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Let’s spend some time this morning thinking about staying young while growing older — my favorite subject.

This weekend, my daughter, Judy, and I are going on a yoga retreat. Ever since my husband died, I’ve been on a journey to fill my life with a sense of peace. We all have our low points in life. I wanted to know the secret of finding peace with the loss of my husband, and I found it through yoga and meditation. Inner peace is a wonderful thing to have.

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years in India. The poses and breathing techniques of yoga have spread throughout the world. One purpose of yoga is to strengthen and align the body while quieting and disciplining the mind. It’s a wonderful practice, but, as we tend to do, sometimes life gets in the way, and we find it difficult to “stop the world” and sit quietly and meditate. So when Judy asked me if I’d be interested in joining her this weekend, I jumped at the chance.

I’m sure you all are aware of yoga and meditation. In my mind, they go hand in hand. After Tom died, I happened to see a notice in the Register that Kaiser was offering a class in meditation. I took the class. We all bonded, including our teacher, and decided to continue meeting to meditate at the rec room at my condominium.

It’s very wonderful to learn to center yourself, quietly, breathe deeply, and center your thoughts within yourself. I’m over simplifying, and it does take some time, so patience certainly comes into play. But the dividends are enormous.

While reading a little of the literature about this weekend, I learned that our instructor, Veera Sanjana, certified hatha yoga teacher, was born in India and was schooled in the ancient yoga traditions of India from the age of five and draws from this deep understanding of mind-body techniques.

When she was preparing to conduct her first yoga class, her guru told her to “love yourself.” Those words became the key to her practice.

She writes, “To really love yourself, you need to discover the you that is always, unconditionally, loving. This takes meditation and self-inquiry.”

She continues, “In meditation, you let go of your conditioned ideas about yourself and make space for the true self, the heart to come forth. Then love becomes the most basic fact of your existence, rather than something you are always trying to find.”

This practice is very powerful. Once you learn the art of meditation, your life will be changed forever. Once you find your “inner peace” and learn to truly know yourself, you will be able to slow down, take several deep breaths and find that inner peace. You draw strength from that. The connection of mind-body and spirit, once learned, will stay with you forever. You will be in tune with who you are, and this gives you strength, confidence, and power to know that whatever happens to come up in your life, you will have the tools to make the right decisions, and, always with love.

I was looking for a little more information on the practice of yoga and meditation to share with you, so I checked out an article in Fitness Magazine, which stated, “the practice of yoga gives us more energy, better posture, greater flexibility, improved mood, and less stress.”

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A quote from the magazine, by the founder of New York City’s Om Yoga Studio, Cyndi Lee, “Through conscious yoga breathing, you become aware of the connection between mind and body.”

“Yoga breathing translates into major anti-aging advantages such as oxygenating the cells, ridding them of toxins, and helping to prevent illness. More energy, better posture, greater flexibility, improved mood, and less stress are just some of the rewards of this mind-body workout.”

She also suggests that we practice yoga at least twice a week to give ourselves an energy boost, help to build bone mass, and de-stress.

Herbert Benson, M.D., author of the book “The Relaxation Response,” wrote of the damage that stress plays in our lives, and that it can accelerate aging. “Sixty to 90 percent of all doctors’ visits each year are related to anxiety, depression, obsessive anger and hostility, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart attacks….all problems caused by stress.”

Dr. Benson states that the most effective way to halt this destructive chain of events is to meditate; using what Dr. Benson calls “the relaxation response.” The technique involves repeating a mantra — a word, sound, phrase, or prayer — for as little as 10 minutes a day. A 2005 study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston showed that meditation helped prevent age-related changes in the brain.

Dr. Benson recommends that we try meditation once or twice daily for 10 or 20 minutes. Sit in a quiet place, close our eyes, relax our muscles, and roll our heads, neck, and shoulders and breathe deeply. On each exhale, repeat your mantra. As other thought come into your mind, gently release them. This takes persistence and dedication, but it works if you do it.

As we visit here, I’m struck by the fact that meditation and yoga, if practiced by our world leaders, would truly change our world. If all people practiced love of self and of others, why would we ever fight with one another? What would be the point?

By the way, if you would be interested in taking a class in either yoga or meditation, there is a class on yoga at the Napa Senior Activity Center. Call 255-1800 for more information.

St. Helena’s Rianda House Senior Center at 1475 Main St. offers a class on meditation every Monday from 10:10 -11 a.m. Call 963-8555 for more information.

If you are unaware of either of these practices, I strongly recommend that you think about checking them out. Since I’ve been practicing meditation and yoga, I’ve enjoyed many, many more positive happenings in my life, than negative.

Until next week, lean heavily on doing good for others and for yourselves, and remember to love yourself, and everyone else, as well. The folks, who are the hardest to love, need it the most.

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Contact Betty at bettyrrhodes@sbcglobal.net.

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