A while back I attended a week long women’s yoga workshop taught by Patricia Walden. I have reflected on the age of the group and the high quality and standards of our teacher and her students as they practiced their yoga. Of the 40 students, all but two ranged in ages from early forties to seventy. The maturity and experience of the group could be felt and observed in shared conversations at meals, walks, and free time. Reminded to practice “right speech” by Patricia in our opening gathering, the group shared more personally and from the heart. This kind of deliberateness comes from choice and maturity from experience.
Age was a topic on the mat and off, and was often accompanied with laughter and sometimes tears. Aging is a process that reminds us that everything changes. Life changes like the seasons, the body changes, family and work come and go and people we love move on and die. Buddhism teaches that it is our resistance to change that causes us to suffer. It is human to want to hold on to those things that make us feel good and secure.
Aging and maturing is the human experience of creation, living, growing and evolving and then passing on into non-physical to be born again. The practice of yoga so keenly and intimately keeps us in touch with this process of change. Yoga connects us to feeling the body and the changes in the body. We can observe our thoughts and mental states and how they play out in our lives. This path of practicing yoga to know a deeper level of our self is called Svadhyaya, self-study. It is in this process of going deeper in our poses, in our breathing practices and in our relaxation that we connect to a feeling of well-being. It confirms an intrinsic knowing of being OK, of being one with self and other. This difficult to define experience takes us beyond having a body, or issues, or age or paralyzing emotions. In that moment, in the deep practice of Savasana, or the well known Trikonasana, the mind has become clear and focused and for a few moments dropped all the fears of change in our present moment. Our practice becomes a “time out” from our over stimulated lives and a time to recharge with clarity and focus. With maturity comes experiences and from experience wisdom evolves. The Sutras define prajna as wisdom, inner knowing, and inner knowledge. Living this path of yoga, the gift of age is prajna. The more we live and learn from our living, the more we can use our experiences and self knowing to guide us. If a goal of yoga is to eliminate suffering, then it is in our maturing wisdom we have the freedom to choose what takes us towards joy and what binds us, what keeps our hearts open and what closes it down. Then mature choices really begin!