Sunday, July 26, 2009

Realities of Aging

I do not have the same body I had when I was 15. Or 25 or 35 or 40. Or even 42. In some ways, it's a much better body now. In some ways, worse. Mainly, it's just different. My weight has shifted upwards, away from my hips and legs. My arms have gotten stronger. Sometimes I am amazingly flexible. Sometimes, I am amazingly stiff. Some days, my wrists hold me up effortlessly in backbends. Some days, they can't tolerate the slightest pressure. Some days, I bound around. Some days, I drag ass. It's unpredictable mostly, attributable to phantom factors like diet, sleep and the weather.

If my body is different every day and changing with each passing year (month, week, day), then how can one yoga practice sustain me each and every day of each and every year? Trying to fit my yoga practice into a box, or even my exercise program as a whole, is just a form of denial. Denying my age. Denying my health history. Denying my needs. And that has to lead to suffering: unmet expectations, daily disappointments, physical pain.

Yesterday, it was terribly humid out. When I got on the mat out on my back porch, I felt leaden. My broken hand felt worse than it has been feeling. I couldn't bear to put any pressure on my hand at all. And I couldn't bear to do yoga without vinyasa. I was feeling sorry for myself. But I pulled myself up off the mat, got some hiking clothes on and went off to a 90 minute hike in the cool, tree-canopied woods. It was delightful, no surprise, and when I came home, I came back to the mat and did most of standing, effortlessly just because I wanted to. Then I threw in a couple of Second Series backbends and called it a day.

I look back on the days when I wouldn't have thought of picking and choosing poses, when I wouldn't have thought of running or hiking or otherwise using my legs in a way that might tighten them up for the next day's yoga practice. And it strikes me as a form of masochism. But then I realize, there was a time when it worked for me. Of course, that was then followed by the time when it wasn't working as well, but I tried to pretend otherwise. And then there is now.

The other day, I was talking to an Ashtanga-practicing friend of mine about the possibility of meeting for a practice at Yoga Sutra. She was like, "I thought you were done with Ashtanga." I was like, "Well, I still practice YOGA." Sometimes I do it at home, sometimes I do it at Bikram, sometimes at Jivamukti, and sometimes I go to a Mysore-style practice space.

Why try to define myself? Why try to confine myself with a definition of what I do and what I am? And why base that identity on a workout anyway?

I don't know why.

YC

5 comments:

SC Karen said...

This, my friend, is a very wise post.I'll be sharing it with others.

laksmi said...

mixing it up is good. even though i'm criminal, i don't mix it up enough. i'm about to start--influenced by the iyengar friends i'm staying with now. they've lent me a book--Yoga the Iyengar Way--which has a bunch of sequences in the back that apply to many different scenarios. I feel like a lot has just opened up for me. They also showed me the backbending practice that BKS Iyengar was doing at age 85--and probably still doing now. That guy has a kapotasana that would put us young 'uns to shame.

Anonymous said...

Great post, YC...at age 51 I too experience the things you speak of and I am grateful for the variety of things I can do along with yoga to fill my soul and keep my body moving and healthy :)

Namaste,
Anon

Susan said...

I think you are great. Finding you more and more fun everyday!

Susan said...

I mean that too.

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About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.

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