In Ayurveda, a lifespan is divided into three stages: Balavastha (childhood), Madhyavastha (young and middle age), and Vriddhavastha (old age). And as everyone ages differently, two people of the same age can have vastly different vitality and energy levels, a lot of which depends on how well they take care of their bodies, or how much they exhaust and push it beyond limits — things that can cause untimely ageing.
There are four factors that influence how we age: time, our nature, diet, and absence of disease. Additionally, in Vriddhavastha, vata dosha (air and space element) becomes dominant. Since vata is concerned with bones, and the nervous system, if proper care is not taken, the degeneration can be seen in joints as well as in the mind with issues related to memory — the first signs of age-related decline.
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Here are a few ways in which Ayurveda and yoga can help make the transition smoother
Create a routine
This is the foundation of Ayurvedic living, at each stage of life, we must create a routine that suits our personality type. Have a fixed sleep schedule, start your day by drinking water, complete all ablutions, and make time for some mindful activities like yoga and meditation in the morning itself. Plan your days and do activities you enjoy – it will help you avoid feelings of loneliness and boredom.
Moderate daily activity will keep the body and joints healthy. Since it is the Vata stage, more grounding activities like Hatha Yoga or moderate weight training are recommended. High-intensity activities like HIIT or Plyometrics increase Vata and may not be suitable for everyone. Listen to your body and choose a physical activity accordingly. Balance training is particularly important for healthy ageing as it is excellent to tone down Vata, and to develop strong mind-body awareness which also prevents falls.
Focus on mental fitness
A healthy mind is as important as a healthy body. We often underestimate the stresses of old age, which may arise due to loneliness, fear, loss of ability, etc. By making time for Pranayama, meditation, mindful walking, and even by engaging in recreational hobbies we can keep our minds healthy.
Our nutritional needs change as we age. Especially after the age of 60, our dietary habits start catching up with our bodily systems. Therefore, we start seeing increased instances of issues like high BP, diabetes, heart failure, electrolyte imbalances, insomnia, etc. This makes it more important to choose nutrient-rich foods, that you can get by eating a wide variety of local produce, eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, especially Omega 3s. You should avoid sugary foods, dry salty snacks, junk food as all these aggravate Vata which is already very sensitive in old age.
Explore Ayurvedic therapies
Not all herbs or therapies are suitable for everyone. An Ayurvedic doctor will assess your body type (Prakriti) and then recommend treatments suitable for your specific conditions. This can include panchakarma, herbs, or dietary prescriptions. With a little discipline and some motivation, we can improve not only our longevity but also our quality of life. And by keeping a positive attitude towards ageing we can achieve all of the above!
(The author is yoga and Ayurveda lifestyle specialist, founder – Yoganama)