We’ve all heard about aging gracefully, which generally means accepting the conditions of old age such as weaknesses and acting in a more mellow and stereotypical manner. However, as life expectancy is increasing across the world and living up to 80, 90 and even 100 years of age is the new normal, I strongly believe that aging healthily has become far more important.

I remember as a child, whilst playing, we would impersonate old people as being frail, walking slowly with a hunched back, and not being able to lift much, let alone do house chores. That was the case then, when our parents would take care of our grandparents as they grew older. But today, we are embracing the nuclear family way of living and don’t expect or wish to be dependent upon our children. Plus, living like the stereotype I used to play, for 20, 30 or even 40 years seems like a nightmare, don’t you agree?

What makes me feel sad is seeing young people in their 20s experiencing body aches, lacking proper nutrition, being stressed out with the pressure of work and unrealistic social media perceptions, and already starting to get chronic conditions that were unheard of for that age until just a decade ago. On the other hand, I get inspired by all of you who live an active lifestyle, have strong bodies, take care of yourselves and are on your way to blossoming into old age.

The world is seeing this phenomenon and has coined the word ‘perennials’ to describe those of you who live life to the fullest and are physically and mentally active no matter your age. In fact, I believe that it’s not just physical exercise and nutrition, but also being active, caring for yourself and being mentally and socially engaged that prolong those years and the quality of your life.

Let us all take such a comprehensive view to aging, to live happily and not have to depend upon helpers or our children to get by, but see them as luxuries and sources of happiness to live comfortably. I strongly feel that our health and complete well-being are our core strengths to live up to our standards, no matter the number of candles on our birthday cakes.

So let’s eat nutritious food, engage and maintain our social lives, live in safe and supportive communities, and do what we love every day. Let’s challenge and change the world’s stereotype of old age, to one of being active, smart, full of life, and role models to the younger generation. Let this change begin with us and our thinking. Let’s redefine what aging gracefully means to us and not let anything stop us from doing what we love – physically, mentally, or spiritually.

Do you want to join me on this journey? Tell me what you think about aging and your ideas on how we could live healthier lives with our young minds.

Recently, my husband John and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary in Thailand, where we repeated our vows to each other. One of them was, “I’ll always be there for you”. I couldn’t help but recall teaching from yoga, where we call this ‘holding space’, and you might have heard me or other teachers at Inspire talk about it.

It’s like providing the feeling of safety by being there, however it is more complex than that. If you’ve ever said to someone that you love him or that she’s your best friend because they “didn’t do anything but were just there for you in times of need”, I’m sure you’ve experienced someone holding space for you. In essence, it means that a person is simply there for you and allows you to express your feelings and go through the experience of pain, hurt and suffering without judgement or forceful help. Those last two words are what differentiate sympathy from compassion. As humans, it’s not easy to see suffering and not do anything to help alleviate it, and that’s because it affects our emotions and brings our uncomfortable memories to the surface. That’s what makes holding space so much more difficult as one needs to be selfless in the suffering of another.

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What I’m about to share is a personal lesson, which to be frank, I am not entirely comfortable sharing. Nevertheless, I am sharing it because I am sure that my experience is not unique and if it can motivate even one person into action, then it is worth the discomfort. So, here goes …

I’ve always considered myself to be healthy. I’m not overweight (well, I have put on a few kg above what I would consider normal), I think I eat a well-balanced diet (the extra kilos tell a different story) and I try to exercise regularly. It is also true that my workout routine has been affected over the last few years as a result of different jobs and the associated stress.

Regardless of the reasons, I was getting to the studio and gym less than I used to. I made the excuses of getting older and that I’m pretty good for my age – but to be honest, I was kidding myself. I had let my health and wellbeing slip in my order of priorities. I was no longer in balance.

So, during Ramadan I decided to do something about it – I commenced a programme to lose weight and improve my physical wellbeing. I was making good progress and then last month I contracted a virus of some sort, which I thought would simply “go away.” It didn’t!

To cut to the chase, it took several weeks, numerous doctor’s appointments and dozens of tests to diagnose the issue, which fortunately wasn’t as sinister as the symptoms potentially indicated.

Why You Need To Work on Your Health Right Now
Even though my medical results were good, the entire experience reminded me that I am not as bullet proof as I thought I was, and that being mindful of my health is more important than ever. We just can’t predict when or how we will get sick. That is why we all need to make the most of now. Focus on your health and wellbeing right now while you still can. Go out there, get active and take better care of yourself.

For me, that means eating better, eating less, drinking more water and being active every day combining aerobic, strength and flexibility (so those who have noted my absence from morning classes at Inspire, this is coming to an end). Most importantly, I am focussing on positive meditation and better quality sleep.

