It’s hard to believe that when this picture was taken, 93-year-old Joan Mathews (the yogi in the picture) had never done yoga before. Now, she’s a regular in her local yoga studio and practicing yoga regularly. Here’s the story of how she got started in the first place.
Before you judge a 93-year old woman because she doesn’t look a hundred, let me tell you her story. The woman has lost her sight in the last five years due to macular degeneration, an eye condition in which damage to the central portion of the retina prevents one from seeing details in the peripheral part of the visual field. She was diagnosed at the age of 84 and has been unable to drive or read the newspaper without her glasses. But, she does not let her condition stop her from living life to the fullest. She started doing yoga in 1998 and by 2010, she was doing yoga poses that “most people [her age] cannot do such as headstands and handstands,” according to her daughter.
This is a blog about a 93 year old woman who is doing yoga, weight loss, and anything that keeps her young and healthy! Through yoga, she’s finding her inner peace and finding her inner strength!. Read more about basic yoga poses and let us know what you think.Over the years I have tried to overcome various physical challenges. More often than I’d like to admit, I’ve gone to the gym with the best of intentions, encouraged and bought a year’s subscription.
With this membership I went to the gym a total of 4 times. My enthusiasm for the physical challenge always ebbed away quickly. It always turned out to be just a passing phase.
In February 2012 I discovered Bikram yoga. I have been meditating with a coach for many years and receiving Reiki as a means of healing and therapy. These therapies and the discovery and exploration of the mind-body connection have helped me heal from severe anxiety attacks.
Yes, they’re cured!
I had already taken a yoga class and decided to try something new. I wanted to explore the connection between the body and the mind, because that’s the one thing that really helped me change my life.
So I took a Bikram yoga class.
Well, some things have changed (actually, many things have changed). 90 minutes in a 105 degree room, and the whole time you have to meditate your own body into the mirror to strengthen your form and hold the poses. The mental concentration I experienced was unlike any other.
I can’t explain it, but I was there four times a week from February to June. Я ! Four times a week?!
I felt more focused, more naturally relaxed, and it was easier to keep a perspective on life in general. I felt… happier. It has become less difficult to drown out the noise of unimportant things that can weigh on my mind – a condition I am sure many of you can relate to.
Wrestling with his own mind in the hot room was a good exercise in dealing with his own unhealthy mantras in everyday life.
What’s the problem?
So, in July 2012, I decided to start a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge – 30 consecutive days of Bikram yoga.
I love the practice, so it seems pretty simple, right? What’s wrong with that? There are people who participate in sports, run marathons, compete regularly, etc. What’s wrong with doing hot yoga for 30 days? Well, I’ve never been that kind of person.
In 2011, I smoked almost a pack of cigarettes a day. Until I discovered Bikram, I had never tried anything other than running on the treadmill. I never thought I would have the will or the motivation to train 30 days in a row.
The task begins.
But with the support of my family, I did it. I got the job done.
If you’re looking at this post, it’s because I want to share my thoughts on this experience. It’s something close to my heart, and many people have inspired me without even knowing it. I hope it inspires you in some way.
The 30-day challenge can be anything you want it to be: 30 days of positivity, 30 days of trying to be the calmest person in the room when life gets dramatic, 30 days of being a little nicer to the colleague who really irritates you…..
30 days is much longer than it seems. The physical and mental workload proved much heavier than I could have imagined. If I can do it, anyone can!
Here are 9 things I learned about myself during my 30-day Bikram yoga course:
1. All feelings eventually pass.
On the fifth day of my ordeal, I couldn’t believe how hot it was. After so many months of practice, I was fully aware of the temperature that day.
How is this possible? I had a great class the day before! I had to stop my mind from taking over, I had to fight to focus on my body and free my mind. I even considered leaving and said I needed to go to the bathroom to get some air. I felt upset, angry even. My mind has completely taken over.
But I did it. When class was over and I was driving home, I remember laughing as I turned down the air conditioning in the car because it was too cool. This practice has really helped me experience the beauty of changing circumstances.
Instead of being afraid to experience negative emotions or situations, it is important to remember that they will pass. I shouldn’t be so afraid of my feelings. They will eventually pass.
2. Humility is important.
I’ve never thought about anything completely. On the sixth day, I was confident enough to stand on my toes – hands in prayer, slightly lifted off my heels, looking in the mirror….. Day 7 – I fell on my ass!
Every day is different and full of new challenges. What I think I know today may leave me in the lurch tomorrow. I have to keep learning, keep trying, keep falling on my ass – and remember how it feels.
