The neverending story: More on Ashtanga and aging

The topic of Ashtanga or yoga and aging has been a popular one here. We’ve talked about the practice as a woman ages, yoga as an old people’s sport, on peaking and finally the very popular can you be too old to start Ashtanga.

It is the neverending story. Until it all ends. And then begins again, unless you break free.

Now, Mary Taylor at Ashtanga Yoga Workshop has tackled the question, which I promise I did not ask:

I’m 52 this year and have been practicing Ashtanga for 12 years. This year, more than others I have sensed that my practice is slowing down. There is this rumor going round, that Richard and Mary are over 30, so I was wondering if they had any insights into this process, had had similar experiences, or could advise on how best to distinguish the aging process, from laziness.


Here is part of her answer:

More specific to your immediate question, is that of course the aging process changes the body. It can take longer to recover from an injury or a “tweak” that may have occurred due to misalignment in a pose or outside of the practice. The body takes longer to warm up, and one’s natural flexibility may decrease as we get older, and so on.

But a fundamental reason we practice is to bring deeper and subtler levels of awareness to the body, mind and emotions on a daily basis. A foundation of the practice—beyond the particular poses we might be practicing—is watching changes within these fields of experience, and catching oneself sooner when the mind is “being lazy,” when we’re believing our presuppositions rather than observing what’s actually arising, when we’re trapped by samskaras or overrun by the obstacles that are constantly tossed in our path.

Given I’m still fairly well south of 52, I’m not going to claim to be an expert on this. What I do know is that, as much as I wish I had started practicing yoga when I was a potentially more flexible 25 (or younger), my access to the “subtler levels of awareness” just wasn’t there. (Read: I was too immature and too plain stupid to manage an ongoing yoga practice.) It still may not be there. But during the past few months of my self-enforced back-t0-basics yoga practice, I’ve discovered a little more of those subtle levels, a little more awareness of the bandhas (check Taylor’s full answer for their importance), a little more focus — a little more dristi.

I’m not claiming some fantastic yoga practice, just one that I think is better than it was a few months ago. But one that still sucks, no doubt. So to that extent, yoga and aging are a good match.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

7 thoughts on “The neverending story: More on Ashtanga and aging”

  1. Listen to your body and do what you think needs to be done. Do your yoga and don’t judge yourself against a younger you. Experiment without jumpbacks and jump throughs and see how it feels. May not be Ashtanga in certain teachers eyes but who is to say???

  2. I have to laugh. My daughter is 8 and can’t move a muscle but in her mind she thinks she is doing Ashtanga yoga. She practices basic pranayama doing employing ujayi breathing and that’s about it besides me twisting her into some different positions. She will never sit up, walk, nothing but she has watched videos of some pretty impressive asana and she feels she is also doing that (she doesn’t have a cognitive disability). We are all disabled and we are all able. There’s no such thing as an impressive yoga practice. What did Michael Jordan Say? “I’ve lost more than i’ve won” and he was the greatest player in the game. It’s only asana practice the only thing that matters is inside.

  3. I started at age 49 and am now age 62. At age 60, my mindset changed — it wasn’t about “progressing” but rather about losing more slowly. Interestingly with that change practice became easier and more asanas came.

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