I took a weekend seminar with Ashtanga master Tim Miller a few months back. Not sure of his age, but he’s probably somewhere in his mid-60’s. The man can still do a forward fold into a handstand. Me, I can hardly do a handstand at the wall. I digress.
As I get older, I realize with almost every practice that my body, also, is getting older. Stiff muscles, sore joints, pain with movement. It’s all there. Some days everything hurts, some days I feel like I’m 20 years old again. There’s no predicting. I mention my pains to my doctor, and (since I was 40) his response is, “yeah, you’re getting older.” Doesn’t help, but I figure he’s right.
Yet, in terms of ability to achieve more advanced poses – binds, twists, arm balances – my practice has never been better. Here’s the interesting thing (to me, anyway) though: it takes me longer to get warmed up, stretched, able, whatever you want to call it. The days of hopping on the mat into a side-angle bind are long gone. I can do it – and deeper than ever – but only after a long warm up period.
The other day, both my hips hurt as I went through sun sals. Nothing major, definitely there. But about ten minutes into the practice, the pain was gone, and I was bouncing into all the poses, no problem.
Bringing awareness to the process (very yogic, eh?), I now know to take the warm up seriously and to not try too much at the beginning of a class. I’ll get there, it just takes longer. In my mind, I know logically that I had different limitations when I was younger, I just didn’t recognize them. Now, I recognize them which is the first step to living with them.
What’s the point? I dunno, warm up, don’t give up? That’s catchy. How about the words of Dirty Harry, “A man’s got to know his limitations?” Nice.