Yoga at every damn age!
Life is for living, no matter your age. By Jillian McCarthy
I'm sixty-six years of age and have been doing yoga on and off for most of my life. I started practicing yoga with my dad when I was five years old with books he borrowed from the library. He was good, having practiced judo for many years, but as a bendy five-year-old, I was naturally better. His praise for my flexibility stuck, and I began to think of myself as a talented person, someone who was good at yoga. I joined a class in my teens and was there right at the front, always attempting to out-flex the teacher. Whilst making gains in stretch, I lacked an overall appreciation for the spiritual side of yoga for many, many years. Ironically, yoga in those days fed my ego and not my soul.
I've had many different exercise passions over the years: ice-skating, running, horse-riding, sailboarding, rock climbing and hiking, to name a few. Some stuck for many years – I had horses and this was a large part of my life for over two decades. I ran for several decades too, entering marathons and half marathons, until arthritis arrived in both of my knees due to three broken legs over the years and the constant pounding through road strikes. I still hike, although I can no longer do the all-day outings I used to love, due to my knees swelling up after about five or six miles. Yoga, though, has been a constant in the background throughout my life, it was the one thing I kept returning to time and time again. Like a lover that I just couldn't quite let go of, yoga was always there ready to welcome me home whenever I returned to it.
In my fifties, I vaguely began to think about setting up a yoga studio and started my training to become a certified yoga teacher. The programme I commenced was two years in duration taking place at weekends, and included an 'Introduction to Yoga Teaching' course first. I'm qualified to teach Hatha, Yin, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, Recuperative and Chair Yoga. The spiritual side of yoga was well and truly embedded in these programmes and I began to realise just how much there is to learn, so much so that it becomes a life-long learning quest that just never ends. I cringe now when I look back to my teenage self with my inflated ego attempting to out-compete my yoga teachers, it was the very antipathy of yoga. I have travelled a long way since those days and although I am no longer as flexible, brave or capable physically, I am certainly more spiritual and practice yoga far more holistically now although, as ever, I still have so much to learn.
In my desire to discover more about yoga, I took a career break from my full-time university post, and travelled to India for six months where, amidst other experiences, I studied yoga and meditation at an Ashram in Goa. This was a time of great learning forme, although many of the lessons seemed totally unrelated to yoga at the time, with hindsight I see they were intrinsically linked. This was a turning point in my life and on my return to the UK and back to my career in academia, I found I just couldn't settle. The urge to teach yoga, provide wellness therapies and to create a community hub for like-minded souls to meet, really began to really take shape in my mind at this time.
Society has a way of sucking us into a life that is difficult to shake off. We are indoctrinated into 9-5 jobs, into buying houses and cars, working to pay off mortgages, taking holidays and buying 'stuff', but never to follow our souls, never to listen to the cry of the heart. I continued in my career until I could leave my 'safe' job with a pension in October of last year and then my heart's longing took shape. It is still taking shape, and I am loving every moment of it.
Is my business successful? It is to me. I have started a wonderful community hub in the little village in West Yorkshire where my partner and I bought a rambling old vicarage, which was in need of much love... and renovation. We have started to sympathetically restore its former glory and the first step on the way was turning the dining room into a beautiful yoga studio. It is the most divine room – light, airy and decorated with love and care. Who says yoga should be practiced in sparse monastic rooms or draughty church halls? Hearts and souls sing on entering my studio and that's before any yoga class or wellness therapy begins.
So what is at the heart of this article? Well, what I'm really trying to say is that it's never too late to follow your heart or to chase your dreams as they are simply there for the catching. We just have to stop daydreaming and start acting, it really is that simple. We are never too old to do what we want to do and live the life we were born for – please don't let age be the excuse to live a life lurking in shadows instead of dancing in the sunshine. According to statista.com, over 10% of the global population is over sixty-five years of age, that's eight hundred million people, so we have plenty of company.
Life is definitely for living, no matter your age. Only the lucky ones amongst us reach the ages of fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety and beyond. We are so fortunate to reach these ages, as so many don't make it. Let's dedicate our lives to family and friends who didn't reach these levels and if we can't follow our dreams for ourselves, then let's follow them for those loved ones. Pledge now to work it with all you've got and show the world just what you are capable of, let's celebrate people at every damn age. We have so many life experiences, and so much wisdom gathered along the way, let's sing it from the rooftops and work with younger generations to support each other. Life isn't a competition, it's a love quest. How many lives can you touch with your fairy dust of love? Sprinkle it like salt and pepper everywhere you go and watch in wonder as a whole world of magic opens up for you.