How yoga can keep you young

Barbara Currie was bitten by the yoga bug after her first class over 40 years ago. The fit and flexible 72-year-old still teaches 16 classes a week.

My older pupils want to be able to live on their own. They feel terrified of not being mobile.

THE mother of a 40-year-old, with the flexibility and toned body of a teenager, was the inspiring figure who ensured Barbara Currie got bitten by the yoga bug over four decades ago.

The yoga teacher, an American lady, never revealed her actual age, but Barbara who was a 29-year-old mother of two, looking to get a break from the house, was in awe of the older woman’s vitality.

Fast forward the decades and now Barbara — who herself has a daughter aged 46, and a son 44 — is that flexible, vital inspiration to young and old, as one of Britain’s most well-known yoga teachers.

With numerous DVDs produced and 400 signed up for her classes in Surrey, age is just a number to this yoga teacher who chirpily admits she is 72 since last March.

Barbara says she feels far more energetic now than the younger version of herself. “Back then I walked into that class feeling dreary and tired and I left feeling as if I was walking on air,” she says.

As a result she never went back to her training as a nurse, but followed her new passion and got involved in yoga teaching.

When we spoke, the grandmother of two had just finished her morning teaching session.

“I’m getting more flexible as the years go on. I have just taught two classes and I feel great. It’s so enjoyable also to see people progress — it’s so rewarding.”

About 40 per cent of her pupils are over 60, with some in her classes over 90 — the vast majority women. She has definitely seen an upward trend of older participants over the decades.

“Nowadays we are living longer. My older pupils want to be able to live on their own — and to be physically capable of doing that — to be independent. They feel terrified of not being mobile.”

There are also many whose families have emigrated so independence is vital to them and they also, like others, come for the social interaction, even if it is to “discuss their bad knees”.

She has been blessed with a very healthy life so far and with 16 classes on the go weekly — demonstrating all the moves herself — she is super fit.

“I do every single movement with them and that’s great for my own balance, but I also like swimming and walking. It keeps me out of mischief!”

She asks her pupils to do a 10-minute routine of simple stretches every day in between classes, to keep them from stiffening.

So what’s her top advice for staying more youthful as we age? How you hold yourself can really age you, she advises. “Good posture can make you look ten years younger. To find your correct posture stand by a wall with your heels together, shoulders and bottom against the wall, with your arms lifted up straight and the back of the hands against the wall. Walk forward four paces, lower the arms and keep that position.”

“To firm and tone those upper ‘batwing’ arms, sit straight, fold your arms, leaving your hands on top and push the arms out, and relax, push out, and relax, push out and relax. Several times.”

To firm the jawline she recommends lifting your head up, dropping it back and then raising your bottom set of teeth up to your nose and holding for the count of five.

Though vitality is her top goal, Barbara is also a youthful-looking advert for ‘power-packed yoga’ which is the name of her most popular DVD and which is good for beginners of any age.

While yoga wasn’t as mainstream when she started, now there are plenty of celebs over 50 who reputedly practise regularly, including Madonna, actress Julianne Moore and American TV host Ellen de Generes.

And although there are numerous types of yoga forms being promoted, this veteran keeps it simple, using the Hatha version.

“I look at some of the yoga on the internet and I don’t recognise it. Rather than it being an acrobatic feat, I try to see what suits each individual — including the lady sitting with the cup of tea and a bad hip.

“It doesn’t matter how stiff you are, the body adapts and a few months after regularly doing ten minutes a day, that lady will be thrilled with herself.”

Aside from the physical aspect, Barbara adds: “I have seen many people bounce back from being down in the dumps, saying ‘I really needed that class’.”

Just like she herself discovered as a young woman all those years ago.


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