Getting older with yoga

How our yoga practice transitions and adapts with us as we age. By Paula Hines

When I began practicing yoga I was in my twenties. I am now in my forties. It has been intriguing to look back and observe how my practice has changed. Those years of practice have been a little like watching a child grow and develop through various rites of passage.

But this past year, more than any other, there has been a notable shift. I feel changes in my body internally and I see changes externally. A gear has shifted into peri-menopause and I am undoubtedly embarking on a new life chapter.

What on earth does this have to do with yoga? Well, apart from the obvious – the call of my body for different things in my asana practice – it has helped me view this time with compassion towards myself as I navigate an undeniable shedding and some significant changes. A letting go. And gratitude that I get to be this age, for all that has gone before, and all that may be yet to come. I am also reminded of an interview I read with Judith Hanson Lasater where she talks about yoga and ageing, describing how she went from adapting her life to fit her practice in the early years, to over time finding that her practice evolved to fit her life, and that on entering peri-menopause it was as though a “natural” pratyahara was taking place. I deeply relate to this.

I wrote in this column a number of years ago about the Yoga Sutras being a bit like a multi-storey car park in the sense that each time this text is revisited there tends to be a different level of understanding and perspective, as though you start on the ground level and go up a level each time, if you are fortunate.

That is a bit like how I feel now about my age and my practice coming with me. The practice moves off the mat more and more. Not in grand ways, but just in my day-to-day life. Each day is a practice. Each day learning and feeling that I am moving forward in life (sattva).

As certain things become less important, while other things become more so, today I am grateful for the gift of getting older, and grateful for the gift of yoga in my life. I hope I am able to convey even a fraction of this in my teaching.

Paula Hines is a London-based yoga teacher and writer. Find details of upcoming events at: ucanyoga.co.uk

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