There are so many factors to living a long life. Some are out of our control, but others, we have a strong say so.
What we eat and how we handle stress are two of these factors that play a role in the way we experience growing up into elder hood and that we have some control. This is part of my interest in yoga and movement. I want to grow old and do everything I can to stay as healthy as possible.
We don’t know the actual effects of our environment on aging and health, but the numbers regarding life expectancy correlate with income and race.
This makes sense. Extreme poverty marks a person. The stress of economic uncertainty lives in a person and often is transmitted to their offspring.
The question equity in wellness is an important one that Maribel and I keep what we do. Those who access our programs are usually people with enough means to pay for our services. We need to pay our bills, after all. However, we know that we can serve our community by offering affordable programs accessible to all. This explains our offering of community supported yoga classes. These are free of charge and supported by those who can afford to pay. We keep experimenting with these ideas because we know that these kinds of services are often not easily accessible.
In this country, racism also intersects with race. The trauma of racism is also generational in its effects and impacts life expectancy. We also think about this quite frequently and haven’t quite figured out our way. Most everyone that shows up to our yoga sessions look like us.
The writer Ta-Nehisi Coates reminds us as he writes to his son in Between the World and Me that the words,
…race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth…You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”
The body takes the brunt of the social violence of racism. This violence sometimes is extreme and easy to identify. Think George Floyd and Breoana Taylor and the list of those lost to state sanctioned violence. But often the violence is more subtle. Take a look at CDC data on health broken down on race:
- American Indian/Alaskan Native Population
- Asian/Pacific Islander
- Black (Non-Hispanic)
- Mexican American
- White (Non-Hispanic)
(By the way when looking at foreign born Hispanics and US born Hispanics, life expectancy numbers are even more interesting. Those born outside of the US have a longer life expectancy than Hispanics born within the US.)
Are we growing up or growing old? I would like to think that as we explore the question of health and wellness, I want to grow up. I want to mature and become an elder. Doing so means taking care of myself and being aware of my community and the larger questions I’ve brought up in this short post among many things.
We hope we can all grow up. With each other’s help, I know we can move in that direction. With that in mind, join me for yoga. There’s more to the practice than getting on a mat and moving.