The Fountain of Youth
Jennifer S. Hensley
Q. Tell me about your competitive trail riding. Why you do it?
I am pulling a switch. This week, I am asking the question. Loretta Stewart has been studying taiji (tai chi) with me for years and I noticed that she just seems to glow every time she mentions her horse Paco and trail riding. Her eyes light up, she vibrates with youthful energy, joy and enthusiasm…and she is 69! So last Monday, after taiji class I asked her to tell me about her competitive trail riding and how it makes her feel and boy did she. I am going to share her insights with you, but first, let’s visit the Fountain of Youth arena.
Every other magazine you pick up has something about “youthful appearance” or the fountain of youth. I started ignoring these articles years ago unless they were of the natural health genre that would actually make me feel younger from the inside out. It’s not the appearance of youth I am concerned with, but instead, whatever makes me feel as if moving were a breeze and every step bounces effortlessly into the next one. There are several things that do this for me, but the main ones are Tai Chi (Taiji), wild flower and wildlife photography and sitting quietly at my pond, just tuning in to nature. All of these things make me happy and joyful to be alive and therefore cause an internal chain reaction which releases endorphins which in turn make me feel even better! Endorphins also relieve pain, so if you are hurting, do something you love! After a good taiji session, my hip joints feel loose, my whole body feels light and I do have a bounce in every step. I feel relaxed and ALIVE! Is taiji the fountain of youth? The Chinese have said so for centuries.
Outside with camera in hand, I bend, twist, and stoop with ease, trying to get the best angle on a wild flower, herb or critter, hold position and shoot. I love freezing the visual and energetic image of plants and wildlife. And I feel a youthful exuberance when doing so. In other words, regardless of what the mirror or the calendar says, I feel young. I will be 66 in August and many evenings, I feel it, however, the majority of time, especially when I am outside and/or doing taiji, I feel many years younger than my actual age. Are these things the fountain of youth?
Last Saturday, my sister Rindy and her daughter Rhianna came over for a pizza at the pond afternoon. We were sitting in the pagoda watching the koi swimming around begging for food when she said, “I found the fountain of youth.” Isn’t it funny how when something is brewing in your brain everyone you come in contact with provides you with more material? “What’s that?” I asked and she proceeded to tell me that she had started taking liquid chlorophyll the previous week (more about this in an upcoming column) and she has so much energy that she has whizzed through chores all week. She said she felt really good, but the best part was the burst in energy. So, is chlorophyll the fountain of youth? Let’s go back to Loretta and her trail riding.
Loretta’s story: I have loved horses my whole life. I loved horses so much that when I was a child about eight years old, my father declared the word horse could no longer be spoken in our house. Needless to say, I never got a horse. As a mother, when my daughter started “horse-talk”, I found a way to get her a horse and lessons. Now, the best time in my world is when my daughter, granddaughter and I are all on horseback together. Eventually I got my own horse and again, even though it was over the phone I talked non-stop about horses until my Father said, “Do I have to put the “no horse word rule” in effect again?”
Every time I go out, trail-riding is an outdoor adventure. Now that I am retired, friends often invite me to go on a vacation trip with them, but you know what? I enjoy trail-riding so much that every time Paco and I go out, I feel like I am on vacation. So, in essence, I go on vacation more than they do! Trail-riding is a mental and physical challenge and it has a bit of an edge [danger} to it so it keeps you on your toes. I ride several times a week, take lessons every week and do trail-riding competition on weekends. Sometimes we have to use a compass to find our way to a certain point. We are judged not just on how fast we get there, but also about how we handled the challenges and obstacles along the way. I love it. Paco loves it. We are both getting up there in years, but when we are trail-riding, we both feel like kids! And, one of the reasons I do taiji is because it helps with my riding.
I did ask Loretta if she had won any blue ribbons and she said she had a pile of them. However, she chuckled, they were “numbers ribbons.” What are those, I asked and still laughing, she said that at every competition, they give a blue ribbon for the combined highest number of the age of the horse added to the age of the rider. Last year it was 88 and this year it will be 90! Then she got serious and said that last year, she came in 9th at a competition with 50+ riders. Not bad for an old lady and an old horse.
So, should we all take up trail riding? It definitely keeps up the muscle strength, not just from riding, but also from slinging bags of horse feed and cleaning out stalls. I guess you could say Loretta’s gym is the barn, her weights are bags of feed and her exercise equipment is a rake and shovel.
What makes you feel young? When you discover it, you have corralled your fountain of youth. It’s not what you buy, it’s how you feel. Do what you have a passion for and you will bubble over with youthful energy no matter your age!
Note: The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2012, Jennifer S. Hensley, Wholistically Speaking. Jennifer S. Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Taiji & Qigong, a Certified Herbalist, Natural Health Consultant, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner and Energy Worker and a professional writer for 30 years. She served on the BRCC Complementary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors. For speakers, workshop info or issues/questions you would like to see covered in future columns, please email her at jennifer @trayfoot.com or call her at 540-249-5756.