Cultivating Agility with Yoga

by Baxter and Nina

Nina's Great Aunt Isa, who danced with Nijinsky

Once when Nina was flying across the country and she was sitting in the middle seat, she reached that point when she really, really needed to go the restroom. The problem was, she was flying with her yoga teacher, and he was sitting in the aisle seat, deep in meditation. So rather than disturbing her teacher by asking him to stand up, she just quietly stepped over him using the two armrests. Later on, she told her teacher how two of the flight attendants had stopped her to talk to her about how she had climbed over a meditating yoga teacher. She said, “They seemed more fascinated by the fact that I climbed over you than by the fact that you were meditating.” He just nodded sagely and said, “Duh!” She thought for a moment and said, “Oh, you mean, they’re not used to seeing a woman my age being so agile.”

Agility means having the coordination and reflexes to respond quickly and nimbly to physical challenges in the real world. Whether this translates into being able to navigate through a crowd, dance the salsa with a partner, or dribble a soccer ball down a field, being agile allows you to move through all the activities of your life with grace and ease (not to mention preventing injuries).

Learning a wide range of yoga poses helps you maintain and even increase agility because the subtle movements you make as you do them wake up the nerve endings in your joints and muscles (your proprioceptors) that send signals to your brain to let you know where you are in space, which direction you are heading and how fast you are going. This increased body awareness will aid you not only in mastering your yoga poses but also in every other physical activity you engage in.

And by learning new sequences of yoga postures—especially dynamic sequences, when you change poses after just few breaths—your co-ordination and response time is challenged and improved. Even making small changes in your flow sequences, such as Sun Salutations, will encourage you to stay attentive and nimble.

While you might not be climbing over meditating yoga teachers any time soon, there is a good chance you’ll want to get in and out of a kayak without tipping it over, walk down a steep, rocky path, or squeeze yourself and your suitcase into a crowded train. A regular yoga practice will keep you prepared for that—and more.

And with a good mix of held and dynamic yoga practices, you are cultivating better balance and reducing the chance of falls, which, as many of you may know, are a leading cause of morbidity (increased chance of disease) and mortality (death) in the elderly.