Iyengar yoga instructor illuminates the way yoga can serve us through our life cycle. – djn
via Vrtti – March 2010.
One of the wonderful things about practicing yoga is that there are no age boundaries. Kids yoga, Teen yoga, Ageless yoga – all these flavors of classes abound. In her book Yoga: A Gem for Women, Geeta Iyengar writes:
“The ages twelve to fourteen are ideal to begin Yoga. This does not mean that Yoga is to be commenced only at that age and not before. On the contrary, if one begins earlier, around the age of eight, it is good; but little ones should not be forced to be too serious.”
“Yoga can be done by all at any age. It is particularly beneficial to those over 40 when the recuperative power of the body is declining and resistance to illness is weakened. Yoga generates energy and does not dissipate it.”
But regarding the timeline, most of us, especially as we age, are less concerned with the front end and more preoccupied with the back end. Personally I began yoga practice as I approached thirty, looking for a restorative activity to complement and enhance sports. Underneath that, I later realized, was a longing to explore something deeper. But what matters most now is not how I got started, but what do I do today in my practice, and where that could take me.
Yoga is classically presented in the sutras as a means to overcome five basic afflictions, the last and most tenacious being abhinivesa, or fear of death. Though we turn to yoga for physical and mental strengthening, for healing, and for that sense of inner well-being, we know that we will not live forever, at least in our current form. But there is a promise of immortality in yoga, and that is fulfilled by a special sense of living in the moment. In Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, B.K.S. Iyengar makes the following intriguing interpretation in his comments on Sutra IV.33:
“The perfect yogi lives in the moment without getting involved in the movements: the movements of moments are arrested, and psychological and chronological time come to an end. Living in the moment, the yogi sees the seer. This is evolution.”
Yoga offers us a means to stop time, becoming ageless by bringing steadiness and focus to the mind and body.
If yoga does not always offer longer life, it absolutely leads to a healthier, more balanced experience while we are alive. In the October 2009 issue of Yoga Journal, senior Iyengar teacher Patricia Walden comments:
“Sometimes I'll wake up stiff and wonder what my body will feel like if I start doing backbends. Then I begin practicing, and I forget that I'm 62. Twenty minutes into my practice, I feel younger. Inevitably, the power of yoga takes over and you feel ageless!”
This resonates with my own feelings in practice. I believe Patricia is talking about both that experience of living in the moment as well as enhanced overall health.
I would welcome your own thoughts on this, and any yoga topic, as always.