The topic of age related shrinking popped up after my 8am Slow Stretch class this morning. It was a small class with an age range of 65 to 79 and height range from 5’ 11” to 5’ tall. Everyone in the class said they had indeed noticed diminishing height with age; the range from 1"-2".
My curiosity was piqued so I promptly came home and measured my 76 year old mother.
If you have ever attended my 9:30am therapeutic yoga class you are familiar with how much I torture her in this class. My sisters and I have all decided she must stay young because she is far too much fun to leave this world before the age of 100.
Therefore I make her attend yoga classes as often as possible. I have had her do burpees and mountain climbers. I have strapped a heart rate monitor on her and marched her huffing and puffing up steep hills, pushing her along if needed. Most recently she has overcome the fear of going upside down and did a supported headstand in yoga class. I am determined to keep her moving, fit and strong.
This morning when I asked her how tall she was at her tallest, she stated a whopping 5’ 1 ¼”. When I measured her at 10:30am she was 5’ 3/4”, not bad considering most people her age lose up to two inches. I think I may succeed in my mission of keeping her hovering near 5' 1".
Now to check in with the tape measure for myself. I am 5’ 4 ¾”, one half inch taller than in my teens, twenties and early thirties. Success, I always wanted to be taller. I began my yoga practice around the age of thirty five, I am now 48, and according to most health statistics I should be getting shorter.
I'm pretty sure I won't get any taller as I have maintained my current height for more than ten years, but I am grateful my stature has not diminished. So what do I attribute my lack of shrinkage to?
In my opinion there are five contributing factors:
- Jumping off the carport, out of trees and off a moving swing as a kid. Impact is important in bone development. Of course I didn't know that back then, it was just something fun to do and most likely got a rise out of my mom and dad.
- A healthy diet. Home made, organic and no artificial sweeteners. Don't get me wrong I grew up during the era of Tang and jello but back then those things were sweetened with pure cane sugar not aspartame or corn syrup.
- Having a mother who nit picks you about posture. Constantly reminding me to get my shoulders back, sit up straight, stand up tall. HA! Now I get to torture her but she just doesn't seem as irritated by it as I was as a kid.
- I regularly hang from monkey bars. In grade school it was called a cherry drop in which you sat on top of the bar then dropped back and got a good swing going then at the appropriate moment you straightened your legs and landed like an Olympic Gymnast. Now a days I head to the play ground at JJ Smith or the back yard swing and just hang from my arms then my knees. It feels wonderful for the spine.
- Finally there is Yoga. The additional half inch in height occurred only after taking up the practice of yoga and learning how to properly align my body through the release of tension in some areas and increased strength in others.
So there you have it. Impact sports when we are young, a good diet and a relentless mother will set the stage for being tall into old age...and if that doesn't work, take up yoga with an instructor who gets testy if you don't follow instructions.
The Iyengar style of yoga with its meticulous emphasis on proper alignment and form in postures is my yoga of choice. I will be forever grateful to the teachers who had me hold poses for what seemed like an eternity while pointing out every miniscule misalignment of my joints for everyone to see.
…and the instruction of how to flow from warrior II to side angle and then into reverse warrior without the slightest movement through the legs or hips, not just once but over and over again until perfection and ease were achieved.
There have been many exceptional teachers who have inspired my practice and teaching style and all of them have been students and teachers of proper alignment in the Iyengar tradition. I have no doubt the practice of yoga has allowed me to grow spiritually, mentally, emotionally and literally physically over the last decade.
From 5’ 4 ¼” to 5’ 4 ¾” ….there will be no shrinking on my watch.
Picture above is of my beautiful mom Carol Hoiland. When I was a kid she use to make me go outside and play...now I get to return the favor.