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Jean Dawson has found her 'fountain of youth' in yoga classes as a centenarian.

Fountain of health and happiness

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.
When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.
      – Sophia Loren

When I was 27, I discovered yoga. I thought that this ancient system would help me defeat disease and old age. Of course, I now know this view was terribly naive and ultimately fallacious. But because both of my parents had died young from heart problems, I wanted to find a guaranteed way to live a long, healthy life. 

Yoga has truly been a blessing. I consider myself fortunate I’ve been able to travel the yoga path these many decades. But, I certainly haven’t avoided diseases and ageing. I’ve also had periods when I’ve been dissatisfied with my life and unhappy. It’s taken years to get my head on straight. Yoga has been a big part of my evolution and by no means the only one. Relationships, marriages, personal development courses, study and volunteering have all shaped me. And, I am still so curious about what it is that has some people live long and productively, well into their advanced years.

Passion and zest for life

This week, over several days, I came across stories of three inspiring centenarians.

Kazuo_Ohno, founder of Butoh dance, as an old man smelling a flower. One of these passed away in 2010, having lived to 103 years old. Kazuo Ohno was one of the founders of the dance form known as Butoh. He spent his life performing, choreographing and teaching dance and movement. Even when, in his nineties, he lost the ability to walk, he found a way to perform using just his hands. The Guardian Newspaper obituary said of him, that “his revelations of love, pain and ghostly innocence were conveyed with the intuition of a great elder.’
Bush Tucker painting by Loongkoonan, a Kimberly artist (105 years old).

Bush Tucker

Another remarkable elder, Kimberly woman Loongkoonan, is currently exhibiting her art at the Adelaide Biennial. Now 105 years old, Loonfkoon only began painting in her nineties, depicting features of her culture and country, Nyikina. Her paintings are incredibly beautiful, detailed and mainly show the bush tucker–medicines–of her country. Surely Loongkoonan has to be a national treasure and Australia’s oldest artist still painting.  

 

Jean Dawson doing a twisting posture at 100 years old.

 Finally, I loved seeing photos of centenarian Jean Dawson, from West Yorkshire, on Facebook. Jean took up Iyengar Yoga in her late 60’s and is still practices regularly, inspiring the much younger students in her classes. Jean’s teacher says of her, “Jean is a remarkable lady and puts a lot of effort into her yoga practice – she is living proof that yoga gives back what you put in.”

I feel empowered by hearing about these figures. It helps me understand that passion and zest for life are key ingredients for living long. I’m reminded that, at the tender age of only 71, that I may have several more decades ahead of learning and contributing to my communities. And, the beauty of yoga is that the practices I do can give me the health and equipoise that I need along the way.