Older, wiser, but not always healthier
Happy Vyayama (vee-uh-YAH-ma) to the rescue! The needs and goals of older folks are different from those in early adulthood. We need to build and maintain energy rather than expend it in strenuous activity. We need to maintain bone strength and functional flexibility, not hold headstand for 10 minutes. We need to keep our brains in shape and our joints free and open to continue living life to the fullest and keep on growing. And very often we tend to spend more time in meditation. For those who want a more serene practice there is Happy Vyayama. Performed to classical music or the equivalent from Indian or world music, Happy Vyayama is a deeply absorbing, deeply moving way to keep fit.
What is Happy Vyayama?
In Sanskrit, Vyayama means "exercise that gives energy and strength." Happy Vyayama is a continuous, breath-infused whole-body system of movement that develops functional mobility, energy, balance, peace of mind, brainpower and yes, happiness. Happiness that springs from getting more vitality in your body through rhythmic breathing. We focus specifically on opening, lubricating, and heating the joints, on maintaining the ability to move gracefully in any direction, including reaching, twisting, squatting, bending over, standing up and sitting down. And we focus heavily on developing a strong sense of balance, both physically and mentally.
Health Benefits for Late Adulthood
Just what the doctor should have ordered
Happy Vyayama, particularly when combined with Ayurvedic dietary recommendations and herbs that reduce inflammation in the body and certain rejuvenative meditation practices such as Yoga Nidra, provides a complete self-care framework that means you can avoid many if not all of the common ailments that afflict so many in late adulthood. The creation of a gentle internal heat while stimulating the metabolism and opening the joints provides many benefits:
- Prevention or abatement of arthritic conditions
- Weight loss or maintenance
- Reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease
- An increase of blood flow and oxygen to the brain
Weight-bearing exercise and bone density
Happy Vyayama includes body weight movements universally recommended to help maintain bone density and prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Yet doing Happy Vyayama is a much more enjoyable experience and is much easier on the joints than the weight-lifting at the gym so often recommended by western medicine.
Raising the metabolism
Happy Vyayama sessions include movements that elevate the metabolism and keep it there for a period of time. While not a sweaty aerobic practice, we build heat in the body and practitioners may break a light sweat. Combined with long exhales that happen throughout the practice, the controlled yet fluid movements combined with holding certain poses calmly exercise the body in a way strengthens and protects the tissues or joints in a way that more vigorous activities such as jogging do not.
Keeping the brain well fed and stimulated
The deep breathing practiced in Happy Vyayama expands lung capacity and enables you to get more oxygen circulating in the body in general and the brain in particular. Coordinating the breath with the movements requires a great deal of concentration and coordination, also stimulating brain activity. We also move and flex the fingers and wrists throughout the practice, which directly stimulates the frontal cortex of the brain and helps maintain mental alacrity.
Maintain balance in different positions and movements
Most of a Happy Vyayama session is spent on your feet, either in motion or in stasis, and not infrequently on one leg. Learning to ground through the feet is one of the first things learned in Happy Vyayama, along with learning to shift your weight to and fro using the body's center of balance located just below the belly button.
How is Happy Vyayama different from Tai Chi?
Vyayam is a non-violent martial art from southern India that at first glance reminds many of Tai Chi. That's not surprising since the Chinese martial arts spring from Indian roots. Yet the two practices have different goals and techniques. Happy Vyayama puts greater emphasis on maintaining the physical body as a vehicle for energy, and on using body weight exercises to maintain strength in both bones and muscles. Central to Vyayama are techniques of pranayama, or breath control and expansion. Vyayama is also modulates the speed and amount of force used in movements. Most forms of Tai Chi that are popular today, on the other hand, do not employ breath techniques, nor do they build physical strength in the body. The movements of Vyayama are also considerably simpler and easier to learn.
Are there any age restrictions?
None at all.
Anyone of any age or physical ability can do Vyayam, but Happy Vyayama is intended for those in Late Adulthood. Even those recovering from minor injuries or with physical limitations can benefit greatly from the practice of Happy Vyayama.
photo credit: http://linsenschuss.deviantart.com/art/Blowball-blow-210382495