Truly devoted yogis are famous for their longevity. In Autobiography of a yogi, Yogananda points at Trailanga Swami who lived over 300 years or Shankari Mai Jiew who made it to 120 years. But even though yoga is not all about sitting under a tree and meditating all day long, we barely get the time to meditate at all. And as hopeless as you feel when you read about 120 year old yogis, modern science has discovered modern people, just like you, also make it to over 100.
Moreover, those people claim that they never practiced yoga or exercised whatsoever. And they feel as young and happy as one can be. So what is the key to longevity and how can any of us achieve such a long, self-realized and fulfilling life?
There are places in this world called by Dan Buettner The Blue Zones. These places happen to be homes to people who live long and who remain healthy throughout their lives. Some of them outlive their children, or get to participate in their great grandkids growth. And whether it’s Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Ikaria (Greece), Nicoya (Costa Rica), or Loma Linda (California), there are certain patterns that they all follow. Surprisingly, the same patterns are followed by yogis. Nature smartly maintains balance in its world. We age and die in order to leave the space for our offspring. And we all age in a similar way.
We age due to many physical factors:
We lose muscle mass, what weakens our bodies and simply makes us unable to do the daily duties and activities we have. This also leads to the loss of flexibility and joints disorders which also are caused by and at the same time it causes the movement limitation.
The movement and physical activity limitation causes the loss of bone density. The bones become weak and breakable.
Disorders of the circulatory systems and metabolism. As we age, we limit our physical activities what brings the faults to our blood circulation and digestion.
Psychiatric disorders such as dementia, depression, anxiety, which in the end lead somehow to the avoidance of any socializing events and eventually to loneliness.
Insomnia, disorders of nervous system, slower recovery from injuries and many more…
Even though as a developed country we have the longest life expectancy, it is up to us whether we grow old, healthy, happy, and fulfilled, or pure old. But regardless for the choice we decide to make, we have to bear in mind that in the end we will retire. And those who don’t think about it now, will probably regret not having taken care of themselves before the retirement.
Nature is smart indeed. It gives us everything we need to be happy, healthy, and self-contained. But it may become difficult to realize it when living in the world ruled by consumption and money. Luckily, Yoga as well as the people of the Blue Zones remaind us of what nature has to give in order to help us live long. So what are the key behaviors and practices of the people who live longer?
A regular and natural tendency to be active. In most of the cases, people from the Blue Zones do not exercise. But they move around just enough. Walk to their friend’s house, walk to a shop, walk during midday siesta etc.. Walking is a great way to keep your body active, your bones healthy, your muscles strong and working, and your joints uninjured. But nowadays we have cars; there are buses, planes, taxis, elevators… It is hard to find an opportunity to simply walk!
And that is exactly when Yoga practice comes in handy. A regular performance of asana can bring the same physical benefits to your body as a walk does. Needless to say any physical activity keeps any psychiatric disorders away, bringing endorphins and positive attitude! It also allows you to enjoy a long and healthy sleep. So whether you decide to take a walk or a Yoga class, you know you’re making the right decision.
A habit of consuming a restricted amount of food. Let’s face it; overeating is not healthy no matter what you eat. Limiting the foods consumed does make a difference. Yogis are famous for having restricted diets. They always make sure they meditate and practice when their stomachs are empty. They also make sure they are never overeating.
The same ideology is practiced by the Okinawans who are famous for their longevity. They even have a saying: hari hachi bu which means “eat until you’re 80% full”. It certainly keeps their stomachs away from starvation as well as from overeating. It also keeps the metabolic system healthy.
Consuming a plant based diet. Mostly vegetarian, rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and health! Plant based diets are rich in proteins which are fundamental to our body built: they create the cells, the organs, the muscles, the connective tissues, and everything that our body contains. Yogis have been practicing the plant based diet for as long as Yoga exists!
In addition, being vegetarian or vegan saves not only our health but also lives of innocent animals. For one person not consuming animal products, approximately 900 animals are saved per year. Plant based diets also boost the metabolic rates. Do you need any more reasons to consume more plants and fewer animals?
The sense of belonging. Whether it’s a faith based community, or a family based community, the fact of being accepted, loved and needed, can influence your longevity. As a Yogi you have the chance to connect in class with the others who just like you tend to follow the Yogic lifestyle.
As a meditating Yogi you have the chance to connect with the Universe that is within you. As a Yogi you have the chance to love and be loved, accept and be accepted, because all you need can be found within you and carry it with you wherever you go.
A purpose in life. Something that gives you the reason to get up. Something that you are passionate about. Regardless for what it is. A man in Sardinia may get up to see his daughter on that particular day, or to walk the most beautiful valley in the area. For a Yogi it may be his daily practice. For you it may be any of those or more. What are you passionate about? What are your life goals?
In addition to those good practices, reduced smoking, stress, physical inactivity, high saturated fat consumption, can boost your longevity chance. These patters work well for the people from the Blue Zones (who claim they are happy and feel great regardless for their age), as well as for yogis.
If you wonder about your life expectancy with the lifestyle you have, you can check out: livingto100.com