The Aging Body & Yoga, by Sharon Denton
The beauty about the aging body and the practice of yoga is that there is so much we gain through years of asana, pranayama and meditation that it provides a new way of being. Not better, just different. The markers of how we are progressing in our yoga practice are different then they were when we were younger. It’s not about how far, how deep one can go in a pose. We are not the same body, same person, nor do we have the same needs. Our hormones, biochemical balance, relationships, family, work demands, the way you spend your time has changed and honoring these beautiful transitions in life will bring contentment and ease. Ask yourself, why would I not allow my practice to receive these changes and help me navigate through them? It’s not wise or practical to think things are not going to change. Recognizing this and the ability to adapt constantly to meet your needs is the hallmark of a yogi. As we age, we long for different things from our yoga mats then in the past.
Yes, we do gain body awareness and flexibility through maintaining a yoga practice, but more importantly what we gain is a deeper profound knowing. It’s through the wisdom of life experience on our yoga mats, we learn to be less reactive, inter-perspective, happy and satisfied. Allowing the knowledge gained along the journey to seep in, we become seasoned and wisdom is gained.
Ask yourself, “Is my practice working?” We must become a partner in life, willing to surrender to the trappings of youth to gain insight of age. Our practice of asana, pranayama and meditation creates a mental flexibility that we did not have in our younger years. Over decades and decades of practice, we learn about our patterns, tendencies, resistances and attachments and through the practice we learn how to overcome these and not allow them to have power over us. In other words, we know thyself. As soon as we recognize the dysfunction or pattern, stepping out of it, is getting rid of the effect it has on us, just as slowing down is the same as waking up.
It’s when we allow ourselves to clearly see these emotional, mental and physical patterns, and step away from them and align with that which serves us, we are no longer at the mercy of these patterns.
In the yoga practice we experience the inner witness, aka the knower or observer. This witness can see from all perspectives and empathize yet abide with his/her true nature. The inner witness is not aloof or disconnected, yet is fully present to the this moment without being disturbed by it. We begin to see every argument or stressful situation from every ones point of view. There is no judging, there is only understanding, empathizing and compassion towards all, at the same time maintaining our authentic true nature. Over time, less and less do we only see on our own ego-perspective. In alignment with our true nature, we experience joy in all the blessings around and experiences life fully, moving towards it, not away from it.
There is a beautiful simple contentment in knowing that the goal of the yoga practice is to live in the radical presence of an open heart, to become more ‘pourous’ to the moment, vulnerable to the possibility of evolution and change and respond to the spontaneous needs in our lives. If we just trust the practice it takes us to where we need to go. Allow your practice to be unique to your needs and it will serve you well.