The Relationship of Yoga and Aging

Q: As you know, many baby-boomers have entered their 50s, and some of us are even approaching 60. With the advancing age come the usual aches and pains, minor injuries and major illnesses, and increasing concern about lost beauty and strength and missed opportunities. We all know that yoga helps us stay youthful and energetic, but what does it have to teach us about facing the inevitable aging of the body with equanimity and grace?

A: Yoga teaches us that we are not our mind and not our body. It gives us practical methods of shifting our identity to that which is our true Self

Q: What are some of the deeper yoga teachings about aging and the inevitable loss of strength and youthful looks?

A: The body/mind container is a precious tool and when it is used wisely can help bring one to Self Realization. We only have so much time in one life and we never know how soon we will get reborn into another body or if that body will have all the advantages as the one we have now does.

Q: How have you experienced your own aging process?

A: I haven’t really had time to dwell on it much. As far as asana practice I can still do most of the things I did twenty years again although it does take me longer to warm up. I still feel driven by an urgency to share the teachings I have been blessed to have been exposed to, in hopes that they may benefit others, even more so cause I know as I get older I am that much closer to death.

Q: What about the pervasive media messages that suggest that aging is a downward negative spiral that needs to be resisted at all costs?

A: For the most part the media uses fear to get us to buy stuff. When you understand that, you aren’t bothered by it cause you see through to the motivation.

Q: What about the apparent contradiction within yoga between the emphasis on surrender and acceptance, on the one hand, and the emphasis in contemporary yoga on youth, strength, and energy? How can we approach our yoga practice not as a battle against age but as a flow with the inevitable changes of age?

A: Yoga Practices are ways of cleaning up our karmas (actions). Residues of past, unresolved actions are found in our body and show up in the way we move in and out of each moment. The life of one body is a short time, but it is an opportunity to work out some of those unresolved karmas. Kindness toward others is the way to work out unresolved karmas. When we are angry, afraid, full of quilt or blame the body ages and we get tighter in our body because we get smaller in our minds and hearts. Yoga can show us a more expanded potential and can help us experience expansion into that potential beyond the restrictions of body and mind.

Interview by Stephan Bodian Yoga Journal Magazine January 25, 2005