Older, wiser, but not always healthier
The needs and goals of older folks differ from those in early or even middle adulthood. Older folks need to build and maintain energy rather than expend it in strenuous activity. They need to maintain bone strength and functional mobility, not max out increasingly fragile muscles and ligaments. And they need to keep their brains in shape and their joints open to continue enjoying everyday activities pain and worry free. Happy Vyayama (vee-uh-YAH-ma) is for those who want or need a more serene yet effective movement practice. Performed to classical music or the equivalent from Indian or world music, Happy Vyayama is a deeply absorbing and energizing 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, lightness of body, balance, and energized awareness. Using rhythmic breathing throughout, we focus specifically on opening and heating the joints, removing tension and releasing energy. We focus on maintaining the ability to move gracefully in any direction, including reaching, twisting, squatting, bending over, standing up and sitting down. And we focus on developing a strong sense of balance, both physically and mentally.
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. With this framework, you can avoid many if not all of the common ailments that afflict so many in late adulthood. Happy Vyayama can help with:
- Prevention or abatement of arthritic conditions
- Maintenance of bone density
- Enhancement of the circulatory system
- Keeping the muscles toned
- Calmness and poise in the face of difficulty
Elevating the metabolism
Happy Vyayama sessions include movements and breathing patterns that elevate the metabolism and keep it there for a period of time. While not a sweaty aerobic practice, ujjai breathing builds heat in the body and practitioners may break a light sweat. The controlled yet fluid movements combined with holding certain positions calmly exercise the body in a way that strengthens and protects the tissues and joints.
Exercising the breath
Happy Vyayama movements expand lung capacity and teach you to regulate your breath patterns intelligently. In many ways breath regulation is more effective than stretching in changing unwanted states in the body and mind. And moving from the breath requires a very great deal of concentration and coordination, also stimulating brain activity. Attention paid to the fingers and wrists throughout the practice directly stimulates the frontal cortex of the brain and helps maintain mental alacrity.
Maintain balance and poise
Most of a Happy Vyayama session is spent on the feet, not infrequently on one leg, in a squat or a lunge. Learning to move from the tan (hips) instead of the head is one of the first things learned in Happy Vyayama. The principles are simple, yet not always so easy to execute. But everything learned in Happy Vyayama is directly transferrable to any standard yoga practice. In fact, the knowledge imparted by Happy Vyayam is a prerequisite for enjoyable, safe, and productive studio yoga participation. Surprisingly, it is not taught at studios.
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. Depending on your current physical and mental condition and willingness to practice, learning Happy Vyayam can take anywhere from 2 - 6 months.
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