Reflections on being a yoga teacher in my 50s

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Are you in your 40s, 50s, 60’s … or anywhere north of there? Well first of all, congrats, stay well & keep aging!

Do you feel random aches and pains in your body? Do you feel like your thoughts keep dragging you into the past & into the future, and you have absolutely no control over them? Do you feel like your spirit was brighter when you were younger and you’re losing a bit of that radiance?

I’m speaking to you!

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I know that not everyone would agree, but I’m going to put this out there anyways because it’s what I believe. It’s what I live and feel every day.

I believe I am a better yoga teacher (not than anyone else) but a better yoga teacher than I would have been when I was younger.

 I am a better yoga teacher because I’m in my 50’s.

There. I said it.

The more you study yoga, the more you understand that it was never meant to be “about the poses.”  It’s about calming the anxious mind. It’s about feeling better (not only being in your body) but about your body, appreciating what it can do. It’s about kindness and compassion and a steadiness in your state of being. It’s about realizing that what’s inside of you is also inside of every other living being. It’s a practice.  It’s a process of connection; and then reconnection. It’s also about a million other bright qualities.

So let me get back to my original point.

I became passionate about yoga when I was exactly 50 years old. I was not an athlete. I was never super “bendy”. I always believed in the importance of taking care of our bodies, as a preventative measure. I wasn’t particularly spiritual. I wasn’t particularly “searching” for anything.  I had worked in a sales environment for 20+ years and had tasted success in the workplace; I had brought up my children (to the best of my ability!) and maintained a home and a loving family life (to the best of my ability!).  I had experienced a burnout, because of course my “best” wasn’t good enough; I had gone through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help me understand myself and others around me, and to take control of my anxiety – because only I could do this;  I had suffered a herniated disk in my back which took me 6 months to recover from; my children were getting older and beginning to leave the nest. In one yoga class, at the age of 50, I remember clearly letting go of the weight on my shoulders (aaahhh “savasana”). I took one deep breath and when I exhaled, I felt lighter. I felt calmer. It felt magical.  About 6 weeks later, I was in Baja California for a 4 week Basic Teacher Training and the rest is “Build A Better You” history.

Today, I have developed an amazing community of yogis that follow me, support me, and fill me with purpose. They may not number in the thousands (yet!) but these people understand what yoga is about. I believe with all my heart that the journey I’ve been on until now – the anxiety, the burnout, the broken back, the aging kids, the aging parents, all of life’s stresses –  I believe all of it has made me a better yoga teacher than the younger version of myself would’ve been!

My yogis will always know that whatever they are doing on the mat that day, that they are good enough.

My yogis will always know that when we move our bodies, strengthen our core, develop muscular strength and practice balance, we are not only building strength in our bodies, but more importantly, we are building resilience; we are building foundation; we are building our Selves.

My yogis will always know that they have control over their thoughts, and that being present is a practice.

My yogis will always know to be grateful for all the body parts that work; and not focus on those that don’t.

My yogis will always know that stillness is a luxury; a time to listen, a time to allow the nervous system to heal.

My yogis will always know that their energy is available to them. At times, they will have to dig a little deeper to access it, but they know that their spirit, their energy, lives within.

My yogis will always know that with every breath taken in, they are given an opportunity to nourish their body-mind complex, and with every breath out, they can choose to let go of something (a thought, an emotion, a story) something they are carrying which may not even belong to them; may not be theirs to carry.

And on those days where my yogis (or myself) can’t quite access what we know, we know the theory but can’t seem to put it into practice,  we all know that it’s ok to feel that way. It’s important to allow our feelings to exist, to feel them, accept them, name them, and then to use all the tools we have gathered, to come back to the practice. To believe in ourselves, and in our own light. To believe that we are good enough. To believe we are compassionate and caring and connected. To find the composure and the stillness deep within ourselves so that we can help others from a place of strength.

If none of this speaks to you, I honour you.

I know for a fact that when I was younger, all of this might’ve been “woo-woo” talk for me. I may have looked for a younger, fitter teacher, in attractive leggings, one that could jump into a headstand in half a second. This might have been my idea of a good teacher. With the benefit of 56 years behind me, I know that I share yoga & meditation as tools for healthy living off the mat. I share these practices as a process to understand ourselves and others better. I share yoga to every “body” because it is meant to be accessible to all. 

If you have a body, and you breathe … you can do yoga.

This is an industry that has been hijacked by social media. We tend to see young, thin, supple bodies posting pictures of themselves on the beach practicing a handstand.

With the wisdom of age, comes insecurity as well. Am I good enough? Am I fit enough? Am I flexible enough?

Yoga has taught me that it’s not about this external, superficial, sexy view of the practice. It’s not about jumping into a handstand and snapping a picture. It’s about what’s inside. And when I remember this, I answer the questions above with a resounding “yes“. The limitations I may have (age, injuries, fear) are only limitations if I allow them to be. Otherwise, I see them as strengths that enable me to share this practice with the wisdom of having lived 50+ years in a human body.

So there you have it.

I am a better yoga teacher because I’m in my 50’s. 

doritReflections on being a yoga teacher in my 50s