58 and Counting...

Overcome the limitations of your mind and the limitations of your body

I turned 58 in April (it’s official, I’m an old bird now, it’s fine I’m embracing it, but ssssh don’t tell anyone - it’s our secret). I am not a dancer, I’m not a gymnast and I’m not naturally flexible, let alone hyper flexible. I’ve had a back operation (shaved off a ruptured slipped disc L5/S1 - meaning on one side of my spine I have no disc, it’s just muscles supporting my back). I have torn hamstrings in both legs, and boy do they take a long time to heal. It’s been 12 months and my right leg still hasn’t completely healed, but amazingly my left leg, although it took a long time, is actually a little more flexible than before I tore it. The secret is don’t push it, little and often, no self-harm only self-compassion.

I’m not an obsessive and I don’t have an addictive nature (sometimes I wish I did as it would make hitting the mat easier). So these days my aim is to commit to some yoga everyday of the week, (because everyday now I wake up with a stiff, restricted body), but if it doesn’t happen then that’s fine too as I’m a ‘realist’, I have other life distractions so I don’t like to pressurize myself (see more self-love going on here) and I definitely don’t want to end up being resentful of my yoga mat.

If I’m honest I don’t always do yoga because I love it, because shock, horror, sometimes I really don’t, but I do it because if I don’t practice for a few days my back seizes up and when I hit the mat again, after a short break, I just feel like an ‘old granny’ who has never done yoga in her life (no disrespect to old granny’s, you’re lovely just maybe not so flexible). It’s even more challenging now that the menopause has set in (which for me has effected my flexibility, or lack of it, even more, how fan-flippen-tastic). Also if I don’t practice yoga my ‘monkey-mind’ wakes up - to those who are wondering what on earth I’m on about! In yoga they refer to an over-active mind as the ‘monkey-mind’ jumping from thought to thought. Oh how I had to put the brakes on the mind chatter ‘I probably shouldn’t at my age, I’m not flexible enough blah blah blah’. However, having said that, I do love the fact that if I choose too, I’m am now actually able to control my own ‘monkey-mind’. I also love the philosophy of yoga (being in the moment, letting go, self-acceptance etc.) this side of yoga is what I really love and savor - the rest, well it’s just not fun sometimes.

So whether I like it, or not, I have to ‘keep at it’ to keep pain free and to have any form of flexibility. However, it’s not just the fault of poor ole menopause for lack of flexibility as we are all vulnerable to quickly losing strength and flexibility (‘use it or lose it’ is my regular chant in class) but on a positive note amazingly you can gain it back quickly too, just don’t leave it too long and you’ll be fine.


Now I know I’m not that interesting and I really don’t take myself too seriously but occasionally I make the odd yoga post on social media. It’s not to show off, well maybe just a little, only when I’m really proud of myself for persevering and I want to celebrate how awesome my body is! I didn’t say it was perfect - because it’s far from it, believe me I’ve wasted too many years on insecurities and poor body issues, but I finally found self-acceptance and I use social media as a celebration of this acceptance. Yes of course if I allow it my ‘monkey-mind’ could ‘kick off’ and that inner critic could start all over again, but I now choose to take the focus away from negativity and I silence my ‘monkey’ by focusing on what my body does have, not what it doesn’t, so yes my body is awesome, it’s still far from perfect but that’s ok!

Anyhow if I were to use social media to show off then I wouldn’t post yoga poses as I’d know I wasn’t aesthetically perfect (social media is full of young bendy yoginis out there, I hate you, not really I admire you) so I’m not posting to try and compete with those young bendy things, far from it, I post for old birds like me, for empowerment and encouragement, to show if I can attempt them with my challenges then anyone can, if you’re willing to put the effort in that is. For it’s like anything in life the more you put your focus/attention onto something, the better it will be. Don’t take my word for it, try it, as it’s the ‘Law of the Universe’ it can ONLY get better (but careful the flip side of the coin is the more you focus on negativity the worse it will get too, so watch that ‘monkey-mind’).

Consequently I like to challenge myself on a tricky pose (and I encourage my students too as well) and this was my ‘lock down’ challenge pose. I tried, tried and tried again until it resembled something like the pose, and for that achievement I’m proud! It will never be perfect, not with my restricted back and hamstrings - but that isn’t the point (we all have strengths and challenges remember) the point is I proved to myself that I can do it! With patience and perseverance, I overcame the limitations of my mind and overcame the limitations of my body and flippen did it. Well done me! And so can YOU....

Vanessa Dale

Vanessa Dale is based in Surrey and is available for private lessons, she also teaches at Akram Hot Yoga Studio