Week after week, British TV audiences were left staring in wonder at their TV screens as they watched 59-year-old Debbie McGee perform dance moves that would flummox most 20 year olds in last season’s Strictly Come Dancing.
One particularly agile routine, with her professional dance partner Giovanni Pernice, included her doing the splits no less than three times.
Craig Revel-Horwood, Strictly’s ‘nasty’ judge, even came out from behind his desk to prostrate himself at her feet, proclaiming that she ‘had the legs of a 20 years old’.
What’s her Secret?
So, what was Debbie McGee’s secret, and how can we look and feel as fabulous as her at 59? Is it the fact that she trained at the Royal Ballet School from the age of 16? Is that she was used to contorting her petite frame into tight spaces for magician’s tricks with her late husband Paul Daniels? According to Miss McGee, it is neither of those things – although they probably did help.
The answer, dear readers, is yoga.
Miss McGee attends hour-long Ashtanga yoga classes, and has been for almost a year. She explained: “I don’t think my ballet training has helped me on Strictly, it’s my yoga…I’ve always been fit and do an 8am Ashtanga yoga or Pilates class at my local gym three or four times a week. It keeps you supple and strong and maintains your core.”
Yoga and the Older Woman
Debbie McGee is part of a growing number of older women attributing their toned, flexible physique to regular yoga practice.
Beryl Bender Birch, 71, has been teaching Ashtanga Yoga for over 40 years. Her book, Boomer Yoga: Energising the Years Ahead for Men & Women is a follow up book to her bestseller Power Yoga, which helped to bring Ashtanga Yoga to the attention of the Western World. In it, she promises that practising yoga (in the fullest sense of the word), will bring ‘great health, stability, balance and peace of mind’ to the ‘baby boomer’ generation.
Beryl herself gamely says, “I have always told my students that I’m going to press up into Handstand from Bakasana (Crane Pose) on the beach in Hawaii when I’m 60 years old. I haven’t made it there yet, but I’m moving in that direction.”
Healthier and Fitter Old Age
The founder of the new hot yoga system, Fierce Grace, Michele Pernetta, was motivated to set up her yoga business by her ambition to create healthier old people in the future.
“Yoga has long been known to positively impact on the aging process by providing more elasticity to all muscle groups, plus helping to bring stability to ligaments,” explains Pernetta. “What we accept as natural ageing – such as stiffness and loss of mobility is not natural at all. It is a result of neglect and lack of movement – Why shouldn’t we be able to sit crossed legs or touch our toes at 80?”
Indeed, as the new ‘middle age’ creeps higher and higher – it’s now up to 65-years-old – we can look forward to a fitter, healthier and happier elderly generation, dancing into their golden years like the fabulous Debbie McGee.
Just don’t call them ‘elderly’ or they might spring up into a handstand.
Are you inspired by Debbie’s jaw-dropping flexibility due to her yoga practice? Would you like to learn more about yoga for yourself? Why not try one of YogaLondon’s Foundation Courses – a whole weekend of ‘everything yoga’!