Yoga for the Ages

EDY Blog LogoI have previously said that Yoga was not the best way to lose weight, lower blood pressure nor improve cardiac health.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to revise that outlook a bit.  Yoga is not the fastest way to accomplish these things but it is a good long term way to improve one’s body, mind and soul.  I’ve lost 20 pounds in 10 months doing little more than practicing Yoga.  My blood pressure is lower and my heart is healthier—although it’s improve more dramatically since I started working on the treadmill at the center.  I read a great story about a 90 year old man who attributes his great health to daily Yoga practice.  I first read this on the Star-Telegram but the article is already off the site—it was first published on 22 September 2008—thankfully, I kept a copy of the article.

Yoga master, 90 next month, says discipline makes him feel one-fifth his age


ARLINGTON—He spoke as if he were seated on an examining table, talking with his doctor.

“I am feeling very goood,” he declared.

Any pains?

“No headache. No fever. Never.”

Problem with medications?

Kantilal Talati smiled. “No med-i-ca-tion.”

The polite, gracious man from India, who turns 90 next month, summarized his well-being in economical English. “I never fall sick. Due to yoga only.”

Arpita Shah’s grandfather knelt on the living room carpet of an Arlington home where he has lived with his daughter and son-in-law since leaving Bombay, India, last summer. Limber as an Olympic gymnast, Talati curled his 5-foot, 125-pound frame into a tight ball, and using his head for balance, slowly raised both legs overhead until his inverted body punctuated the accomplishment, forming an exclamation point.

Then Talati lowered his bare feet, turning the soles inward until they met in a posture of prayer.

As he maintained the headstand—the king of yoga poses—his family watched with respect and admiration.

Daily devotion

Talati performs a variety of positions—asanas—as part of his disciplined daily yoga schedule.

“Never do I lapse,” he said proudly.

Yoga, an ancient Hindu practice, is aimed at achieving a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. Postures and breathing techniques induce relaxation.

Talati devotes one hour every morning to pranayam (breathing exercises), followed by an hour of yoga.

After breakfast he gives yoga lessons to his hosts.

In the afternoon he does another session alone, performing more challenging yoga poses and movements that massage internal organs, enhance blood circulation and act on the joints, increasing strength and flexibility.

According to a yoga philosophy, it’s not the number of years that determines a person’s age but rather the suppleness of the spine.

Talati credits his 30-year regimen for his good health and longevity.

“I am very young now,” Talati said. “If someone asks me ‘How old are you?’ I always say, ‘I am 18 years!’”

Amused by his own statement, the man born Oct. 25, 1918, broke into a high-pitched staccato laugh..

“My grandfather,” said Arpita Shah, a 33-year-old nutritionist, “is my hero.”

Crisis spurs change

A native of Bharuch, a seaside city in the state of Gujarat in western India, Talati worked as a project developer for the government-operated Western Railway. As a young man he smoked heavily.

“Four packs a day,” he said.

“What!” his granddaughter said in disbelief at this revelation.

After Talati suffered a heart attack at age 44, he made a commitment to dramatically change his lifestyle. He learned relaxation and meditation techniques, and yoga poses from famed guru Acharya Swami Krupalvaanandji and, after he retired, began teaching the discipline at schools, temples and public gardens.

Talati is registered with the Yoga Alliance to teach at the 500-hour level, the highest level available.

“He is a jewel, the perfect testimony for yoga,” said Marinda Hollar, owner of the Arlington Yoga Center. “It’s not only his physical prowess, but his kindness. Humility. Authenticity. He’s not trying to get money or attention. He cares about others. That’s what a yogi is.”

Talati hopes to open a yoga studio next year. For now, his daughter and granddaughter are his regular students.

Arpita Shah’s stamina has improved, but she has yet to master the headstand.

“My grandfather won’t let me use a wall to help balance,” she said. “He tells me, ‘There are no shortcuts.’ He says I must learn the right way. No matter how long it takes. I am so lucky. I have found my teacher in him.”

A simple life

Talati lives simply, modestly, happily, at peace with himself and the world.

He sleeps in a small guest room furnished with a rattan bed and a dresser.

A photograph on one wall pictures the woman to whom he was married for 66 years.

After Padmavati Talati died last year at age 85, her husband left his homeland to live with family in Texas.

“I prefer it here,” Talati said. “The climate is better. The atmosphere. The air.”

Rising before dawn, the yogi bows before a brightly colored painting of a Hindu deity and then begins his regimented day with a body-cleansing cup of hot water with lemon juice and honey.

A vegetarian, he has whole-wheat toast, with egg whites, juice and Indian tea for breakfast.

He doesn’t require naps and spends hours each day reading and writing about yoga.

Before retiring at 10:30 p.m. he walks about two miles.

“He wants to start jogging,” his granddaughter said.

How long will he live?

The question appeared to surprise and amuse the elderly man.

“As long as God gives me that bonus,” he said, smiling. “It is not in my hand. I want to die healthy. That is always my prayer.”

DAVID CASSTEVENS, 817-390-7436