Can I hear from people about how aging affects asana generally. I know that specifically some may not experience aging like others but are there general problems with flexibility in most asana ? I am 56 and I have a herniated disk, the doctor says the nerves around it will eventually wear out and I won’t experience as much pain-it will still be weak but it won’t hurt as much. Yoga has helped make my recent years some of my best physically and otherwise but I’m afraid I’ll have to transfer some joy asana brings me in the coming years to more breathing exercise joys and then to meditation. That’s good but can I expect to face the retreat of flexibility as I age ?
Good question Tony.
I am looking forward to the replies from the collective.
Work within your limits!
Treat your body with care and respect.
You will find poses that hurt more/less
and some that are definetely not for your body type/condition.
Some will think it unfortunate, but I was in the very fortunate position to be trained by a teacher who was already 63 when I started doing yoga with her. Today she is 76 and although retired from actively teaching, she still stick to her sadhana and yoga regime on a daily basis. Recently she visited my city again and I invited her to take my classes for the week she was here and what a privilege it was to see her in action again.
Yes, sure there are some of the asanas like the crow, the peacock and chakrasana and a few others which she can’t do anymore, but is that really important? Isn’t it more important to realise your limitations with your age than to allow your ego to dictate that if you can’t do this anymore then your’re no good or stuck with pranayama and meditation only? Apart from these more trying asanas I personally think there is a myriad of other asanas that the older body can still do and I think there is great value in the stretches for older people. Even if you can’t bend that far forward or back anymore, it is not about how far and how deep you bend, but about doing it to the best of your abilities and being aware of what your are doing in that moment. There are people who perform the most advanced and difficult asanas without a grain of awareness and then I have seen and experience people who do a simple tadasana with so much awareness that I could feel the mountains moving around my city at that point.
While teaching, my teacher reminded myself and my class that yoga is for everybody at every age or dosha, it is simply a matter of, in the words of Swami Sivananda, to adapt, adjust and accommodate.
I can’t tell you what you will experience as your body is unique, but what I can tell you is to be careful not to make out of this rope, on which you are stepping in the dark, a snake. (Refering here to the story of the man who stepped on a rope in the dark thinking it was a snake).
When my teacher retired she gave me a wonderful book, and I think it is unfortunately out of print as it doesn’t even have an ISBN number, but perhaps you can try getting hold of it: Yoga over 40 by Michael Violin and Nancy Phelan.
Good luck, a new pathless journey lies ahead and I have come to know you (from the little I assimilate from your posts here on the Forum) that you have a strong will and that something like age is not going to get the better of you.
Everyday to it’s limits, as far as you can go, Everyway you can, never needing to know…that there is an end ; it’s just another place to begin. Like my Dad always said , " Getting old ain’t for sissies " I’ll try and call a rope, a rope, and always find some area to stretch myself. Thank You for the kind words. Namaste
Older age, greater wisdom. Performing asana while young and flexible does not require much wisdom.
Wisdom comes through life. It is not learnt from books. And what has an older age as advantage ? Plenty of life behind one’s shoulders.
Wise people are invisible to the less wise. They appear as silly old man and women, if they happen to enter their cone of vision, or God forbid, they dare to express their opinion. And indeed, a careless life might ruin one and rob one from the gifts of life what ripen only at older age. Thus, old age can be indeed shameful instead of the golden aura of wisdom, haunted by dark demons starving for lost pleasures.
My teacher said that nothing of real spiritual importance can be achieved before the age of 35. People rarely realize that life is not at it’s peak when we are 21. That is only when we become finally ready to begin doing what we have come here for. And we become wise to the measure we manage to accomplish what we have come here for. There are exceptions but they only strenghten the norm. Jesus did not become the Christ bearer but at the age of 30. Lord Buddha started to fulfill his karma at the age of 28. But they were not ordinary people, as it turned out. But even those whom we call ordinary people - they are not at all ordinary. Every human being is a very old, long prepared for, nurtured and cared, tempted and tested by higher powers since long forgotten ages. We are all old, very old and wise, but that wisdom is not in our heads, not even in our souls, but in our fates. (karmas)
I’d say, while one can be strong and healthy regardless of age, the main activites of older people are more of soul nature than physical or sensorial, thus they are less visible.
Interesting topic. I just started yoga at 54. Have about 8 months in.
I’m gaining flexibility and feel a general lightness in my body. I’ve been able to start running again. I’m close to being in the best shape I’ve been in since my 20’s and I’m one who has never been out of shape.
Yoga seems to have given me a new commitment to myself. I’ve changed my diet and lost over 40 lbs since starting. Yet I was not really heavy. I’m 6’2"started at 217 and now am about 175.
I have not found the spiritual aspect yet but I assume that will come in time.
I do realize some poses are very difficult for me and I’m not sure If I’ll be ever be able to do them. What I do is try my best and keep at it. Full wheel is very hard for me, my shoulders are very tight from decades of weight lifting I assume. I’d be very surprised if I ever do that pose to the full extent. I’ve found 1/2 wheel more enjoyable.
I’m really enjoying my practice and learning yoga and my limitations and that’s really all I could ask.
More power to ya’, you already are loving it ; it loves you back more and more, and it is a key that opens the door to other things yoga. I also did a lot of other exercise before yoga, my whole life-always enjoyed exercise but no other kinds have done for me what yoga has, and at our age it addresses concerns that should be addressed. Props, and not just the usual ones, help get into hard asanas, exercise balls for the wheel, ropes and overhead bars give good stretches. And on the non-physical side : It’s yoga and/or aging, I believe, that has got me to better self-control, acting more deliberately and most of all, not letting myself be impulse-driven. Those are the type of things more self-consciousness can do and it leads to the other areas of yoga that make a life whole. For instance, in my earlier days of yoga I would’ve thought saying Namaste at the end of these posts was an affectation, now it seems natural and good. I do honor ( the best I can ) my spirit and your spirit here and now. Namaste.
I left yogaforums for awhile - I got my yoga chat fix on facebook - thank you for the kind and wise words. I am doing fine - true , some more stiffness by the years but not so much and I am into my 4th year daily meditation - it is the best thing ever I have done - and it does not require anything of me but stillness and silence - so I have a full plate. I still enjoy my asana and have supplemented it with resistance exercises - my p/t job post retirement is as a fitness instructor at a Y. I am thinking of quitting that after about 3 years to focus on asana more - I think my body likes that more. thank You again.
I'm 66 and now do hot Yoga almost daily. I've done Yoga on and off starting 1973. Since 1979 I mostly did Tai Chi, now I blend them so my Tai Chi is more creative. I not as flexible as I was in '73 but working on it, my goal is head to knees and elbows on floor when holding big toes.
I've been retired from manual labour for a builder for just over a year, now have the free time to go the studio almost every morning, 2 days are none heated in another room.