(This is me in Warrior Pose)
My yoga practice started in 1972, when I was in my early thirties, before yoga became popular. My first teacher was Michael Volin, who is considered the father of yoga in Australia, by way of India. But Michael taught us more than poses; he shared stories of his life experiences and vegetarian lifestyle. When I adopted a vegetarian diet about three years later, I know those early yoga sessions were partly responsible for my dietary and lifestyle shift.
During the next three decades I dabbled in all kinds of physical activities as part of my new, consciously healthful lifestyle—aerobics, swimming, biking, tai chi and qi gong, walking, tap dancing, and most recently, pilates. But I always came back to yoga between those activities.
Yoga is the basis for me, like the roots of a tree. It gives me a firm foundation on which to build a sense of grounding, something I personally need. Also, I have found that over the years, yoga has provided me a high degree of flexibility that matches much younger people. One of Michael Volin’s strong messages was that a supple spine will keep you young, and yoga definitely keeps the spine supple and flexible. (No dowager’s hump for me!!!)
For me, the beauty of yoga is that I can do it anywhere, indoors or out, with or without a teacher or videotape. (On my honeymoon in 2005, I practiced on the lawn of our motel, facing the sound and beauty of the ocean’s waves. Quite a thrilling experience!) Going to class, however, keeps me focused and provides the continuity of regular practice.
There is no emphasis on perfection in yoga, unless doing one’s best is perfection. The instructor encourages students to do whatever they can without hurting themselves. This is quite the opposite of “no pain, no gain.” The subtle message of doing whatever you can means that I can always come back to my yoga practice to renew my body as it remembers the simple postures that center me, calm me, and tone my body all at the same time.
Even if you have never tried yoga and think you are too old, think again. (See my review of Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause in Book, Film, & Website Reviews. Almost all the women featured in the book are over 50.) Even my older brother enjoys yoga, and he did not start until he was in his early 60s. Yoga can be practiced at almost any age, because the instructor will never encourage you to go beyond what you are comfortable doing.
Maybe, like me, you will get hooked on yoga, because the mind, body, and spirit connection or union (union or joining is actually a working definition of yoga) is both powerful and empowering. All I know is that no matter how long I stay away from regular practice, one day I wake up and say to myself, “Time to do my yoga.” There is something about the stretching, bending, deliberate movements, relaxation and meditation, and the non-competitive aura of yoga that keeps me coming back again and again. It is the best way I know to keep that connection alive and humming!
Note: (See my interview with Linda Liss, yoga instructor, in this month’s Profiles.)