Well it’s official yogis, I have grown up.
No, it’s not because I got my hair dyed to hide the grays or because tomorrow I will get my first root canal (wish me luck!). It’s not because I am almost 45, have two kids over the age of 8 and have a career. All of those are signs of aging, but are not why I feel mature.
The real reason I am feeling grown up is because I am honoring my yoga age.
On my mat I have come to the point in my practice where I never want to go to the maximum expression of a pose, to the bendiest, deepest or fullest place. I never crave the heat, the power or the speed. Never, ever, ever do I desire going there because those places are locations of youth, and this yogi has grown up.
Even as recent as earlier this year I caught myself stretching too deeply in Trikonasana, bending too far in Extended Side Angle and seriously considering and trying too many versions of Vasisthasana. I knew my body could technically go to those places and I longed to reach the cliffs of my physical expressiveness. Ah… but, you might ask, what was the result of such child’s play?
I was sore, I did not feel great, I over extended myself in a way that was not terrific.
I am not saying as you age as a yogi you have to cut back on your practice or change the asanas you do. (of course changes in your body or life my dictate this, but that’s not what I’m talking about here) What I mean by “growing up” is that I no longer wish to be the bendiest gal in the room. I instead hope to be the most stable, the strongest from the inside out and move from my center rather than my wildly flexible limbs. I want to own my asanas from the core of my physical being with structure and stability. I want to stay in them for breath after breath after breath knowing I will not over stretch, or over bend, or possibly harm myself. I want to work with supportive muscles to go from plank to cobra rather than flow with the ease and at the expense of my joints. I want to learn how my body functions in an efficient rather than easy way.
I want to protect and preserve my body rather than demonstrate the maximum it can express.
One of the gifts of youth is the willing to be carefree and try new things, to feel invincible and boundary-less. But if we treat our bodies like that, whether we are 15 or 55, we will bend and eventually break. We lose the practice of honoring our bodies from the inside out, by listening to what our bellies, hips and arms tell us. We are merely turning up the volume on our inner Beats By Dre headphones so we drowned out the angst our that connective tissue, joints and bones are sharing. If we do not listen when they talk, we will eventually be left with no choice but to acknowledge their misuse through injury.
We need to listen. We need to move like we care. We need to honor our bodies because they are the containers for our breath, our minds and our hearts. We need to find structure and stability in the mat, and flow from these places rather than the bendiest parts of our beings.
We all need to just grow up a little and practice yoga like adults. Maybe we need to stop pushing the heat, the power, the speed and the flexibility. These are all qualities of the young.
I’m proud to be a grown up on my mat. I will continue to teach that adults-only yoga stuff of strength and stability, ease and acceptance no matter what age of yogis stand before me. And hopefully those that come to yoga with an idea of treating their body like it’s too young to get hurt, will start honoring it for the adult it is.