Aging and the Yoga Practice

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.

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