October 10, 2013

Age-Related Shrinking…Not On My Watch. ~ Jean Hoiland

According to health statistics, I should be getting shorter.

Yet here I am 48 years young and ½” taller than when I was 30. How can this be?

The topic of age-related shrinking popped up today after our morning yoga class, a small group 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 went home to measure my 76-year old mother.

My sisters and I have all decided our mother 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 and according to her, torture her every chance I get. I make her do burpees and mountain climbers. I strap her to a heart rate monitor and march her up steep hills huffing and puffing, while pushing her when needed. I got her into a supported headstand recently, something she really didn’t want to do, yet wanted to do at the same time.

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″.

Next was to check in with the tape measurer myself.  I am 5’ 4 ¾”, one half inch taller than in my teens, 20s and early 30s.  Terrific, I always wanted to be taller.  I began my yoga practice around the age of 35, I am now 48, and according to most health statistics I should be getting shorter. I’m 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 to what do I attribute my lack of shrinkage?

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.  Nowadays, I head to the playground or backyard swing and just hang from my arms, then my knees.  It feels wonderful for the spine.

5. 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 increase strength in others.

So there you have it.  Impact sports when 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 a pitta dominant 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 minuscule misalignment of my joints for everyone to see. Not to mention, 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” ….age-related shrinking? No way.

This is my beautiful mom, Carol Hoiland. When I was a kid she made me go outside and play…now I get to return the favor.



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Assist Ed. Zenna James/Ed: Sara Crolick


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