More than a lean look and being healthy, what everyone wants is to look younger. Kayakalp, a Sanskrit word derived from ancient India, refers to age-reversal or anti-ageing. For me ageing is ageing gracefully. For me it’s OK if you have grey hair but not OK to have unkempt hair. It’s OK to look 50 but not look 70 at 50.
We’ve heard about the Telomerase Enzyme as an anti-ageing agent. Jack Szostak may have won the Nobel Prize for Science for discovering it, but I differ because no substantial human research has been done on its effects yet. Yes, the mice which were researched upon did show reversal of age but how do we claim how effective it will be on humans? Also for me any external inducing of any kind to create better health — unless you are treating an ailment or condition — should be totally avoided. You cannot forget a proliferation of cells can also cause cancer.
Yoga is a science which can be practised as well by a four-year-old as by a 100-year-old. It is a hormonal science, its target is to improve the blood circulation in every cell, as most asanas either stretch or press a gland. When we launched RED (reduce every day) a few years ago, the programme had been developed for a slightly overweight person, whose weight kept fluctuating between gain or loss of up to 10kg. But there are people who have lost complete hope, having gained 40 or 60kg. So we worked on the Himalayan Challenge which is for people who cannot even lift their own leg. We had to at least start them moving and the challenge for us, as teachers, is to take the client from Himalayan Challenge to RED to Artistic Yoga good health programme.
What are the parameters to measure ageing? Our research for Kayakalp has led us to believe the reasons of ageing are these and this is how yoga can help reverse it.
Memory loss: If you have sharp memory, the ageing can be prolonged. To improve memory, you have to work with the mind. You need to reduce the levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is secreted in the brain when a person is stressed and it shakes the internal homeostasis of the brain. Also cortisol affects insulin levels and other glands in the body. Yoga has been scientifically proven to bring down the cortisol levels because it decreases stress levels.
Metabolism: We’ve seen with age our metabolism starts declining and causing several issues in the body apart from indigestion. Science has proven that metabolism is better when you have a good amount of muscle mass in your body. As you grow older this muscle mass also starts to decline. Practice of pranayama and yogic asanas leads to the reclaiming of this muscle mass. And as I said, yoga works for everyone from 4-100 years old. So even if you are 50, have never exercised or not eaten healthy, start practising yoga and it will work wonders for you.
Food we eat: Another factor that’s effective in ageing is our food. What we eat determines how we look, it also affect how our body absorbs nutrients. When your metabolism is affected you restrict intake of certain foods. When you restrict certain foods, you lose the nutrients from these. Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones in our body. According to yoga science, one must eat 50 per cent food, drink water 25 per cent and breathe for 25 per cent. That’s the simple diet of yoga. What we generally do is eat 100 per cent, on top of it drink water and then try to breathe. Thus the peristaltic movement of the stomach to digest food slows. Ghrelin gives you the drive of hunger and leptin tells you “you are full”. They together manage the ageing process. If I eat a bit before the hunger intensifies, then the level of ghrelin goes down. So you eat well but eat less, which leads to easier absorption of food. There are a lot of foods that can reduce your hunger pangs, such as pumpkin seeds, or food that gives you a feeling of being full. That’s why it’s advised to eat food with more fibre.
Breathing patterns: We all know we come with “n” number of breaths. Normally we take 12-15 breaths per minute, when we eat, we breathe 30-35 times, when we are angry, we take 60-65 breaths. When you do yoga you bring it down to 1-2 breaths per minute. So automatically when you start decreasing the number of breaths you take per day, your pulse rate goes down and you go from sympathetic drive to para-sympathetic drive — the relaxed drive of human brain.
Yoga works on all fronts — breathing, stress levels, optimal functioning of the body organs, hormonal balancing. We are calming the mind and body and creating the philosophy that ageing can be reverted when the way you think changes. If you are a negative person, cortisol levels are high. The more one practises yoga or does peaceful things, such as sitting by the sea or taking a holiday or sitting in meditation or prayer— all will help in anti-ageing.
For more on the Kayakalp programme call 800-YOGA (9642).
NEXT WEEK: Aligning with yoga
This is an interactive series, in which we will bring you practical tips on daily living, inspired by the vision of yoga. Write in to tabloid@ gulfnews.com with your questions and doubts regarding enhancing your lifestyle through yoga.