Aging Well: Momo the Black Lab

The next star in my Aging Well series would be a centenarian if she were human. In dog years, she’s 15. Meet, Momo, a Labrador Retriever with high energy, strong will, sleek physique, and unbridled enthusiasm. When we adopted her almost five years ago, she acted like a dog half her age. She’d roam Kits beach, chasing herons, swimming, ignoring commands, and sniffing everywhere. Food was, and always will be, her great passion. Today, despite some creakiness in her joints and limbs, she still has daunting “get up and go.” She is never tardy for her morning walk, much less any meal (hers, mine, yours). Five years ago, she was going grey … Continue reading Aging Well: Momo the Black Lab

Aging well: Phyllis Sues

Prepare to be impressed. Can Phyllis Sues really be 90 years old?  You can’t really guess her age any more since she went through Blepharoplasty Beverly Hills.Go to her website and see her in action: tango dancing, jumping rope, playing tennis, doing yoga, swinging on a trapeze, hiking. From her 20s to her 40s, she was a professional dancer and entertainer. She then became a fashion designer, running a women’s apparel company for two decades. In the early 2000s, in her 80s, she took up the piano and tango dancing. At 85 she began practicing yoga. Now, five years hence, she is doing a bunch of challenging poses, as illustrated … Continue reading Aging well: Phyllis Sues

Aging well: Misao Ihara

Old age. Why do we dread it? A common fear is ill health, which is probably why 95-year-old Olga Kotelko, the first in my Aging Well series, is so impressive. Another concern is loneliness. There will come a point when we lose friends and our closest companions. That’s why I’m now featuring Misao Ihara, whom I discovered in The Daily Life of a Grandma and Her Odd-Eyed Cat in Demilked, a design blog. Misao Ihara found this stray cat with mismatched eyes and called it Fukumaru, so that “the god of fuku (good fortune) would come and everything will be smoothed over like … Continue reading Aging well: Misao Ihara

Aging well: Olga Kotelko

Nowadays it’s no surprise to see super fit and active 70- and 80-somethings. But beyond 90? I recently (and belatedly) read “The Incredible Flying Nonagenarian” by Bruce Grierson (New York Times, November 25, 2010) about Olga Kotelko, almost 95, world champion in track and field. Born in 1919, she grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, the seventh of eleven children. After moving to British Columbia with her two daughters in 1957, she had no time for sports until she retired from teaching in 1984. She first played softball and then, at age 77, tried track and field. Olga enthusiastically pushed … Continue reading Aging well: Olga Kotelko

From the “It’s never too late” files: the centenarian marathoner

Are there “windows of time” for some things in life? One of my yoga students, a runner/marathoner, hypothesized  that most people’s bodies can tolerate long-distance running only for two or three decades. Those who run hard from teens to 40s often aren’t running past 50. Those who start later often continue later, but within similar extents. I recalled our chat when I read “The Runner,” by Jordan Conn, ESPN. Fauja Singh began running upon moving to London at age 84. Born in northwestern India on April 1, 1911, he had lived simply, as a farmer in his home village, for … Continue reading From the “It’s never too late” files: the centenarian marathoner

Mixing yoga and sports

One of my yoga students, “Sara,” does endurance sports. Before her annual summer triathlon, she stops attending yoga classes as she ramps up her training. Time is limited and she believes that “loose” muscles are diminished in strength. Another student, “Chris,” will celebrate her birthday next year by running a marathon. Swimming was her original sport, and she’s a lean mesomorph body type, with tight shoulders and hips. Now that she goes on long runs on Sundays, she’s forgoing her Monday evening yoga class because she needs a post-run “total rest day.” These cases got me thinking about yoga, sports, … Continue reading Mixing yoga and sports

Remember when summer vacation seemed to last forever?

I just bumped into a yoga student I taught in February. He’d attended my classes while his teacher was studying with the Iyengars in India. “Ned,” a professor emeritus of chemistry, was brand new to yoga. Following directions seemed alien to him at first, and I had to be extra firm. He found basic stretches very intense, and he wasn’t shy about breaking the studio silence with some audible huffing and puffing. But he didn’t mind being corrected and was very motivated to work on his tight shoulders and hamstrings. I appreciated his commitment: he arrived for class early and … Continue reading Remember when summer vacation seemed to last forever?

Yoga and cardio: Can you really change your genetic destiny?

In January my friend Louise, a writing teacher, environmental activist, and yoga practitioner, had a small heart attack. Around the same time, I heard that one of Canada’s senior-most Iyengar yoga teachers had an aortic dissection. It struck me that two females and lifelong yogis, have heart disease. It made me wonder about the value of aerobic exercise, also called “cardio” and touted to prevent heart trouble. Do you do cardio? Casual yoga students typically do other sporty activities, such as running, swimming, and cycling. In fact, they often view asana as complementary to their main sport. But what about serious yogis … Continue reading Yoga and cardio: Can you really change your genetic destiny?

Vary the terrain

In running, they say, “vary the terrain.” Roads, trails, hills, flats. Different types of terrain develop your fitness in different ways. I recently found this tidbit applicable to… yoga teaching. Stymied by Dog pose In winter I taught a small class at a community centre. Whether due to demographics or to coincidence, all of my students were older (55 to 65) and dealing to physical limitations. One woman had both rheumatoid and osteo arthritis. Another had extreme bunions and was recovering from foot surgery. One man had very limited range of motion across his joints, especially his shoulders. The class was … Continue reading Vary the terrain

The secret lives of yoga teachers

Yesterday Tara Parker-Pope wrote “An Older Generation Falls Prey to Eating Disorders” in her New York Times health column. It caught my eye because it profiles a 58-year-old yoga teacher who developed anorexia in her late 30s. “At 53, carrying just 85 pounds on her 5-foot-3 frame,” Parker-Pope writes, “Ms. Shaw checked herself in to an eating disorders program.” Skimming readers’ comments, it’s clear that there are multiple issues involved. But here’s what struck me: Can someone personally unhealthy (or unhappy) nevertheless be a decent yoga teacher? (Granted, Shaw might be only a casual, occasional teacher and not the best … Continue reading The secret lives of yoga teachers

Holding the plank

Last week, I happened upon the blog of Lauren Lipton, a journalist and novelist based in New York. (Blogger’s fate: you waste time reading other people’s blogs.) In her post “a whole lot of nothing,” she mentions, “I can now remain in the plank pose for three and a half torturous minutes.” That caught my eye. Three and a half minutes! And, being who I am, I wondered how long I can hold the pose. During my next home practice, with no ado, I checked the time and launched into plank. I couldn’t see my wristwatch. Argh! I dropped to … Continue reading Holding the plank

Old Man, Lady Gaga, and the unexpected

In her email newsletter, Kailua-Kona yoga teacher Barbara Uechi mentioned a video, Old Man Dances to Lady Gaga, posted on Today’s BIG Thing. I couldn’t resist checking it out. I admit that I’m a sucker for uplifting Joe Shmoe performances. But why exactly did it make the cut? Why is it a “big thing” to see a silvery senior go all out dancing to “Poker Face”? We expect men his age not to dance, certainly not to Lady Gaga. (If he’d performed a smooth ballroom number, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.) We expect people to behave in conventional ways, in childhood and college, … Continue reading Old Man, Lady Gaga, and the unexpected