Friday, July 18, 2014
Aging With Grace & Body-Mind Practices
Lance Kinseth, 48”x60, acrylic/gallery canvas, 2014
This post appeared in a shorter form in YogaIowa, Summer 2014, Volume 2, Number 2. For information on subscriptions ($15 for 4editions annually), contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Bodhisattva Sheer For Kat
AGING OFFERS MANY gifts: The building experiences of life can offer a sense of color or subtlety to life rather than rigid black & white, a capacity to find meaningfulness in events that were more easily overlooked when younger, and a value for presence versus production. These qualities of subtlety and meaningfulness and presence are values that are at the heart of yoga practice itself. And so, aging with grace and a sense of remaining young at heart might be optimized in yoga.
Yoga offers suppleness that is crucial at any age, but especially as you age. Yoga can attend to physical aspects that are more relevant in ageing: lower back, shoulders and upper back, neck, and balance. Next to influenza, physical symptoms due to compression of the lower back or lumbar region have been described as the second most frequent reason for medical intervention. Beyond muscular-skeletal systems, yoga can optimize the internal systems of the body such as the respiratory, neural, endocrine, lymphatic, cardiovascular, digestive, and overall energy systems.
It is important to find the type of yoga that fits with your physical conditioning. Yoga emphasizes stretching which people across all ages tend to avoid. This often means finding a gentle yoga for most people at any age as point of entry, and it can remain as a primary ongoing practice.
Part of the problem in considering yoga practice is in the expectations one brings to the practice before one even begins. If you see someone bending over and putting palms on the matt or head to knee, and you cannot do this or you push hard in an attempt to do it, you are likely to feel frustrated and give up.
Change your expectations. Be kind to yourself.
In Awakening The Spine, Vanda Scaravelli admonishes us to free the body rather than control it, and to allow the pose to come to you rather than try to rigidly assume a posture. In Yoga Beyond Belief, Ganga White reminds us that
Yoga is a field where everyone can win, because winning is not about who does the best asana
but about learning to do the best asana for your body in each moment.
IN THE SACRED AND PROFANE, Mircea Eliade describes how profane, everyday activities express the sacred in a real yet indirect way. As we age, we might begin to recognize miracles and sacredness and exquisite intelligence in events that we once found banal or mundane or ordinary or secondary. With age, little tweaks and turns in events challenge our assumptions. Especially with the experiences of loss, we are offered an opportunity to recognize preciousness. Dividing the world into “special” and “banal” reflect our limits—sometimes our benign innocence and sometimes our intentional rigidity—that we place on reality more than life-as-it-is.
Body-mind work can optimize and perhaps accelerate this opening to the world as it is, and even offer an authentic or very real sense of grace, especially as we calm and still and begin to deeply listen. By linking consciousness to body, “body learning” adds a less conceptual and less culturally biased input that involves access to a more intuitive sense that is a billions-years tested wisdom inherent in body design. And yet it is important to acknowledge that an experience that seems to be purely intuitive may continue to reflect predominant cultural influence and to challenge this information. But by returns to such practices, a transformative serendipity becomes possible.