By Desiree Rumbaugh
In my thirty years of practice, including owning a yoga studio for fifteen years, and my twenty years of traveling the world teaching yoga, I have had the good fortune of meeting and learning from students from diverse backgrounds. One recurrent pattern of thinking that I have often heard is the idea that our yoga practice should decrease in intensity as we get older. Many people feel that they no longer need to push themselves in their practice and they are more and more content to focus on restorative poses and meditation.
Now that I am nearing the age of 60, I hear and I truly understand these thoughts, yet I also feel strongly that here is another perspective. In my experience, aging gracefully requires more rather than less exercise. The majority of yoga postures can be therapeutic if we know enough about our anatomy to align ourselves well and engage our muscles during practice. When there is weakness in the body, it can be strengthened at any age. When there is stiffness, the fascia that holds the muscular patterns can be released. We are never too old to work with this balance of strength and flexibility.
When I first took up yoga in my twenties, I learned to practice from a very strong knowledge base of biomechanical alignment. In my fifties, I have added working with physical therapists and a personal trainer. The goal of my practice is simply to feel better. I do this not by avoiding poses that are painful or challenging, but by diving deeper into the question: “why is this hurting me right now?” In my quest for knowledge and with curiosity about my pain, I find answers that heal and new ways to strengthen and stretch that inspire a change in my practice that is always for the better.
What we do on our yoga mats can teach us to be more inquisitive and then apply this reflection to our life off the mat. When we have conflict anywhere in our lives we can get curious and move towards the situation rather than backing away in fear. The end result of our courageous curiosity will be growth and healing.
Join me sometime for more on transforming fear into curiosity. Bring your back, knee, foot, hip, shoulder, neck and wrist issues to a workshop. Explore all the possibilities, learn some new strengthening exercises and bring the passion back to your mat. Be willing to blow away the fear. Let’s explore together and see what we can learn.
By Desiree Rumbaugh
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
As I embark on my 60th year of life, I find that one of my favorite sentiments from the masterful Gandhi are words to live by. As the natural process of aging keeps me on my toes, I find that growing older gracefully is a practice that takes presence and an open, positive mindset.
Here are principles I apply in my own life:
Redefine your thoughts on exercise. Let go of comparing your present body to your former one. Be open to new possibilities. Be okay with the inevitable changes by learning to live in the present moment. You may stop running in your early thirties and take it up again in your fifties. You may begin weight training or cycling in your sixties and you may fall in love for the first time with Pilates in your seventies. There are endless possibilities in life if we remain open. Having a regular and very intelligent yoga practice that is steady and strong will make all of your physical activities more sustainable. It is never too late to stimulate our muscle growth, which helps to stabilize our joints and yoga keeps those muscles fluid and healthy.
Have friends of all ages. In addition to enjoying time with your peers, having friends on either side of the age spectrum adds perspective in both directions. Learn from the experiences of others and share your own wisdom with those who ask. Keep up with our fast-paced ever-changing world and you will never be bored. It’s fine to appreciate the “good old days”, but avoid getting lost in the fear of change by over-reminiscing or romanticizing the past.
Keep a beginner’s mind. Learning something brand new is going to take some effort and you will have to be okay with the beginner’s learning curve, but in the end, the growth you experience each step of the way will make it all worthwhile. Most people spend a large portion of their adult years perfecting one particular skill set through their work. While this leads to mastery and is typically the basis for a satisfying career or hobby, it also takes up a lot of our time, preventing us from learning anything new. Keep your eyes open for a brand new opportunity that may present itself at any moment and be ready to shift gears.
Continue to create your life. The moment we stop creating our life is when life begins to happen To us instead of Through us. Of course, there will be times when there are changes that are out of our control. We may even become dependent on others as we age or we may lose our ability to set our mind on a new track. If we are still able to direct our own mind then there are possibilities of creatively working with our circumstances to live the best life possible.