Written by Terry Wolfisch Cole

This month, I turn 51 (at least that’s what the cards in my mailbox say) and I feel great. For a yogi, “middle age” doesn’t have to mean diminishment.  Numerous practices on and off our mats keep us from going gently into that good night, allowing us to remain limber and strong in body, mind, and spirit.

For your physical body, cultivate a diet steeped in bramacharya (restraint – one of the Yamas in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) for good health. Consider eating the same thing for breakfast most mornings.  When we limit our options to just a few, we guarantee that we make at least one healthful choice daily.  Make a big salad or another vegetable-based dish for lunch or dinner. Remember that Ayurvedic principles teach us to eat fewer salads in the colder weather; go for soups and stews instead.  Invoke ahimsa (non-harming, another Yama) by eating less meat.  Consider adding a concept like Meatless Monday or Vegan Before 6 to your weekly diet plan.  Remember: restraint doesn’t mean disavowal.  Unless you’re a monk, yoga is not about asceticism.  It’s about living in the world, not renouncing its pleasures.  Enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail in the evening or on the weekends.  Treat yourself to something sweet once in a while.

Practice yoga or engage in some other kind of exercise more days than not.  Come to the studio or go to the gym.  Include weight-bearing exercise (yoga counts!) to keep osteoporosis at bay.  Get outside! If you enjoy winter activities, you can ski or snowshoe, playing outside through the cold.  If not, as soon as the sun comes out and the days warm up, hit the trails, hiking and biking throughout beautiful New England. Take good care of yourself with the occasional massage or beauty treatment to relax and reduce stress.

The yogic practice of svadhyaya (self study or study of scripture), helps us stay young mentally and spiritually. Exercise your brain as if it were a muscle.  Stay curious and open to new ideas.  When your yoga teacher begins class with a brief lesson, tune in.  Attend a workshop or a lecture. Cultivate a new skill. I recently gave myself a birthday gift: two all-day storytelling workshops that I think will be great fun.  Read something every day. It doesn’t matter what: newspapers, magazines, websites, and novels are all equally wonderful.  Join a book club.  Learn to play bridge or another game and spend time with others who share your passion.  Refuse to stagnate.  Keep abreast of new music, trends, and technology.  Finally, stay youthful by engaging with younger people listening and asking questions as they share their experience of our world with us.

Constantly explore your own heart through yoga and meditation, engaging in the difficult contemplation that lets you increasingly understand who you are and what makes you happy.  Invest time, energy, and money in relationships that bring forth your best self and activities that lead you to the greatest possible joy.  Even when it’s difficult, move away from people and experiences that cause you to suffer.

I take tremendous inspiration from my beloved Grandma Sylvia, who celebrates her 101st birthday on March 12. Even in her second century, she is full of laughter, joy, and enthusiasm.  My birthday wish for myself and for all of us is just what Grandma Sylvia has been blessed with: May each of us live a long, full, vibrant life filled with the love of family and friends and the wonder of new adventures.

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