Ageing gracefully

It’s mid Monday morning and there’s a buzz of students arriving for the general Iyengar yoga class in Austinmer, on the South Coast of NSW. Amongst the regulars is Isla Melville-Jones, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. Looking at Isla, with her slim build and her graceful, sunny disposition, it’s nearly impossible to believe her age. She’s rarely missed her Monday yoga class in the past 7 years.

In his book The Good Life, social researcher Hugh McKay reveals that a life worth living is not about material or financial success but more about selflessness and connecting with others in a meaningful way. Isla is a vibrant example of such a good life, with her close network of family and friends, her involvement in the local choir and her committed yoga practice.

Isla first discovered yoga about 35 years ago when she accompanied her daughter to a general hatha class. Isla was introduced to Iyengar yoga 7 years ago when her friend from choir offered to bring her along to the Austinmer class taught by certified Iyengar teacher, Johnny Batchelor. She has never looked back. “I rarely miss class” says Isla, who gets the train when she can’t get a lift from a friend.

Asked what yoga brings to her life, Isla is quick to answer. She says, “I like the company because I need it, especially after my husband passed away. And I enjoy the exercise – if that’s what you call it. I’m sure yoga keeps me as healthy as I am.”

Johnny Batchelor, Isla’s teacher, offers some insight into the benefits of yoga for older students: “In class we certainly work on posture, strength, mobility and balance – and those things are vital as we get older to help prevent injuries and falls. But perhaps it is the psychological wellbeing that comes with practicing those things that is more important – confidence and positivity for instance.”

Isla, with her vitality and quiet determination, tries most things and she knows how to modify a pose, using the wall or a chair for stability or a block to support her body. Watching the class, it’s clear that Isla is a motivation to others. “If she can do it” they must be thinking, “then I should give it a try.” This is confirmed by her teacher. “Last week I looked around the class and they were working hard in warrior pose. There was Isla with her arms up and her chest open, with a big smile on her face. She is a real inspiration,” said Johnny.

About the author:

Tash Larkin has been practicing Iyengar yoga for 12 years. She teaches at the Moore Street Yoga Room in Austinmer, on the south coast of NSW, and lives with her partner and 3 small boys.

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