Our 40s is the time when we begin feeling like we have achieved a few things in life, begin to wonder what the future holds, and slowly begin to see our identity emerge.
It is during this time though that we should also begin to look forward to the greatest chapter of our lives – our 50s and beyond! Many of us may look forward to retirement in doing nothing, or doing whatever we want. Some of us may prefer to continue working, because our work is our passion.
Whatever it is though, our body and our minds are crucial for this chapter. A good healthy body, and in correlation, a good healthy mind, can help see us through some of the challenges that comes during this period.
Let’s take for example, Daniel.
Daniel will be 80 years old in 2022. He has been a client of mine for about five years now. When he first began with me, I will always remember that he told me, “I want to perfect my surya namaskar (sun salutations)”. Daniel only practised yoga using Youtube prior to this.
In one year, Daniel managed to not only perfect his sun salutes, we had moved beyond that! I was amazed at his determination and tenacity. While I pointed out that in yoga, we don’t look for perfection, he still wanted to get everything as skilful as possible, not just to avoid and prevent injury, but also to experience the practice as it should.
The key thing in his whole practice is tenacity. Daniel used to be in the Air Force, and his tenacity in keeping to his practice is admirable. Translating skills he learnt during life to his mat practice, Daniel managed to learn the classical sun salutes in less than a year!
During this period of time, Daniel also wanted to learn how to keep his body fit and healthy. This is not to say he wasn’t active as it is. He spent an hour or so walking in the mornings, spent a lot of time gardening (he saved a few of my plants!) in both his home as well as in church.
So we spent a few mornings in the park, where I showed him how to use those publicly available strength machines we have in our municipal parks. I also showed him how to use the weights and bands he had at home.
Daniel’s next big goal with yoga was to get into lotus posture (padmasana).
Working with what we have.
A lot of lessons can be learnt from Daniel. Lotus posture may not be that attainable for him as his hips are pretty tight. In addition, as we worked towards lotus, Daniel experienced a heart attack.
We took some time off from practice, and he took some time off all activity, as he recovered. He changed his diet and altered his activities and after a few months, we began practise again. We slowed things down considerably, but what was important is that we didn’t totally stop.
Daniel continued his morning walks, and we worked on the mat. He also had by this time cultivated his own mat practice without me. Daniel is not discouraged at all that the lotus remains an elusive pose. It’s part of life, sometimes we don’t ever get what we want – what’s important is the journey there.
Pandemic and beyond.
During the many lockdowns Malaysia has had, Daniel has maintained activity without me. He tries taking 10,000 steps on his own, and when we have been allowed outdoors, he tries climbing hills and practises yoga on his own. “It’s force of habit,” he tells me.
Daniel has had no difficulty falling asleep, and he ascribes his healthy lifestyle to this. After his cardiac experience, Daniel is now 100% vegetarian and has also decreased his sugar intake.
Yoga has helped me a lot. I am better at balance and feel much more stable. I used to shuffle, but I don’t anymore.
I am not scared of falling and am much more mobile. Meditation is my ‘warm-up’ for yoga and it helps with my focus and concentration.Daniel
Beyond the physical.
In this great chapter of his life, with which Daniel shares with his wife Jenny and his dog Patches, Daniel seeks to remain as active in mind and body as possible.
He continues with his passion in gardening. To help him prevent dementia, Daniel is learning Indian mathematics and Sanskrit (including writing). He practices the Gayathry mantra and reads a lot of books as well.
When I grow up, I want to be like Daniel! Don’t you?