I just read an article from the 'Living' section of The Huffington Post about aging gracefully - the premise is that keeping the spine flexible through yoga is key. Okay, I can buy that. Flexibility is definitely important to feeling and looking youthful. But I'm pretty sure there's more to it than that.
The model they've used in the article to demonstrate the recommended yoga pose is no more than twenty-eight years old tops, and that's only if you push me. She's slim and pretty with thick, glossy hair. She's doing the extreme version of the pose - the one we all think we are doing, until we watch ourselves in the mirror and discover that we look a lot more like a coffee table going up and down than a cat arching and stretching its back.
So, this model looks gloriously youthful and graceful, because she is.
But let's talk about the reality of aging. Slim - not so much. There's this thing that happens to your waist - it thickens, even while you're eating and exercising as you always did. Pretty - not so much. There's this thing that happens to your face - it sags in places and puffs in others. You get eye-bags and jowls, and your cheeks seem to fall towards your jaw line, which is itself heading down towards your neck, which is so determined to go south that it pushes out amoeba-like bulges which wobble horribly under your chin. Thick, glossy hair - not so much. Your part - should you be so foolish as to attempt to wear a part in your hair - gets wider and wider. And gray hair is wiry and unruly and it doesn't shine.
Your joints get stiff: hips, knees, fingers, spines. You can't get comfortable enough to sleep at night because your newly-fragile body seems to have developed aversions to every sleeping position known to man. And once you've learned to counter that problem by propping various body parts up with pillows, you discover that there's some kind of sleep circuit in your brain which has shorted out.
Your gums recede, which makes your teeth appear to be longer. (Yes, you're getting a little long in the tooth...) This also creates sensitive spots which keep you hopping during dentist visits. And, to add insult to injury, your enamel thins, resulting in a warm yellow smile. You can remedy that problem with those at-home whitening strips, but you'll pay with even more sensitive spots than Mother Nature (that cruel bitch) has already allotted you.
There's quite a lot I haven't covered - your thighs slide down to puddle over your knees and your boobs start getting in the way of your belt; your satiny skin turns to crepe paper; things you used to love to eat make you fart now; and sitting in the sun will turn your skin blotchy brown - forever. Your nails form ridges. Your blood pressure goes up; your libido goes down. First you need glasses to read books; then you need glasses to read street signs. (Yeah, that spells bifocals.) You start to say, "What?" all the time. You have to label all your photos so you can remember your friends' kids' names. Receptionists ask if you need help getting out of your chair.
Now, if doing the cat pose once a day, or three times, or - heck, I'm willing to go as high as twenty! - will reverse these changes, then I'm thrilled to hear it. But I think the real issue is completely different. There's nothing - no pill, no surgery, no cream or makeup, no diet or exercise - which will restore our bodies to youthful perfection. So, in an article entitled "How to Age Gracefully," I think what we need is advice on enduring, on watching ourselves go to pieces with grace and good humor. I'd offer my advice, but as you can see, I haven't got any. I'm stuck at griping about the whole damn process.
Update: I edited this to add some stuff I forgot about.