*As a septuagenarian devotee of Ballet Barre, Yoga and Pilates, I have often been approached with requests to share my views on the role of those forms of exercise in establishing and maintaining the stamina, physical appearance, levels of health and sense of physical and emotional well-being that are hallmarks of youthfulness in the course of one’s lifetime, regardless of age. The requests have led me to examine my personal perspective about the factors that have contributed to my nearly lifelong journey and that may account for the youthful appearance which others ascribe to me.
Being and desiring to remain physically active continues to be the first tenet on the path to youthfulness, for me. Assertively seeking the form of exercise which interests you, acknowledging your need/wish to enjoy that exercise, and incorporating it into the lifestyle which you have so that you are able to continue it on a regular basis is the second. The significance of these determinants to me originated with my Mother and the relationship which we shared throughout our lives.
The fluidity of the movements of Ballet Barre, Yoga and Pilates each reminded me of an evolving ballet. Those forms of exercise require some of the same stretching movements. Each fosters increased flexibility, overall muscle strength, and mind-body synchrony. Ultimate outcomes of that synchrony include the postural flexibility of an elastic spine, increased muscle tone, and gracefulness. With regular practice of each, the litheness, increased vigor and shapeliness characteristic of the body of one’s youth begin to emerge over time. We may begin to portray the body language of youthfulness. We appear to be and we fell younger.
As I embraced a lifestyle of regular exercise, other youthful enhancing benefits of Ballet Barre, Yoga, and Pilates have included development of strategies designed to promote stress reduction through proper breathing and meditation, for example. By the time I complete a Yoga session, I am completely relaxed, amazingly so, and happy! Yoga practices generate in me a state of smiling peacefulness which contributes to generally positive feelings towards others and my tendency to respectful courteousness in most circumstances. In stressful situations, because of the apparently internalized ability to call upon the techniques with which regular exercising has provided me, I have felt better equipped to evoke warm receptiveness of others under trying circumstances. The latter mindset resonates well with the values which my Mother was determined to teach me in my formative years.
The incorporation of a philosophy and set of practices of significant benefit to lifelong regular and consistent exercise into my daily life has generated my interest in sharing what I have learned with others on a daily basis. For the past twenty years, I have been teaching ballet barre, yoga, and pilates. The interaction with others as an instructor requires levels and degrees of brain activity for a myriad of skill sets of communication and musculoskeletal, intellectual, and social interactional functions, among others. It promotes further refinement of those skills in both teacher and student, giver and receiver. It continues to be very gratifying for me to share my skill and knowledge with others so they also reap the physical benefits of learning to move bodies with the vigor and joy of the young, as I have.
In addition to the regular classes which I teach, there are two other exercises-related activities which are deeply fulfilling to me. In one, I serve as a consultant for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Southern California. Through that organization, I offer modified yoga experiences to people with M.S. In the other, I visit skilled nursing homes, on a voluntary basis, where I provide wheelchair yoga instruction. The obvious enjoyment which I bring to the residents of those settings is particularly gratifying because they are representatives of the generation of our parents.
Of course, I must admit that the ultimate credit for the youthfulness of mind and body has to be attributed to ones genetics. My parents retained their youthfulness of spirit throughout their lives. In closing, to help maintain “eternal” youth, just keep moving! Remember to do what you are able to do and avoid developing potentially harmful routines. Use a common sense approach, never pushing yourself too far and getting hurt. “Take it easy”, and do what you know is best for you, at your pace, not that of some other person. Remember to “love what you do and do your best,” rather than become driven by the performance of another. In time you will get where you want to be with the goals you’ve established for yourself, and your seniority will be one of having joined the fulfilling and, otherwise richly rewarded “eternally youthful”
Born in 1942 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Janice Lennard has been involved with ballet, yoga and Pilates through study, practice, and instruction for over 65 years. Her early immersion in artistic expression through dance probably explains her ability to project an aura of positioning perfection, fulfillment of purpose, and sheer fun for the observer of her beautifully synchronized motion. For more, visit: www.janicelennad.com.