understand is that this is a man who has good habits. He is a vegetarian, he does not drink or smoke. He suffered from cancer in 2002. He has been in total remission for five years. He now practises yoga three times a week regularly. After yoga, he plays badminton and on the weekends he goes walking up a hill. Though playing badminton after yoga tires him, he still does it though he feels he should not because of his previous health problems.

As a Director of Kamdar’s, his lifestyle could be one of constant stress. As he says, “once upon a time I was worried about this target or that target”, now it is not a priority anymore. Today he is a happy go lucky person who tends not to feel the stresses of work anymore. At fifty nine, Rajnikant’s outlook is this, “I look like a normal human being, I work and eat like a normal human being.” Nobody would know he was a cancer patient and he is more fit than before. He has stamina and flexibility. This he feels is because of the combination of yoga and running. He has been running for almost eight years and he started yoga two years after his operation.

One of the changes he has noticed in his life is that he no longer suffers from the effects of temperature change. People who tend to move from cold to warm and then back to cold temperatures tend to suffer from bouts of sneezing. He doesn’t experience this any longer. He attributes this change to the breathing techniques he has learned in yoga such as the Kapala Bathi. When practising yoga, he feels that there is no such thing as a difficult pose. Difficulty is not an important factor to consider; it is the pose you dislike doing the most. He attributes this to doing it incorrectly. “If the pose is not what it should be then it is not correctly done”.

For beginners, he stresses the importance of finding the right teacher. One who can guide and communicate well. One who, after knowing a person’s health issues can choose suitable asanas to practise in accordance to level and ability and then to gradually increase it. It is important to note any negative effects during a session and touch base with the instructor so that these effects can be addressed before the next class. The teacher can help the practitioner work up to the pose. This is sound and pertinent advise from these gentlemen. Entering middle age does not mean that one has to slow down or stop living. It is when we start challenging ourselves in a different arena; the one that keep our bodies, minds and spirits active, that we keep young at heart. It is merely a change of scenery, after all, why should age be defined by numerical value. It should instead be defined by wisdom.

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