One of the other outcomes is an increased focus on getting balance in other areas of my life. I have written before about my personal mantra, which is the need for balance (not equity) across four areas of my life: self, family and friends, career and community. It is true I have been out of kilter … so apart from working on myself, I am focussing on the relationships that truly matter, whether it is my mum and kids who live thousands of miles away in Australia, or with my better half (and yes Elisa truly is my better half) with whom I am celebrating 10 years of marriage later this month.

My story is not unique.

Have you ever had a wake up call? How would you rate your health right now compared to a year or two ago? What role does health play in your goals and priorities? What are you going to do, right now to take better care of your health? What are you going to do right now to regain balance in your life?

That’s all for now.

See you on the mat … soon!
John

P.S. Feel free to comment or reach out on the above at either john@inspiremeyoga.net or elisa@inspiremeyoga.net

Have you ever wondered, perhaps in the wee hours of the morning, what your purpose is in life? This happened to me recently, after I returned from my second instalment of the 300-hour yoga teachers’ training in San Francisco. I was training with Jason Crandell, one of my favourite teachers, who urged us to understand the human body and to think about, then define the ‘purpose’ we want to achieve when creating a sequence of asanas. It got me thinking about my own purpose in life?

I’m sure that you too have, at some point, contemplated the meaning of life asking yourself “Why am I here?” or “What’s the reason behind me being in this world?” I have to tell you, it can be quite daunting. However, over time, I have found that it’s important not to put pressure into finding solutions, because answers to such questions come in their own time.

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Do good – I remember my mother telling me this on a number of occasions since I was a little girl. It’s something most of us have grown up hearing from society. It is so ingrained in our character through various teachings, from being compassionate and helping others, to sharing and being modest, that we sometimes forget our inherent need of self-preservation.

Have you ever done something good and for some reason felt unappreciated, hurt or even taken advantage? I confess I used to get affected when mine or others act of kindness went unnoticed and unappreciated…  I used to ask myself why even bother? For years, I thought that the people who I felt did not appreciate me or in my perception took advantaged of me were to blame for my feeling of sadness and hurt.  I have since learnt otherwise.

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Have you ever found yourself in a room full of people or at a party, yet felt lonely; I have, on many an occasion.

 Recently I read a BBC news article which surprised me; in short, recent research shows that young adults are more likely to feel lonely than older age groups.

 The research found that almost 10% of people aged 16 to 24 were “always or often” lonely – the highest proportion of any age group and more than three times higher than people aged 65 and over. I was surprised because my perception was the opposite. Young people are always “connected” and communicating with others whereas older people often have long bouts of solitude.

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As a child, I used to be afraid of the dark and the thought of many undesirable things lurking in it. Throughout the years darkness has taken many forms; anxiety, fear, loneliness, grief, depression, sadness and shame. It’s the painful, sticky, murky stuff that most of us would rather wish away.

The reality is darkness comes and no one is immune to it. When the feelings of “darkness” swell in our bodies we instinctively respond in one of three primary ways: we prepare to attack the problem (fight), run away (flight), or we are unable to respond at all (freeze).

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Growing up in a family of nine kids, I always felt that I had to work on getting my share of love and attention from my parents. Don’t get me wrong, they did their best to be fair and did a great job raising us, but I always felt that I was just another one of the nine kids… I felt that I needed to differentiate myself by working hard at school, following the rules and being the “good one”.

As I grew up and had relationships, I went through the same motions of trying to work hard for the love I “deserved”. Sadly, the harder I tried, the less fruitful the relationship; with my heart being broken far too often.

Essentially there was this void I desperately wanted to fill.

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One of the best things that happened to me in 2017 is the discovery of Sarah Blondin’s Live Awake series of podcasts. They have awakened me at a fundamental level, so much so that I have shared them with our already inspired teachers, my sisters, nieces and girlfriends, even John! Without fail, the response has been something like “I needed to hear this, it is such a profound and beautiful message”.

What I like about Sarah’s podcasts (apart from her soothing voice) is that each episode provides a different perspective to some of life’s most difficult and challenging times. Her basic message is that perspective is everything, and by choosing to see the beauty that exists in our everyday life, we begin to live a life where happiness is our natural state of being rather than a temporary occurrence.

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“I vow now to develop mindful attention in this body, heart and mind for my own and others’ benefit.”

Just a few more sleeps and it’s 2018! Where did the time go?!

Early this year I was finalizing the education and certifications I planned to do in 2017. So far, I was able to fulfill 5 major training’s that I set myself to do in order to be a better teacher and better person in general (wink, wink). One of the highlights so far was the 10-Day Insight Yoga Level 1 training in Hong Kong with Sarah Powers – my Yin Yoga mother and the one who actually named Yin Yoga as Yin Yoga!

It was my first time in Hong Kong but as usual, I travel not to sight-see but to train with teachers I have been following (or stalking) my entire yoga life. After spending time and learning from her, I am already looking forward to the Level 2 training in May 2018!

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