Do you want to feel youthful, agile & alive regardless of your age?
The eightfold path of yoga keeps the body and mind agile, peaceful & responsive. We all know yogis who seem ageless, appearing far younger than their actual years. That said, aging gracefully through yoga is not about looking young forever.
Aging gracefully through yoga begins wherever we find ourselves in life, whether we are still young or start practicing because our great-grandkids are into yoga. It is about cultivating deep self-acceptance and capacity to love what we’ve got. And aging gracefully is about giving ourselves enough support so we can lengthen, relax, let go, and breathe deeply during practice, rather than push ourselves to achieve something that we think we should be able to do.
As each year passes, I enjoy the mind-blowing variety of yoga practices available. Rather than push myself to be strong and overcome fatigue as I did in my younger years, I am learning to support myself and deepen my practice with gentle & therapeutic yoga.
I continually find that my students who are older and wiser are very mindful and clear about how deep they want to go. They ask for adaptations for knees, wrists, hips, shoulders or back injuries or discover adaptations themselves. Gathering all of the props to support themselves, they enjoy finding ways to let go and relax. They love breathing and moving and, given the opportunity to add some humor, laughter is quick and from the gut. When they have breakthroughs or openings, they discover ecstasy, lighting up like a small child.
I will never forget the time, a man nearing his nineties joined class. He relaxed into yoga therapeutics with grace and then also wanted to explore some of the warrior series and tree pose. He balanced on one foot with determination and, yes, grace. Yoga is for every body. And the beauty and grace that can accompany a yoga practice comes from deep within ourselves. His practice was truly his own without ego and without judgement.
When we begin to cultivate a non-judgmental mind and become willing to explore ourselves as we are in this moment, we are given an incredible amount of information from our bodies.
We begin to tap into our body wisdom. Sometimes we discover that we are stronger than we thought we were. Other times, everything feels stuck and hard. Each time we lean into the hard places without self-criticism or going numb, we discover a little more light and grace. Often, this occurs as we find ways to provide enough support so our bodies and mind can relax.
If we provide enough support, eventually something is going to let go.
The beauty of allowing yoga to help us to age gracefully is that everything we do permeates out into the rest of our lives. If we are able to show up to our mats and be with ourselves in a way that is non-judgmental, loving and compassionate, we deepen our capacity to show up to the rest of life with these same graceful qualities.
The powerful part of starting or continuing to practice yoga when we are not so young anymore is we are often already tapped into the many dimensions of ourselves. We can access and experience the subtleties of yoga. We know ourselves better and have more tools to talk ourselves through the confusing or challenging parts of yoga. No longer wanting to push ourselves so hard and incur injury, we tend to know our boundaries and treat ourselves with gentleness and wisdom.
Just as Leonard Cohen said, “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Aging gracefully through yoga comes as light gets into broken and stuck parts and we experience a profound acceptance of ourselves as we are. When we have these moments of yoga, we are ageless and infinitely graceful.