Active Aging Role Model: Super Yoga Granny Bette Calman
If you can remember your own great-grandmother – or perhaps you can envision a stereotypical one – you may think of baking cookies, knitting, sitting in a rocking chair. You most likely would never associate things like executing a perfect handstand (in a pantsuit and pearls), teaching Yoga classes, or living medication-free for the previous 50 years.
But then again, your great-grandmother probably isn’t Bette Calman.
Known as the “Yoga Super Granny,” this Australian senior, who turns 90 in 2016, was still an active Yoga teacher up until the age of 87. Although she was once in the hotel business, working long 18-hour shifts that wore on her body, she turned to the practice of Yoga at the age of 26, finding great relief of pain and stress. Little did she know then, Yoga would steer her life in a totally new direction, catapulting her into fame via her own television show, books, articles, and – these days – Internet fame. In fact, you probably recognize her from an Advil commercial that first aired during the 2016 Superbowl.
Calman explains that although she first felt an interest in Yoga when she was young, it wasn’t as accessible and easy to learn in those days. At that time, you had to find a teacher and study under him or her to learn, and she was too busy with her schooling and other sports. Later, however, as an adult, she found Michael Volin from Russia, who taught a small class in Sydney.
Calman was amazed at how Yoga eased her tired legs from her long work shifts and gave her much-needed energy. As she became more immersed in the holistic practice, she embraced other lifestyle changes, like veganism, drinking large amounts of water, and learning to let go of stress and worry. She explains that she believes it is because of these choices that she hasn’t had to visit a doctor (other than an eye doctor) in more than five decades, and never suffers from colds, headaches, or other illnesses.
As Calman gained notoriety in the Yoga world, she became instrumental in spreading the practice to the rest of the world. Her Yoga television show ran for 24 years, and she penned a weekly newspaper article for 14 years and, later, a monthly magazine article as well. In the age of YouTube and social media, she found new fame from articles, interviews, and videos showcasing a “Super Gran” who could still perform perfect poses in a stylish pantsuit and perfectly coifed hair. Calman feels that if her work with this new media inspires someone to try Yoga for the first time, the effort is worth it. In fact, she believes that is the secret to aging gracefully: Keep moving and keep trying new things.
Today Calman today has retired and is enjoying life in a retirement village in Melbourne, although she does have her own Facebook page that often posts other inspiring stories of seniors staying exceptionally fit and active. Although she stopped officially teaching in her daughter’s Yoga studio several years ago, she still enjoys working with her great-grandson, Andreas, who has been practicing Yoga since the age of 18 months. She also notices quite a difference in her own physical abilities compared to her peers who have not practiced Yoga over the years. She feels that a person’s body continues to do what it is used to, and the years of stretching, moving, sitting on the floor in posture, and exercising out stress and worry can be credited for the way she is still able to move.
Congratulations to our Active Aging Role Model Bette Calman on inspiring so many to embrace, care for, and maintain their body for so many years.