I can’t help it. I’m a believer. I really and truly believe that yoga is something you can do your whole entire life. Remember the famed “world’s oldest yoga teacher” Tao Porchon-Lynch? She was teaching yoga right up until her death at 101 years young. And she’s not alone. B.K.S. Iyengar was 96 when he passed, and he still practiced every day. Krishnamacharya was 101, and Indra Devi 102. Let’s all be inspired be these amazing yogis and yoginis, and allow their long lives with dedicated practice help open us up to the idea that no matter what our age, we can find a yoga practice that serves us.
Here are a few tips for life-long yoga practice:
1-Stop doing asana practice that hurts, or makes you feel bad about yourself. Sorry, but hot and sweaty yoga has to be off the table at some point. We also need to retire problematic poses. Luckily, as we get older we are forced to pay attention to our bodies more, because let’s face it, they talk to us with louder voices! Listen to your inner wisdom and find a practice that suits you better. Try a restorative class, gentle, or yin. It’s also okay to opt out of poses that you know don’t work in your body.
2-Incorporate other limbs of yoga into your practice. The poses we do in yoga class (asanas) are only one part of the whole practice of yoga as described in the ancient texts. In fact, asana is limb number three out of the eight limbs of yoga. The yamas and niyamas are number one and two, respectively. These social/ethical codes and self-discipline/personal habits are the foundation of all yoga practice, including asana. The other limbs are Pranayama (breathing practices), Pratyhara (sense-withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (bliss). All of the limbs can be practiced no matter your age or ability.
3-Practice a little bit each day. Our bodies were meant to move, so do a little asana every day. Some people are deterred from daily practice because they think they have to spend an hour or more on asana. Challenge that idea, and see how good you can feel with a consistent 20-minute practice.
4-But, allow for breaks. If you start to find your love of yoga slide, do something else for a week. Better yet, do nothing and notice how you feel. Most likely, you’ll appreciate asana practice even more after a short pause.
5-Add props. Props lead us to new experiences in our bodies by varying the asana. The Yoga Sutras tell us asana should be steady and ease-ful. Props can really help us continue feeling good in asana practice.
There are probably 100 ways to modify your yoga to be a lifelong practitioner. Always trust your instincts, make necessary adjustments, and remember the wise words of Tao Porchon-Lynch, “There is nothing you cannot do.” And, perhaps, yoga practice will be the thing that helps you make it to your 100th birthday!