For a start, I’m not THAT old. But at 45, I’m never the youngest in a yoga class. I’m seldom the oldest either. And I firmly believe that age doesn’t have to be a barrier – in fact, it can even be a bonus.
If you’re hitting middle age (putting aside that 40 is the new 30), the prospect of learning yoga (let’s face it we’re all learning until the day we die) can seem daunting. When it’s hot yoga in a mirrored room, it can be even more intimidating. Seemingly surrounded by ‘young, fit, flexible yogis,’ it’s easy for anyone with a few wrinkles, stiff shoulders and the odd wobble (and not just in balance postures) to feel less than adequate.
But yoga isn’t about ‘less than’ or ‘more than’– unless you are comparing yourself with yourself as you grow and evolve in your practice.
I’m an old yogi. By that, I mean I’ve been practicing various styles for more than 15 years, so I’m not a novice...but I feel like one as I contemplate the chance to become a yoga teacher. Suddenly I feel old, inflexible and scared—wondering whether I can do this.
But here’s why I know I can, and why I reckon anyone of my vintage (or older) can aspire to both learn and teach.
1) We Have Life Experience
We bring our experiences to the mat, and the more we’ve lived, the more insights we bring to the inner yoga going on. Chances are, by virtue of sheer longevity, we’ve had more uncomfortable moments that we can call on when trying to contort into Queen pigeon pose, or deciding that it’s fine and dandy to stay in Half-pigeon or just rest in Savasana.
2) We Can Be Role Models
We’re old enough for others to believe we have something worth teaching, and wise enough to know that you never stop learning. We can be role models for people of a similar age who might feel less comfortable with younger teachers who’ve mastered physical yoga in ways they find impossible. And we can demonstrate to our children and younger class members that yoga is something you can (and should) do for a lifetime—that flexibility is more about mindset than physicality.
3) We’ve Learned To Laugh At Ourselves
When you hit middle age, especially if you’re a woman, you tend to slide towards invisibility. It’s a problem of a society that values youth so highly, but also a kind of freedom. You’re free to make mistakes and to care less about appearances—chances are you aren’t going to be noticed much anyway. What’s more, you learn to worry less about what people think, which is right in the spirit of being a yogi.
4) We Understand That Yoga Is Mostly An Inside Job
We are less attached to our physical bodies, or we are if we have a positive attitude to ageing. Not that we don’t want to stay fit, but we come to appreciate our inner selves as much (or more) than our bodies. We learn to appreciate the health we have, rather than always pushing to challenge physical limitations. And we get the mind, body, spirit connection—two thirds of life is really what’s going on inside our minds and souls, and we’re wise to place our attentions in these proportions.
So as I prepare to start teacher training I hope that you’ll join me, regardless of age, somewhere on the mat.