I have been asked a few times what it is like to practice Ashtanga Yoga as I age… Here’s what it’s like.
In the Mysore room, I do what I can, and there are no judges to keep score. It takes work but is so worth it.
I began practicing Ashtanga at the AYCT when I was 59. I kept hearing how important exercise is for healthy aging and thought it was about time I got started. As it turns out, Ashtanga Yoga is so much more! Before I knew it I was hooked. I have been practicing 5-6 days a week for 8 years now. I think what makes it possible for me is the great teaching that keeps me going. In the Mysore room, I do what I can, and there are no judges to keep score. It takes work but is so worth it.
I have read somewhere that the asanas are the foundation of the practice. My sequence of asanas is my sadhana, and coincidentally it is also great for healthy aging. When I started I had little expectation, but over the years saw the conditioning effect in mobility, strength, and metabolism; even now. I cannot take any of these for granted! My daily practice is about an hour and 15 minutes long; and when I do not cheat on vinyasa, it is a moderate cardio for me. As I go deeper into the asanas, some pre-existing alignment issues have shown up. I am glad about this. I would much rather deal with them now on the mat with help from the teachers than let them turn into more serious conditions in later years.
David has almost cured me of lamenting “I am too old for this!” by now.
The physical benefits are real, but so are my physical limits. There are times when it is an experience of 1 step back and 2 steps forward. I am still trying to accept this. The last asana I have been practicing is Laghu Vajrasana, on and off for the past 2 years. No, I still cannot do it. But that is okay. My sequence whatever it is, is still my sadhana. David has almost cured me of lamenting “I am too old for this!” by now.
If the asanas are the foundation, then I suppose staying fully present with the asanas and the breath is the beautiful house on top. I have heard Ashtanga teachers refer to the practice as a meditation in motion. Meditation is also work! It is a matter of focusing, and refocusing, and refocusing… And somehow it helps to calm me down. This is what got me hooked, among the inevitable ups and downs in life. Sadly though, it is no magic wand. Any problems there before the practice are still there after. But I do feel calmer and more able to face them. When times are easy, I look forward to the practice to start the day. And when times are difficult, even doubly, triply more so.
I feel stronger now than I ever have. My asanas look nothing like the beautiful videos which I admire, but I am having fun.
So what it is like to practice Ashtanga Yoga when I am older? I am loving it. I feel stronger now than I ever have. My asanas look nothing like the beautiful videos which I admire, but I am having fun. My mind wanders sometimes (“which side did I just do?”), but that is part of the practice too. I am truly grateful to David and all the teachers at the AYCT for making the studio such a trusted and inclusive place to practice, at any age! I cannot say thank you enough.
Written by: Betty Cho