Ageing is a normal process of the body in normal people. A yogi defies age and logic; he is not a normal human. Let us try and understand this using an experiment. Count the number of times you breathe in a minute. If your breath count is between seven and eight, it indicates balance. 10-20 means moving towards imbalance. Beyond 25 shows total imbalance and chaos.
Vedic rishis say that if you are over 25 and your breath rate is below 10, then you would exude glow, youth and beauty; if it is over 15 then sadness, sickness and old age have taken over you regardless of your age. If we look at nature, we will see that animals that breathe faster have shorter life spans. Take the example of a dog and a tortoise. A dog breathes about 40-50 times a minute; it has a maximum life span of 16 years. A tortoise breathes twice or thrice in a minute and can live up to 150 years of age.
The breath, which is the substratum of life, is a direct indicator of your state of being. You derive vital prana (vital force) from it. When your body is under stress or duress, old age sets in very fast as your cells keep gasping for more prana; just like when you are emotionally disturbed or are having a heart attack or an asthma attack, your body gasps for breath, and the breathing rate shoots up.
The speed with which we breathe is directly proportional to the speed with which we age. As we breathe in, we inhale oxygen. The prime property of oxygen is combustion or burning. As a result of this process, energy is produced. This process is commonly known as metabolism. A single cell has the capacity to produce phenomenal amounts of energy, comparable to that observed in a nuclear fission reaction.
But this does not mean that a cell has unlimited energy. Each one has only a limited stock, and once consumed, it cannot be replenished — your batteries are not rechargeable. Modern lifestyle encourages increasing metabolism to lose weight and stay fit. It actually works in reverse, rendering you unfit. The faster a cell produces energy, the faster it dies, regenerates itself, and a new cell takes its place. Every new cell so generated, is weaker than the previous one. This is what is called ageing. Moreover, the by-product of combustion is a toxin called ama in Sanskrit. This collected ama, which is acidic in nature, then slowly and steadily starts corroding the internal organs. I have, through various experiments, experienced the effect of corrosion. Direct symptoms of the collection of ama in the body is emotional tension, congestion, ageing or greying of hair, the wrinkling of skin, losing glow and weakness. Thus, as per yogic thought, faster metabolism only causes faster ageing of the body.
You cannot reverse the process of ageing once it has occurred. You can only maintain yourself using optimum utilisation of energy. More is not always good; nature is balance and a healthy body is a result of that balance. Energy production and utilisation should be at an optimum. More the hyperactivity, faster the prana is consumed, and shorter is the life of cell. Degeneration of the body does not mean death. Death can come any time. Degeneration means that your senses start becoming weak, and ultimately, cease to function. Sanatan Kriya, the age-old tool of the Vedic rishis, optimises the energy (pranic) consumption of the cells and makes them efficient and healthy, thereby retarding the degeneration process. Doctors of the Indian Medical Association documented this fact in a live experiment, where they found the heartbeat of a Sanatan Kriya-practitioner drop by 15 per cent, even during 50 minutes of rigorous asanas, without any rest in between. Asanas are not about twisting and turning your body; they are not exercises. Asanas slow down metabolism and get you into a state of balance. Patanjali yogasutras define asana as ‘sukham sthiram asanam’—a posture in which you are comfortable and still. So precise was the knowledge of the Vedic seers, that none of the asanas put a strain on the fifth and sixth vertebrae, which can lead to spinal injuries.