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05 March 2008

get real


I am recovering from a vicious upper respiratory infection and/or flu that I had for two weeks. I went to a yoga class today and we we were in Bow and I had to come down after only a few breaths because I still felt weak. I berated myself and then I told myself, get real. get real because what do I have to prove? I have/had a nasty infection that kicked my ass exactly one month after I had a vicious case of salmonella food poisoning that I brought back from India that also kicked my ass. My reality is that I will be 54 this year and maybe, just maybe, it takes me longer to recover from things than it did at 44 or 34 or 24. get real. be authentic.

If you are in your 40s or 50s or 60s, why are you still doing a yoga practice as if you were in your 20s? get real. be authentic.

"I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health."


After the class a yoga teacher friend and I went to lunch and we kvetched about what else, problematic yoga students. ahem....yoga teachers talk about students as much as yoga students talk about teachers.

My friend told me about an older student whom she told not to return to her group class because it was not the right type of class for him, he had too many health issues. she told me his whole litany of physical ailments the worst of which was uncontrolled high blood pressure that gave him exploding ocular headaches. she wanted to teach a safe class but he was not honest about himself when she asked if anyone had any health issues. he wanted to do everything, even poses that were contraindicated for his conditions. All I said was, "ego."

Ego. we're conditioned to bully our way through a class, whether it's a yoga class or anything else. no pain, no gain. even if it kills us.

My friend said just because people do yoga does not mean people can or should do every pose, the same way that because you can run three miles does not mean you should run a marathon. she felt that students truly do not understand this. she said that students think because we are yoga teachers we should be able to not only do every pose, but teach them every pose in any class they choose to attend, no matter what their physical limitations. she mused that maybe our calling as instructors is to help students realize that it is the nature of the body to grow old.

yes, we are dharma teachers on the nature of reality which is impermanence! I'm sorry, what did you say...you only came to this class because you read that Jennifer Aniston lost weight doing yoga?

If you are in your 40s or 50s or 60s, why are you still doing a yoga practice as if you were in your 20s? get real. be authentic.

"I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health."


I'm taking a workshop with Lilias Folan next month. for those of you who don't know Lilias (or who think yoga was invented by Madonna), Lilias introduced millions of Americans to yoga in 1972 with her television show "Lilias! Yoga and You."

Her website says that "Lilias has found that her practice and her teaching have naturally and even necessarily changed over time [emphasis added] as she has physically transformed into having what she describes as her current middle-aged body. Lilias draws on her years of experience, along with living in a changing body. In her new book she describes how to adapt yoga for a body growing older."

The workshop is advertised as "moving at an enjoyable pace we will prepare the body with interesting warm ups, salutation to the hips and more from her highly acclaimed book Lilias! Yoga Gets Better With Age".

There is a video on her website called "It's Not Easy Being Real." She says that as yogis, we want to be authentic, and that our challenge is to be real and to be an authentic human being as we age. she says the realness is that we age and if there's a glitch such as illness or maybe we don't move like we once did, that we should accept it with the wisdom that we are not 21. she says she does not want to be 21 again but she wants to be a juicy 81 year old. hallelujah.

I don't care anymore about learning a fancy arm balance. I choose to be a rasa devi.

If you are in your 40s or 50s or 60s, why are you still doing a yoga practice as if you were in your 20s? get real. be authentic.

"I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health."


Stephen Cope is one of the teachers in my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training in California and I think he's brilliant. I was googling some of his articles and I came across this video where he talks about how his practice has changed as he has gotten older. he says that he does not want to do the same practice now as he did when he was younger, that at 56 his practice is much more internal and meditative. in the video he advises how to adapt your yoga practice as you age.

yes, yogins, you are aging. every day. little by little. even those of you who can kick up into that perfect handstand will one day feel that crunchiness, that grinding of an arthritic shoulder and it will be your wake up call to your own impermanence. and it will scare the hell out of you because deep down it is your own fear of death. in this Botoxed, liposucked culture, many of us refuse to accept this, even yogis.

If you are in your 40s or 50s or 60s, why are you still doing a yoga practice as if you were in your 20s? get real. be authentic.

"I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health."


In May, my teacher from Chennai, India, Srivatsa Ramaswami, is coming to do a training. he wrote the book Yoga for the Three Stages of Life. Ramaswami says that as we get older our practice SHOULD change, that the older we get our practice should become more meditative. this is the Krishnamacharya way.




If you are in your 40s or 50s or 60s, why are you still doing a yoga practice as if you were in your 20s? get real. be authentic.

"I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health."


I find that the older I get, the more meditative I become, the slower I want to move, the deeper I want to go, the more I want to feel. I want to feel the juiciness of this seasoned body. I am not afraid to feel the aches and pains that crop up because I want to face them in order to move beyond them. I do not want to resist my pain because pain that is not resisted begins to soften. no matter how painful it is, it is a relief to feel.

Pain is not suffering. Stephen Cope writes that suffering -- duhkha -- is the resistance to that pain. duhkha is the pain of pain. as a wise ass buddhist once said, life is pain but suffering is optional.

