I would sum up physical well-being in one word: movement. By that I mean moving things through the both body and mind, rather than letting what we don’t want get stuck there.
For aging happens rapidly when we are stuck, whether in our diet, lack of exercise, or rigid habits. Here are four ways to cleanse both our body and mind so that we age much slower and live life to the full: 1) eating a healthy diet; 2) doing both limbering stretches and weight bearing exercise; 3) practicing aerobics; and 4) paying close attention to the quality of our feelings for psychological well being.
A healthy diet to halt premature aging
The classic yoga scriptures say that food is medicine. You don’t need too many pills or potions if you eat right every day. Eat fresh vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits in season and you will get enough vitamins, minerals, and proteins to keep very healthy. Move the most healthy foods through your body and you will build up a tolerance to the challenges of aging. But I would include in this diet drinking plenty of water. Six or seven glasses a day will flush out the waste your cells don’t need and enable your body to utilize its food’s nutrients more efficiently.
You’ll find you won’t get sick as often as other people. Even more pleasing, your skin is less likely get dried and wrinkled — it will appear smoother, younger, and more elastic.
Exercise is good anti-aging medicine
When I was 35, I threw my back out and went into the physical therapist’s, each step shooting sharp pain through me. After my treatment, the therpist gave me still more stretches (I was already doing a regular workout), and I complained that at this rate, I would have so many to do by age 50 that they would take hours. “Won’t it be worth it?” he asked, and now that I’m past 50 I can answer yes! To the yoga class that stretches and limbers up your body, however, I would add the importance of weight bearing exercise.
As certain muscles grow weak, it is important to strengthen those near them to avoid injuries like the one to my back. As Jack LaLanne, father of the modern day health club, says at age 92, “Weight bearing exercise will keep your 640 muscles vigorously fit. Everything about you — your skin, digestion, sex life, skin, and hair, will keep its life. So exercise vigorously, like someone is chasing you.”
Aerobic exercise is good for body and mind
Vigorous exercise cleanses and renews the body; it reinvigorates our life and cleanses our feelings. Whether it is jogging, swimming, or bicycling, it is important to exercise aerobically four times a week. This not only keeps the heart muscle fit; it also pumps the blood vigorously throughout the body, purifying our system and giving us an edge of energy to use throughout our day. Moreover, as our body moves with the natural rhythm it craves, we can relax in a vastness deeper than ourselves and not be brought down by what the years bring or by anything that is happening on the outside. We feel well physically and emotionally, with a sense of connection to our wellbeing.
Psychological wellbeing improves beauty
Personality needs the same cleansing just like the body does. When, for example, I make a big mistake and my partner blows her top, instead of stuffing all my feelings down, what I do is to move through my self-loathing through journal writing. Such activities help us to look underneath the mask of adult behavior at the needy child that was neglected early in life, staring us right in the face. For traumatic things we experienced as children, sealed over and taken with us into adulthood, sometimes can cause unpredictable behaviors like fierce anger, much stronger than the event that stimulates it.
But the truth is, it is within our power every minute how to respond. Good health means that we try to move pressed down feelings through us and cleanse our spirit, just as the water we drink cleanses our body. We do not need thoughts and habits that date back to a person and time that no longer fit the present; whether through journaling, therapy, twelve step work, or earnest disclosure to a friend, learn to feel deeply what you feel, so that you can move with freedom into new feelings.
Keeping fit in psyche as well as in body, you will probably still look forty when you are sixty. Much more than that, you will be a better partner or friend and an example to all those who see they need not fear the passing of the years.