A Changing Practice
There are certain aspects of practicing yoga that get easier with age: For one, competition tends to fade away with time, say many older students. "I don't look around to see what everybody else is doing or wonder [if I'm] doing it as well as someone next to me," says Westervelt. Being less competitive actually makes it easier to practice self-acceptance and surrender. Cappy sees this in students. "They're really happy with who they are, and they bring a spirit of acceptance—not acceptance of their limitations, but of who they are in the world." While older students still play their edge and hope to move beyond their limitations—they still want to learn, grow, challenge themselves, and expand—they've also settled into a sweet acceptance of themselves and their lives, which allows them to enter into a contemplative practice.
Concentration and meditation may be easier to come by in later years, when life isn't so jam-packed with the demands of job, home, relationships, and family. "Teaching meditation to this group is so special," Craig says. "They have the time for it, and it really resonates for them." As you get older, you want to be more present and less rushed. There's a tendency to see the importance of slowing down and being in the moment. And there's more motivation because you realize it's now or never. Francina uses her classes as an opportunity to prepare students for the ultimate transition. "The spiritual life includes facing death," she says. "There are many natural opportunities to discuss death and dying in classes for seniors. When I teach Savasana, I explain that in this posture we practice the art of releasing ourselves from our attachments and letting go."
Finally, the openness that yoga promotes can help transform relationships. Bartholomew says yoga has given him a greater appreciation of his children. When his daughter-in-law confronted him, saying she believed he had Alzheimer's, he took tests—which came back clear—to mollify her and his son. Instead of harboring anger and resentment at her accusation, though, he told his daughter-in-law that it was a great thing, because he became more aware of his health. "It brought my attention to that," he says.!--page-->