I Wonder If...
I wish I had started yoga sooner when I was much younger. Maybe if I did I would know more, understand more, and even have an advanced asana practice.
I often regret having gone to the gym for so many years, doing mindless exercise. I was 15 when I started going to the gym. It’s not that I didn't enjoy it, I did. I went to the gym to keep fit, burn off the extra weight, crunch 100 sit-ups every day. Firm my thighs and my butt. It was a physical challenge, in pursuit of the perfect body. I focused on my physical defects and spent many hours trying to change them or get rid of them.
During our Ashtanga Intensive last July, there were a few students in their teens and early twenties. They were fit, supple, strong, and of course, young. Even though we were studying the same material, they somehow seemed to have a head start. They were on the path I wish I was on at their age. At that age, I was partying, at the gym or spending endless hours at the beach with friends. As I look back, I really wasn’t working on myself or doing all I could to be a better person. It was all about having fun, dancing at the latest club, sporting the latest trend, showing off my abs and legs and of course, finishing university.
I was one of the older students. ‘A wife and mom of two.’ Even though I may have been practicing yoga longer than the younger students, I couldn’t help but feel a tad envious. Maybe I am too old for the physical demands of Ashtanga yoga. Not that I feel old--I feel full of energy, strong and flexible, maybe even more so than in my twenties. I appreciate all that I am able to do and there is still so much more I want to do. I have experience and wisdom on my side. I am a wife, a mom, a sister, and a friend; that must count for something. But the body of a forty-year-old is not the same as that of a twenty-year-old. As we age, our joints become stiff and we are prone to injury. I have read that older practitioners have a modified asana practice, they meditate more and practice pranayama. Does that mean I should give up hope of learning new postures? Should I stop working on my handstands?
In philosophy class during our Ashtanga Intensive, we studied the Yoga Sutras. The first Yoga Sutra says:
“Atha Yoganusasanam” meaning Now, the teachings of yoga are presented.
I recall that during the discussion of this particular sutra, our teacher explained that Yoga can only begin once the student is ready to learn; and once the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I guess it’s like the saying ‘You can bring the horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink.’ I find comfort in this sutra because before I started practicing yoga, I wasn’t ready to practice. I was content on the path I was on and didn’t feel the need to change.
Even though I started practicing yoga in my thirties, I know now it was at the perfect time. And today I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The process can not be rushed; I needed to give myself time and space. As students, we must be ready and willing to learn, if we want lasting results. Many of us are unable to see this truth even if it hits us in the head. But we must remember that we are never too old to learn or start again.
What’s important is what is in your heart, how you treat others...not only your loved ones but strangers too. How you interact with your environment and the daily choices you make. Feeling at peace, even when everything around you is falling apart. Whether it’s a dynamic sequence of Ashtanga yoga, making beautiful art or meditating under a mango tree, do whatever it takes to make you the best person you can be.
Lots of love,