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.