And even if you can’t walk, you can do yoga.
I love this time of year because of all the holiday parties. My husband and I make the rounds to see friends and family, and an extended network of neighbors and acquaintances we’ve developed in our many years of living in Memphis.
There are some people that I see only at this time of year. It’s great to catch up and hear what people have been up to, and swap stories about the previous year.
Sometimes people want to talk about yoga.
There are several refrains that I commonly hear when I am out and about.
None of these things have anything to do with your ability to do yoga.
If you want to practice yoga, you will find a way.
You will try teacher after teacher until you find the one who is the right fit for you.
When people talk to me about yoga when we are just hanging out, I take that to mean that they are interested in it. Even when what they are saying is why they can’t do it.
If you have heard yourself (or a friend) saying any of the above, let’s talk.
Sometimes you have to overcome your “can’ts,” “nots,” and “never haves,” before you can find your “will, your “want to,” and your “must do.”
I’d love to help you find your way.
In my world, the only alternative to aging is death.
With that in mind, getting older seems like a pretty good alternative.
So I am putting this out there as my official announcement.
I AM PRO-AGING!
This declaration does not come easy for me.
I’ve spent plenty of time, thought, energy and other resources trying to keep myself looking good as I move well into my 40’s.
Last week I got a phone call from a longtime out-of-town friend who is nearing 40.
He called to talk about his frustration with what he called “the whole work-out mentality.”
When I asked him what he was looking for in a physical or exercise discipline, he said an “anti-vanity” and “anti-self-loathing” practice.
He said he’s tired of all the emphasis on looks as if it were a competition. And tired of working out to make his body conform to some arbitrary definition of perfection.
I feel the same.
Like everyone else, I can find cringe-worthy flaws when I catch a surprise view of myself at a weird angle in the mirror.
So I’ve invented a few silly tricks to deal with the harsh reality of the fluorescent-lit retail fitting rooms mirrors. (Hint: use the mirror to look at yourself in the clothes, NOT to look at yourself from the back in your underwear!)
That’s a trick that works for me.
And I avoid certain situations that trigger self-loathing in me – like looking into magnifying mirrors or spending time with friends/family who comment on my latest pimple or skin tag.
I catch myself often. I hear an inner voice saying “I’m too this” or “I’m not enough that.” Then I stop and ask myself what is this self-judgement going to accomplish?
You could compare yourself to others’ standards of what’s acceptable at your age and what isn’t. But why don’t you join me in changing your inner conversation? Ask yourself you really want. What are you looking for?
Here are a few ways I answer this question:
I’m looking for the experience of feeling good in my body.
I’m looking to have the energy to do the things I love to do.
When I am with my friends and family I want to be myself.
I want to enjoy my activities as much as possible.
I want to pursue my life with passion and joy.
The above 5 things help me decide how I will spend my time.
If 60 minutes in a spinning class does not make me feel good in my body…if I have ‘friends’ who expect me to be prettier or thinner…if reading all the ‘right’ books bores me to tears…then FUHGEDDABOUDIT!
Life is too short.
I’ve considered my own death pretty seriously two times in my early life. In times of serious depression I’ve wondered if the world might be better off without me.
The end of my life would have been the ultimate anti-ager. I would have been dead at a young age — etched in everyone’s memory with nary a wrinkle or ounce of cellulite.
Why not end it all while you’re still looking young?
I’ll tell you why.
Because life after 20 and 30 and even 40 can be pretty damn good!
The crow’s feet and the (potential) jowls are a small price to pay for all the amazing experiences from each decade of my life.
This is why I am PRO-AGING!
Yoga is useful for all women…not just the super-bendy or the super trendy. And, if you think yoga is just a physical thing, think again.
From puberty to menopause, throughout monthly ups and monthly downs, yoga is a powerful tool. It helps us blend our awareness of our body with our emotions and thoughts and it can uplift and strengthen a woman through all phases of her life.
When I set out to interview women who practice Iyengar yoga for this article, I thought I would hear the usual reasons for their dedication to yoga. I expected to hear about stress relief, the importance of making time for yourself, and relaxation.
But what I found from the two women featured here was much different than what I expected. You might be surprised to hear what makes them show up for yoga.
Simone Wilson, 35, has been practicing yoga for 10 years and doesn’t think she could live without it. She first started practicing while working on her graduate thesis to relieve stress.
Wilson who has worked in a fitness center and taught spinning, especially likes the way that Iyengar yoga encourages a specific kind of practice during the monthly menstrual cycle. “During my cycle. I used to do what I usually did and pretend that nothing different is happening”, she says. “I think that’s how women go through life. I used to have the attitude that unless I really couldn’t move, I should push on! But since I started doing yoga, strength means something completely different than it used to, which was to ignore how I really felt. In my practice, I learned to support my own body weight. That’s mental strength as well”.
Post-thesis, she continued practicing yoga, taking classes throughout both of her pregnancies. She noticed that even while pregnant, she continued to grow stronger in the poses. “I was more aware of my body”, she says. “ I was able to do headstand, and had the strength to stay up even longer than I could before”.
Becca Franklin, 26, emphasized how yoga can help young women become more comfortable with their bodies. She cites the pressure on young women in our society to be shaped a certain way and to look a certain way. “Yoga helped me not to look at my body as an object – but to have a more internal experience of myself. My experience of my body has now expanded to include what I can do and what my body is capable of,” she says.
“During our twenties, we are looking to find our place in the world – to find a job, make friends and perhaps, find a partner,” she says. “Yoga is something that can take you from feelings of anxiety and uncertainty to helping you understand who you are and what your values are.”
Both Wilson and Franklin agree that the benefits of practicing yoga has helped them better deal with their emotions.
Wilson explains she is very good at multi-tasking. But yoga has helped her let go of the idea of having to do fifteen things at the same time. Now she concentrates on five! One of the major benefits of doing yoga she says is that it helps her connect with her husband at the end of the day. “ In everyday life situations, I now will often reflect on something before I just react.”
This attention to how our physical and emotional lives are inextricably linked is another reason why yoga is a boon for women. Iyengar yoga expert, Bobby Clennell, author of The Woman’s Yoga Book: Asana and Pranayama for All Phases of The Menstrual Cycle teaches women to watch how their hormonal rhythms play out in the body and the emotions.
Franklin says yoga has helped her take responsibility for her emotions and where they lead. “ I would get all caught up in my emotions,” she says. “Yoga helped me with this. There is a different level of awareness when, say, I am in the middle of a discussion with a friend or family member. I notice now that I have a couple of seconds to check in with what I’m feeling and think before I speak. I think, okay….this is something I have control over. I now have a few seconds to choose. I can make a decision to have an emotional outburst, or I can choose to respond another way. Now, because of my yoga practice, I have control of how my emotions affect what I do, and I have power over this. For me, that was huge.”