Aging with Yoga
I know some of you think I'm not old enough to be qualified to speak on this topic, but I have actually started to notice signs of the body aging. I am also reminded occasionally that despite the amazing fitness I see in class, that my students also are starting to age... I forget because you are all so capable. I wanted to link you to someone that at more than twice my age is qualified. At 100, Tao Porchon Lynch still teaches around 6 yoga classes a week, drives around New York, competitively ballroom dances and travels internationally.
And well she's my hero. She is who I look up to in terms of keeping healthily minded in the face of an aging and at times unwell body.
The last year I've started to move printed material away from me, to be able to read it. I've had a few health issues arise that have confronted me that my body in not invinsible and immortal. Some dear friends, students and relatives have had confronting health scares and some passed on and well, I've started to be able to feel the reality of mortality.
I remember many years back intellectually getting the idea of death and becoming teary at funerals but to actually 'feel' my mortality has very much deepened my yogic life. This has influenced me and my teaching of yoga in many ways.
Firstly I have realised it's not all about harder, fitter, faster. I am very fit in my body but certainly not without pain. More often than not, I am carrying some pain or unpleasantness in my body. Being a bit of a type A personality I always felt worried that I would lose my fitness if I didn't practice strong yoga and that this was the way to overcome pain. .. I teach at least 6 classes a week (like my hero, TPL) and I work along with you all and maintain a certain physical condition...but listening to my body more has taught me however that I don't need to go hard in my practice to maintain condition and my nervous system certainly benefits more from a more mindful and breath focussed style of practice.
I've touched in other blogs on how hard it is to listen to the body, rather than have beliefs about the body filter and our practice intentiion and result in imposition on the body. To come to the mat and truly listen and trust is such a honoring way to BE. Sometimes I have energy and still do strong asana and sometimes I just stretch and breathe, but this comes from what my body tells me it needs.
And breath is crucial. Without breath we are just working with Annamaya kosha (physical body). When we work with prana, we are working much more powerfully, in a way that can greatly influence health and well being. And if we are able to witness our mind and beliefs, we are able to let go of negative views that may be negatively influencing our well being. When I listen to Tao PL, what strikes me most is her positivity and love of life. I believe a 'loving life' view is one of the most important to motivators to keep us in a healthy body. At around 90 Tao had had 2 total hip replacements, so there is still wear in the body, but due to her prior high physical fitness she managed to get back into double lotus and continues to live a super active life..
When I observe my thoughts around my health in my meditation I often see fear. Although intellectually I believe the body has incredible healing capacity, my default view is to worry even when there is no reason. So I focus my practice on this, as well as a whole array of other fears! I feel so nourished to give space to these fears, rather than have them unconsciously reeking havic.
So the body is still not going to survive forever. In spite of the most healthy life and most positive outlook there are other factors beyond our control that determine the body's condition and ultimate end. We can do what we can with the assistance of health care providers but at some point we, ideally joyously, realise our time has come to move on to whatever comes next. As sure as we are born we die and every yoga practice prepares us to face this unavoidable with clarity and grace. In yoga and meditation we learn how to be still in response to dis-ease, to not be rattled by our thoughts and beliefs. If we can bring the same curiosity, acceptance and equanimite to our aging, we will live everyday fully and appreciate our life. Not easy but certainly something to consider.