One thing you notice when you meet people that have an Ashtanga practice is how young they look when you find out their chronological age. When I first met Derick at Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver I was amazed when he told me how old he was. The thing is that it's kind of normal in the Ashtanga community which leads me to ask the question -
"Does yoga keep you young or does today's way of living make you old?"
As with everything it's not black and white but multiple shades of grey.
My goal in life is to be as healthy and clear as I can in order to be a place to inspire, serve and benefit others. Ashtanga yoga is one piece (probably the biggest and most important one) that has helped me move in that direction. The Ekaminhale blog and upcoming podcast will explore yoga and natural living to discover and share with you the most effective ways to live life to your fullest potential. - Clint
In this weeks post I sat down with Derick to discuss what he thinks are some of the mental and physical benefits the practice has given him in the last 14 years.
Clint: We're here with Derick from Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver. Derick you've been doing Ashtanga for 15 years. Can you tell us how you started and what the physical and mental benefits you've discovered as you've practiced? Because one thing that I want to mention is that Derick is 47 years old and he doesn't look like an average 47-year-old you see on the street. And so it's kind of amazing to see different people practicing in the Shala and how youthful, and how much life and energy they can maintain as they get older. So Derick, can you just talk a little bit about how you got started and then how you're feeling these days, and how the practice has influenced that, and what it's done for you?
Derick Yu: I started practicing late in 1990 when my wife and I were looking for some sort of an avenue, hopefully like a tool to grow old gracefully. At that time I wasn't really much into exercising. I was pretty much busy in the corporate field smoking almost a pack a day. And then my wife was the one who actually suggested doing yoga, but the more we looked into it, there were so many branches of yoga that just totally discouraged me. I just didn't want to go through like, okay, what am I going to do this for? What am I going to do that for? And then we discovered Ashtanga yoga. It says, okay, it's just a series that you do over and over again.
At that time I was a little bit lazy. I didn't want to have to think about, okay, what am I doing next or what posture should I do? So I just went to this thing and yeah, I stuck to it for close to 15 years now.
Physical benefits, automatically I think it's common knowledge that the amount of physicality, the amount of vigor and rigorous movement that you do for this practice does help the body a lot. And when I talk about physically I always think it's an investment as you get older.
The first two things that we lose as we get older is strength and flexibility which helps you with your mobility. You lose that, that's it. You're pretty much stuck in a couch or you can't even do the things that you want to do. So I think the practice pretty much helps you physically to maintain your strength and flexibility on simple things, getting out of the tub, getting out of your car, walking down stairs without hurting.
And those things, you look down the street and then you see all these people who are over maybe 60 years old and you can tell they may have . . . I don't want to use the word abuse their bodies, but when you're young you think you're invulnerable and then these diseases and these breakdowns in your ligaments or your joints start coming up. I always think that the practice helps you maintain that mobility because the body is meant to move. You lose that mobility then I think the quality of life decreases. It's the same thing.
Mentally, and I'm only speaking for myself, it also gives you a sense of acceptance on a lot of things. I do know that they say Ashtanga yoga seems to attract a lot of Type A personalities where you're always goal driven, like I have to do this, I have to do this. I'll speak for myself and I'm pretty sure a lot of people have heard the same thing wherein they start out that way as well worrying what's the next pose, how could I advance the one series to another. And then after a while you do realize that, no, the postures that you do is not for anybody else but yourself. So if the body actually tells you this is as far as you can go for that day or for that week, you follow it. You don't push it further because I always think Ashtanga yoga can be used beneficially, but it can also be used dangerously and it all depends on the individual as to how he uses it. And of course, the teachers come into play as well. The teachers can push someone to go further, but there is also a matter of pushing where some people's body are individuals and it may not go that far.
I've heard a teacher tell me before, the body can only twist as far as it can or it can bend as far as it can and you don't want to push it further. And it becomes a seasoned practitioner or a seasoned teacher who would know where that boundary lies without having to push them further and that's why it's so important to not only listen to your own body, but have a good teacher to tell you where your limits are because some people may think that, okay, this is far as I can go, but then the teacher knows that he can further. It may be just an emotional blockage or a mental blockage that's keeping you from progressing. And I think in a way it takes years to develop that sense of confidence as to where your body can go and comfortability as well.
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