When searching for scientific studies to back my intuitive observations for the purpose of this article, I was surprised to find the myriad of studies performed linking degeneration of the human brain causing postural deficiencies in older adults. However, there are hundreds of studies documenting the age-mitigating effects of yoga on the brain and cells. My observation is this: we walk through this life with certain postural holdings, patterns, and behaviors. These are intimately linked with our personality, our successes and griefs, the stories we tell, the emotions and thoughts we own. There’s even a legitimate branch of psychology focused on this: bioenergetics.
A regular yoga asana practice works with not only the body and breath, but something deeper - our deeply held patterns of posture, which absolutely, invariably influence the aging process.
I’ve been teaching yoga for only three years, and can honestly tell you in that time I’ve aged backwards. However, this is highly susceptible to change as I have not been practicing for a significant length of time. Instead, for the past almost three decades (I began teaching at 27), I’ve lived a hard life full of karmic debt and lessons. Yoga has been a true light and solace to my life that has allowed me space and direction to release not only emotional karmic patterns, but physical musculoskeletal structures passed down to me by my own family lineage.
Take a look at my parents and you’ll see some very kind humans. We haven’t always gotten along - not by a long shot. One thing we did always share was a certain hunched-over look. Our shoulders hang forward, as do our heads. Our hearts are sunken in as if trying to protect themselves as our bellies protrude and knees lock. Nature or nurture, that I couldn’t tell you. Probably both? With a solid practice of yoga (mostly) around 5 times per week for a few years, I have seen my own posture changing along with my personality.
The wrinkles on my face and neck disappear when I am holding the right yogic posture. Yes, I said it! Not only am I able to take more full breaths, feel more at ease, happier, more confident and relaxed all at the same time, but I also notice the fine lines around my jowls disappear when I centrigate my shoulders into their joints and engage my waist into my midline. I believe postural holding patterns carry with them karmic stories of entire family lines going back generations.
Introducing a consistent yoga practice into your own life may have you changing the expression of your own ancestral karma. I have seen it in students and my own life. As we age, we begin to look more and more like our parents - and dare I say - act like them, too. But our life, and the way we express it, is our choice. This is something I am uncovering through my incredible passion for yoga asana and the other seven limbs of the yogic path.
See you on the beach, yogis.