Introduction    Yoga Positions    Yoga for Golfers    Yoga and Osteoporosis

 

 

 

My Personal Yoga Journey

When I started Yoga at 72 little did I know what a major role it would come to play in my life. I had been sleeping badly at night due to a condition known as ‘restless legs’ and had consulted medical colleagues about it without success. It occurred to me that perhaps massage may be of help and I was directed to a local masseuse, Lyndal Gallaway.

After about four sessions of massage my condition was greatly improved and I was sleeping soundly at night. I then discovered that Lyndal was also a yoga teacher. She suggested some yoga stretching exercises to lessen the chance of the restless-legs returning. I found the exercises to be an interesting challenge and they certainly gave me a sense of control over my sleep problem. I did the exercises first thing each morning with growing enthusiasm. A few weeks later, at my next massage visit, Lyndal taught me more yoga positions, known as ‘asanas’, and this pattern continued. Within about six months I had built up such a large repertoire of asanas that it was taking me around one hour each morning to complete my yoga routine.

Since that chance introduction to yoga ten years ago I have continued my daily exercise schedule without any weakening of commitment. At regular visits to Lyndal she has gradually introduced me to more difficult asanas and whenever I visit a bookshop or a library I head for the yoga section to see if I can find other new, challenging positions.

What can it possibly be about yoga that could convert a person who has never before attended a gymnasium or other organised fitness regime into someone who springs out of bed every morning at 6 o’clock and goes out to our front verandah, which is screened by garden shrubbery from any would-be onlookers, to spend the next 60 minutes or so going through a strenuous and demanding series of stretching, strengthening and balancing exercises. And continues this through summer and winter?

I don’t know what the answer is. I only know that when I go to bed at night I’m already looking forward to rising at 6 to repeat the daily challenge. The only time I’m obliged to do my yoga indoors is when the thermometer on the verandah records six degrees Celsius or below. At seven degrees or above I’m aware of the sting of cold air on my bare skin but, surprising though it may seem, once the exercises begin my mind becomes so focused on what the body is doing that I cease to be aware of the cold.

I have always striven for the comforts of life, I have never enjoyed camping outdoors, or living-rough of any kind, so I find it hard to account for my dedicated commitment to this daily yoga routine. I know that during that hour I am in a perfectly contented state of mind. I feel that my body and mind are in complete harmony and every asana is a welcome challenge, a striving to stretch those joints and ligaments just a little further than I had done the previous day, or to hold that difficult balancing position just a few seconds longer. At the completion of each session I feel I want to congratulate my body on what it has just achieved.

I have never been a ‘health freak’. I don’t follow any special dietary regime. Dorothy, my wife of 59 years, and I share a bottle of wine every evening and have been doing so for the past 25 years. I have always been a chocoholic and I eat about 100 mg of dark chocolate every day. Like so many of my age group I take a variety of tablets. There are some for high blood pressure, another for cholesterol control and another for gastric reflux. And I follow the advice of a cardiologist colleague who is of the opinion that every person over the age of fifty should take one third of an aspirin tablet daily to avoid blood clotting, thereby reducing the danger of a stroke.

I have been a regular golfer all my life and am delighted that the enhanced fitness, strength, balance and body-discipline that yoga has given me has enabled me to play my best golf for many years. Ten years ago my golf handicap had drifted out to 28. Now, at 82, I am playing to a handicap of 26 and I can still hit a one hundred and eighty metre tee-shot.

I regret that it was only after having been retired for six years that I discovered yoga. Prior to retirement, running a busy psychiatric practice would have made me too time-poor to give it my attention, but one of the joys of retirement is that it allows an abundance of time to explore new interests.

I heard one of our former test cricket captains being interviewed on radio a few years ago and he mentioned having recently discovered yoga. He said it had become an important part of his daily routine and he regretted not having come upon yoga during his cricketing career because it would have given him much additional suppleness and balance and might have made him a better player.

I have found such joy from yoga that I want to encourage others who are no longer young to discover it too. If you have not yet tried yoga I suggest you find an experienced teacher. He or she will ensure that you begin with gentle asanas and only advance to the more demanding ones when you are ready.

The photographs may serve as a guide and a challenge. Be content to take a gradual approach to performing these asanas. They may look easier than they really are because I have been doing most of them for up to ten years. I certainly didn’t find them easy in the beginning and many of them caused me painful muscle cramps and aching joints. If in doubt about your ability to tackle some of the more demanding positions, such as the headstand, talk to your doctor before making the attempt.

I have added a discussion about osteoporosis because yoga can do a great deal to protect us against this major scourge in older people.

And finally, don’t miss my yoga guide page for golfers!

 

Acknowledgements:

I want to record my thanks to Lyndal Gallaway, my wonderful yoga teacher, who had sufficient confidence in me to constantly encourage my tackling of new and seemingly impossible asanas.

And to my good friend Bert Bolle whose skill with all things scientific has made it possible for this book to be accessible through an incredibly user-friendly website to anyone in the whole world, simply by clicking www.yogamichael.com.

And to my ever loving wife, Dorothy, who endured many a cold morning to record the almost 200 photos that go to make up this book.

 

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Introduction    Yoga Positions    Yoga for Golfers    Yoga and Osteoporosis


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