***********************************************************

The Five Remembrances
(as offered by Thich Nhat Hanh in The Plum Village Chanting Book)

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
---Buddha

Never the spirit was born
The spirit shall cease to be never
Never was time it was not
End and beginning are dreams
Birthless and deathless and changeless
Abideth the spirit forever
Death does not touch it at all.
---The Bhagavad Gita

What is never born can never die.
---Sama




17 comments:

AdamZ Blog said...

this is kind of what has me fearful, I'm just entering my thirties. It was dreams of being in the pose Vrischikasana that actually sent me on my current yoga journey to begin with. Now I'm wondering if it's best a picture to keep in my mind...I don't have health problems, but I'm no Esak Garcia or anything...
Thanks for posting this,it helps me to remember I've got to let my body guide my practice. ^_^

Linda (Sama) said...

it's not the goal, adam, it's the journey that's important....

Yogamum said...

Thank you for this. Definitely something I needed to hear and ponder.

gartenfische said...

This is a reminder I need. The practice has helped me to become less of a striving yogi, but I am still too attached to doing it the way I think I should be able to do it. The fact is, as you said, quoting the Buddha, aging is reality, ill health is reality.

If we don't let go of attachment to utopian ideals of yoga practice, we won't be able to continue practicing as we get older.

Lilias is such an inspiration. A juicy 81 year old, yes! I am so glad to see her still teaching, reaching out now to the people of her generation, people who may have watched her television show thirty years ago. We NEED people---especially women---like her.

In our youth-worshiping society, it is a beautiful thing when women "of a certain age" come into their own, not caring what society says about the supposed value of an older woman.

The last time I saw my homeopath (I would guess she's around 55), she said, "I want to be a crone."

Here's to the crones of the world! May we all be juicy, whatever our ages.

Thank you for a beautiful reminder.

Kirsten said...

The yoga class in which I've learned the most is a gentle class, aimed at folks with various physical ailments, in which I enrolled in order to be with my mom, who has some balance problems.

There are folks in the class with arthritis. One woman had a double mastectomy. Several are morbidly obese.

And we all do yoga. Together. It's pretty darn cool.

Linda (Sama) said...

gartenfische, I've written before about "women of a certain age" and crones. it does not help that in this culture women over 40 are practically invisible.

and I certainly don't care what other people think, I think way too many women do. hell, I'm getting my nose re-pierced on friday and at the end of the month I'm adding on to one of my tattoos.

Linda (Sama) said...

kirsten, in Stephen Cope's video he says that those gentle classes are sometimes the hardest ones to teach because they require a stillness, an inwardness, a mindfulness that other classes sometimes don't.

less is more

YogaDawg said...

I like the new Yoga music groove thing on your site...who is the current artist?

Linda (Sama) said...

Prem Joshua...and there are also two Jai Uttal songs on after him, if people listen long enough....

Yoga Mama said...

Funny yet thought-provoking post. I can't stand it when I see students in my class going farther in a pose than they should. I try to guide with my words that it's best to feel comfortable and at ease in a pose versus forcing the whole thing.

I have to override my ego Lately because I've begun my third trimester of pregnancy and can't do a lot of things that I could do last week. Life is all about change and yoga reinforces this lesson on a DAILY basis. Thanks for the reminder.

FranIAm said...

What an extraordinary post - this is so amazing. And so very true.

This is so what I needed to hear today, thank you as always for another beautiful gift.

Shanti!

sarah said...

Thank you for such a thought provoking blog. It is very powerful, important, and enlightening.

Brenda Plakans said...

Sitting (even lying) quietly and just breathing with an empty mind for 10 min.s is infinitely harder than any ole' arm balance.

I'm doing well if I can calm the fluctuations for more than 20 seconds...

Linda (Sama) said...

would that others realized that, brenda....

sweetmango said...

beautifully written post my friend :) I completely agree. I just turned 40 but I don't remember a time when I didn't immerse myself in to yoga with only one intent:to be present.
Namaste
~*~
xxm

Theresa said...

As someone who came to yoga at the age of 46, I had a very hard time absorbing and accepting the concept of non-competitiveness: you are where you are and you are where you're supposed to be. You can only move forward by embracing where you are. Happily I'm still progressing-- improving my flexibility and strength in asana and deepening my meditation and studies. I still have hopes of doing a handstand for more than two breaths someday (ego!!), but I'm also lucky enough to have a teacher that has taught me that your body changes and yoga means accepting those changes. Hopefully I'll remember that when my body changes aren't as "positive" as they are now.

yogatravels1 said...

I am new to blogging and have you on my blogroll - been reading some of your older blogs and loved this one really hit home for me as a teacher and student. As a teacher I see this often the competitiveness within ourselves to be better, bigger, brighter, stronger - and as a student the difficulty in living in the moment and accepting all the wonderfulness that is me. Ahhhh conscious moments takes us to that place briefly - the start of the journey...