Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yoga and Longevity

Working in the health and wellness field I've heard it all when it comes to health and longevity claims. Every week it seems there's a new product, study or claim; green tea, pomegranates, blue-green algae, coconut water, raw diets, sleep, stress reduction and the list goes on and on.

Recently, POM Wonderful created an ad campaign suggesting that its pomegranate drink can actually help you cheat death. A few months back I heard and radio ad for a Group Health website that will help you "find more minutes" to add to the length of your life.

With all these claims and products swirling around it's easy to develop a neurosis trying to fashion the best plan to live longer. You may even be worried that stress from it is shortening your life. It seems we've created the belief that the length of our lives is determined solely by our actions.

We go to yoga class thinking "OK so there's 1o minutes added to my life but subtract 15 for the burger I ate before." Life suddenly becomes an a ledger of additions and subtractions and nothing more.

I'm reminded Jesus' words to the people 2000 years ago who were apparently worried about the same thing; "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"

And maybe we shouldn't be worried. With every claim comes a counter claim. A recent study cast doubt on the effectiveness of eating five fruits and vegetables a day to ward off cancer. Apparently the people in the study who ate them were almost as likely to get cancer as those who didn't. (Yahoo Health) So while you were worried last night that you hadn't eaten enough vegetables yesterday, it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway.

I'm not trying to stoke a fatalistic attitude and suggest that we might as well take up smoking and eat as many cheese burgers as we want. Instead, we should be focused on enjoying every moment we're given rather than worrying about how many moments we'll have later.

If you leave yoga class thinking of how many minutes you just added to your life and get hit by a bus (forgive the morbid thought) how much good did yoga really do you? But if instead you savor the relaxed feeling you received from class and get hit by a bus, well then at least you died happy.

These are probably bad examples, but the point is for all our efforts to live longer, we may be shortening our lives. When we worry about a future problem, we are not in the present and therefore missing out on the current moment. Instead looking for more future minutes, how about finding more minutes now? This after all is the real point of yoga, not longevity.

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