When older people ask me “Am I too old for yoga?” I like to share this anecdote: In my early days of teaching in New York City in the 90s, I had a 10 a.m. yoga class on Tuesdays. The students were mostly women over 50 interspersed with a handful of students in their 20s.
You might think that the younger students had an advantage for accessing big poses like arm balances and inversions. But week after week, the older women consistently schooled the 20-year-olds in these more strenuous poses.
My suspicion? The younger students were still pretty new to their adult bodies. The older practitioners, on the other hand, had spent time in their bodies. They had spent countless hours, weeks, and years understanding what they could and could not do, both physically and mentally.
Wisdom comes with age
When we’re younger and start practicing yoga, we often feel driven to do the big, crazy poses. The irony: Bigger, crazier poses have never made someone a better student of yoga. That’s because yoga isn’t about achieving shapes. It’s about achieving stillness, slowing down, mentally digesting thoughts, and becoming more skilled at living a life of meaning.
Our yoga practice gives us the much-needed time to contemplate what the world is offering. It allows us to create some space from the inundation of data, and assimilate our news feeds, so that we can make conscious choices.
Yoga also helps us create better relationships with ourselves and one another. It helps us create more suppleness in our bodies, leading to more mobility and ease in everyday life. Starting a yoga practice offers all of these wonderful benefits, regardless of age.
How to start a yoga practice at any age
- Bring a similarly aged friend to a class. Having a shared experience with a friend is a great way to instantly feel more comfortable in a new activity. Having a friend of a similar age might be that key to feeling more comfortable as you acclimate to your new practice.
- Register for a beginner series which introduces you to other first-time students over the course of 3-6 weeks or longer.
- Find a drop-in class that caters to your age group. Local recreation centers often have some version of “yoga over 50” or “senior yoga.” See if your local community centers have a class that feels right for you.
- Attend intro/basics classes. You never know, after a few intro classes you might be ready for a level 1 class, then a level 2 class, then you might be the person schooling the 20-year-olds!
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About the Author
Amy Ippoliti is a yoga teacher, author, and earth activist known for her genuine style of teaching, intelligent sequencing, compelling and clear instruction, and engaging sense of humor. In 2012 she co-founded Vesselify (formerly 90Monkeys), an online and in-person professional development school that has enhanced the skills of yoga teachers and studios in 65+ countries internationally. In 2016 she co-authored the book, The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga, which has become a staple in yoga teacher trainings around the globe. Learn more at amyippoliti.com.