How often I hear my students proclaim, “I’m old!” like a badge of honor or an idea that was thrust into their minds and stuck there, unable to unhinge its hook-like claws. I always groan a little inside when these words are shouted emphatically in my direction or whispered underneath their breath like a mantra that they just can’t shake.
Please know I understand we all age. We will all have wrinkles eventually and aches and pains that weren’t there in our so-called youth can take hold of the body in the most unexpected ways. Yes, we age, but we don’t have to be “old.”
Declaring, “I’m old,” is one of the silliest things you can do. There is a power in whatever word you put after the words, “I am.” Your body is listening and will follow suit. “Oh, I’m old,” it thinks, and in turn starts to give you more of what you don’t want. (Now, I know that seems super yoga teachery, but in my profession I’ve been shown again and again how much the thoughts we think bring about the imbalances in the body – in my own practice and in the practices of my long-time students.)
And most of the time the person uttering, “I’m old,” is far from it. If you are in your late thirties, you are not “old.” In fact, I’ve known many people in their late eighties that are not old. The real sign of becoming “old” has nothing to do with wrinkles, or aches and pains. It has to do with stopping your learning process. When the brain stops learning, it becomes older – aged. And, when the body stops learning, it also starts to becomes what could be considered old.
We’ve all known people that simply seem stuck. They think the same exact thoughts they were thinking ten, or even twenty, years ago. They refuse to work through their stuff even if they are very aware of what their stuff is. And then they usually complain about how nothing changes or will change for the better. It’s an endless cycle that creates a very “old” human.
If you take on a regular yoga practice you will never become old. Yes, you will age. There may be postures you could once do, but can no longer accomplish. But yoga, is way more than a bunch of postures to achieve. Being a yogi is about becoming a devoted life-long learner – a seeker of truth.
My yoga practice has kept me young. I am not delusional – I know I look like my age. But I also am not upset about that. I don’t want to look like I’m in my twenties because it’s not the truth. But in turn, the more I learn about asana practice, the more I want to learn – not only for my Self, but for the students I teach. Any knowledge I gain is meant to be passed on to the best of my ability. I apply any knowledge I have to my own practice and though the body might take some time to truly understand what I am asking of it, little by little it learns how to respond in a new way to accomplish the task and challenge of the given posture. The body gets to stay young. It’s learning. The mind is flexing its muscles as well. And my spirit is pretty darn happy with the process, too.
The same is to be said when delving into any new pursuit. If you never played an instrument before and then, at age sixty-two you decide you are going to take piano lessons, you are contributing to a youthful state of mind. You are continuing to learn new tricks and probably having a ton of fun in the process. There are a million of ways to continue to learn, you just have to open yourself up to all of the options.
Youth is not in a bottle. It is not a cream or an injection. It is in the thoughts we think about ourselves, other people, and the world around us. Choose to learn something new this week. Start to build a posture you have yet to take on. Read a new book. Listen to your thoughts and see if you can come up with thinking something you never thought before. Walk a new path. Take a different route to work. Explore the world around you with a fresh set of eyes. It’s the key to staying young. It’s the key to making the most out of this life you’ve been given.
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