Growth potential in an unlikely group

An alternative online publication, CounterPunch, gives a new spin to the momentum building around yoga in mainstream North American culture by pointing out that the greatest potential for growth and benefit lies in the age group above 50 years old because of yoga’s ability to address many of the health issues confronting that group.

CounterPunch Are Seniors the Vanguard of American Yoga?
“Francina seems to take delight in defying conventional wisdom by insisting that older practitioners are often more flexible than students in their 20s and usually more patient and consistent in their practice of the poses.  She insists, in fact, that seniors, not shy away from demanding and vigorous practice for fear of getting injured, and should embrace yoga’s “advanced” inversion poses — the headstand and shoulder stand, among them – because these poses, in addition to their spiritual majesty, have unique anti-aging benefits, including their ability to “detoxify” the internal organs and to improve blood circulation to the brain – a key challenge as gravity and age naturally take hold.”

The book that Stewart Lawrence uses as the centerpiece for his article is not fresh off the presses. The New Yoga for Healthy Aging: Living Longer, Living Stronger and Loving Every Day by Suza Francina has been out since 2007. Francina has been writing about the yoga scene in the States since 1972 when she was part of the original staff of Yoga Journal. She also has been writing about the 50-plus population segment since 1997. She’s been willing to use scientific research to back up her instructions for asana selection and alignment. But the writer wants to jab at the marketing hip about yoga.

“Real anti-aging yoga, Francina suggests, won’t come easy; it is a sustained and in-depth therapeutic practice. At a time when American yoga sometimes resembles a bizarre even juvenile form of spiritual burlesque, Francina’s comprehensive and inspiring how-to-guide reminds us that yoga really does contain the seeds of ancient wisdom – especially when, through longevity and a life well- lived, you’ve acquired so much of your own.”

Check out her blog.

Age is not really the issue

We are all aging from the moment we pass a hypothetical apex in our early 20s. We can ignore the erosion of flexibility, strength, stamina and resilience, but eventually it catches up with us, If we ignore this reality for too long, we end up 60 pounds overweight, plagued by chronic illnesses (diabetes, heart disease), joints that are wearing out and psychological brakes (shame, depression, anxiety) that restrain us from engaging more fully in physical activity. Somehow, we have to keep up an active life. You could even turn the argument on its head by saying that the States needs to focus on the kids in their early years because they acquire deficits that are dragged throughout their lives.

This opportunity allows me to point to one of my favorite online resources on yoga, Yoga for Healthy Aging. The blogging team includes Dr. Timothy McCall, Baxter Bell, Nina Zolotow, Shari Ser, Ram Rao, Bridget Frederick, and Brad Gibson. Zolotow co-authored both of Rodney Yee’s books and serves as the blog editor, an essential function when you have multiple writers. Most of the entries are more than just short commentaries on news items. I try to visit it regularly but I am getting frustrated that I am not able to tap into all the accumulated wisdom in these pages. It’s been around for three years and there are about 500 entries.

This collective of contributors brings experience and knowledge to their writing, whether it be scientific research or hands-on yoga instruction. Bell has put up some interesting audio files. It’s ironic that the site is really low-tech: it’s hosted on It does make good use of photographs and illustrations.