Age is a component of living on the planet. I’ve often heard people say they are getting old at age 29 but, what does it mean to get old? Most often when you’ve experienced aches and pains upon rising in the morning or throughout the day, and after you’ve complained about it to your mom, your girlfriend, auntie or your uncle, you can best bet, you’ll be given the advisory notice of “it’s only old age.” But is it really old age? Linda of Linda’s Yoga Journal gives a great explanation about connective tissue and flexibility. And how your ability to bend, stretch and flex is related to the health of your connective tissue. Connective tissue is what we commonly refer to as our joints, which are our tendons and ligaments. One of the first things I noticed about my body when I first began learning to play Tai Chi, was the area of my body we call our joints, were being strengthened. Following that, I could feel my legs getting stronger in ways I didn’t feel from lifting weights. Weight lifting is great and deals with the muscle and building mass, but doesn’t work your tendons and ligaments.
Another common “sign of old age” is when people say they can’t move the way they used to, because their “old bones” don’t work like they used to. I’m not so sure this is the case, I tend to believe the lack of use outside of our normal range of motion leads to your “old bones” not working like they used to. Believing you are getting old, sets up in the mind that you shouldn’t move in certain ways for fear of injury. The fact that you don’t move outside of your normal range of motion is more likely to lead to injury. Also, we have to take into consideration the amount of refined sugars, white flour, processed meats and processed foods you consume and how this “feed” plays a large part in how we feel physically. After years and years of consuming these products we have to understand the impact they have on joint health. We need to be aware of how the lack of detoxing the body can allow toxic build up that contributes to the aches and pains that are attributed to “getting old.” And on top of that, most people that suffer these aches and pains do little to no physical exercise which brings oxygen into the total body, and oxygen is heat for the body and a healing fire.
One of the concepts in Tai Chi is the idea of circulating and extending Chi. Chi or Prana in Yoga is vital force, vital energy or the animating force in everything. And yet, Chi is breath. Breath is central to the practice of Tai Chi along with slow deliberate movements. You can find this same theme in Yin Yoga, where breath with movement and holding the form opens the joints and allows the vital energy to flow through. At this point you may be wondering what this has to do with getting old. Getting old is the lack of keeping the healing fire burning in the body, and one of the best ways to keep this fire burning and spreading throughout the body is through Tai Chi, Chi Kung, or Yoga, specifically Yin Yoga. But, if these forms don’t suit your taste, basic standard calisthenics, aerobic exercises, and weight lifting and most importantly a stretching routine (I cannot stress the importance of stretching enough) will keep the fire buring in the body. When the body is cold, because we let the fire dim, when we dim the fire by eating devitalized feed, we feel aches and pains that we have been taught are signs of getting old when it just may be we are letting the healing fire die.