• Indian monk Swami Sivananda who claims to be 120 years old, says he owes his longevity to daily yoga and a life without sex or spices. (Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images)Source: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images
This Indian monk believes the keys to longevity are solitude, simplicity and celibacy.
Alyssa Braithwaite

12 Dec 2016 - 2:30 PM  UPDATED 13 Dec 2016 - 10:11 AM

An Indian monk, who claims to be the oldest man in the world at 120 years of age, says the secret to his long life is celibacy.

Swami Sivananda, from the holy city of Varanasi, also abstains from spices and practices yoga daily, the Hindustan Times reports. 

Sivananda was born in 1896 according to his passport, and is applying to Guinness World Records to verify his claim to being the oldest man to have ever lived.

India's passport authorities confirmed his age from a temple register, the only record many Indians even decades younger have of their date of birth, but it will still be very difficult to independently verify his age.

Sivananda grew up in extreme poverty and to this day sleeps on a mat on the floor with a wooden slab as a pillow. He says "yoga, discipline, and celibacy" are to thank for his longevity.

"I lead a simple and disciplined life," he told the AFP.

This extends to his diet, which similarly fuss-free.

"I eat very simply - only boiled food without oil or spices, rice and boiled daal with a couple of green chillies," Sivandanda said. "I avoid taking milk or fruits because I think these are fancy foods. In my childhood I slept many days on an empty stomach."

Sivananda lost both parents before he was six, and was given away by his relatives to a spiritual guru. 

Fit and healthy, the elderly man lives independently and enjoys his solitude. He also practices yoga for hours at a time, and advocates for a life uncluttered by technology and material possessions.

"Earlier people were happy with fewer things. Nowadays people are unhappy, unhealthy and have become dishonest, which pains me a lot," he says.

"I just want people to be happy, healthy and peaceful."