3. Don’t go there.
The hardest part is dealing with those negative thoughts about yourself. My mind is so smart and knows exactly what thoughts are triumphantly occupying it. One of my instructors once said to a class: Your mind is like a bad neighborhood. Don’t go there.
As I count in my mind how many poses are left, thinking about the heat, I turn my attention back to my breathing, hold the space I’m in, and let that crafty, devious mind escape.
I am learning to unlearn myself from these insidious habits that my mind so cleverly uses to control me. I CAN, with sustained effort, make this mental determination to free myself from destructive thoughts a daily practice, even if yoga doesn’t work. I did it 30 days in a row.
4. Talk to your assistants.
During those 30 days, I felt so blessed. My support system is a true gift and my greatest blessing. My mother babysat my children for over two hours every day and never complained. She had never done yoga in her life, she had no advice, but she knew it was important to me.
However, my mother has many of the qualities of a yogi – she is and always has been a support to me. She is the most selfless person I have ever known.
My man, as always, is the Empire State Building in my crazy city. One day, I got tired. My body was tired, and I… didn’t want to go to yoga. Honey, I almost don’t want to go today, I complained to him. He looked at me and said softly: You made that promise.
He didn’t give me the exit I was looking for. He changed his schedule to accommodate my yoga program even when it wasn’t working for him, and it never bothered him.
Even my sister-in-law Mary (my mother in another life, I’m sure) kept an eye on the kids so I could do my homework. I have people in my life that I can count on, really count on. My support system is great. This ordeal has made me immensely grateful for the people who help me in my life.
5. Self-confidence can mean more than numbers on a scale.
Since I started doing Bikram yoga in February 2012, I don’t get exhausted anymore. I don’t care about numbers. For the first time in my life, I can say I haven’t weighed myself in six months.
Like most people, yes, I was thinner in my twenties. But my body is stronger than ever, and I have more stamina at 36 than I did at 26. I feel more confident, and it’s not because I’ve lost weight. I have more confidence in myself because I have become stronger (mentally and physically).
6. Slap your fear in the face (in the words of a fearless woman I love, Lady Gaga).
As you know, I broke my back when I was 18. The recovery was long and terrible. Most of the yoga poses with backbends were very intimidating to me. I was very careful with my back. I didn’t do anything for the first few months.
Slowly, lesson by lesson, I let go of the fear. I let go of the idea that I had to defend myself like that. I went a little further each time and now do all 26 postures in this series. Why must the past define me and set boundaries for life?
The doctors told me many different things: We don’t know if you will be able to walk again, if you will be able to carry a pregnancy to term, if exercise will be difficult, if you will have early arthritis…. I spent my whole life trying to prove the doctors wrong. Why not now?
Doctors are great and they are the reason I am on my own and go to yoga every day, but they don’t know everything. In the past 30 days, I have been free of many fears.
7. Just relax. It’s just yoga!
I was always frustrated when I fell out of position. I’d be hard on myself. When a baby learns to walk and falls, he doesn’t get upset. They pick themselves up without paying attention and stagger away. Sometimes they even laugh.
Why do adults take themselves so seriously? One time I actually fell during yoga. I leaned forward and fell. I made it up. I chuckled and kept walking. My instructor said: That’s the spirit! Smile, it’s only yoga!
It stays with me. Autumn is what you make of it.
8. Stop running!
Physical activity has never been a conscious activity for me. I was getting ready for a game, turning on my mp3 player and immersing myself in the music so I didn’t have to think about what I was doing.
Nothing wrong with that. I understand you can’t walk away from yourself on the carpet. On my yoga mat – looking into the mirror, paying attention to the breath in each pose, paying attention to the form when surrender is not an option – transformation takes place.
Trainers always say: If you don’t feel anything, nothing will happen. I have found that this is indeed the case, and on several levels.
It means: I worship the place in you of love, of light, of truth, of peace; I worship the place in you where, if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us. This greeting acknowledges the true nature of each person, their higher self, and the fact that we are all equal.
Yoga has helped me become an active participant in my own happiness and truth in a way that no pill can. At the end of each yoga class, the teacher thanks us for the guidance and says: Namaste.
In this room, we all try to better ourselves. We all come together to open our hearts, be kind to ourselves and our bodies, become more centered, and thus become a better husband, wife, parent, friend, etc.
We’re all trying to be happier. We all give up. We’re all going to sit down again. We all reach milestones. We all learn. We never stop trying. We’re all the same.
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