My teacher tells me that one of the primary reasons she is encouraging me to become a teacher is because of my great love of yoga, but I'm concerned that, with my increasing age, I'll become less flexible. I'm worried that I won't be able to demonstrate all of the extreme yoga poses because of my age and physical limitations.
What are your thoughts about becoming a teacher at an older age, and the associated physical limitations that will come with that? There is so much more to yoga than the physical aspect, but I don't want to be viewed as an inferior teacher because I can't do all of the pretzel or balancing poses.
Read Desirée Rumbaugh's reply:
Yoga is about more than just what the physical body can do, as you yourself pointed out. It's always possible to heal and make progress with the physical body as long as it's done with knowledge and understanding of anatomy, physiology, and proper alignment. Your potential has less to do with age and more to do with biomechanics and breath.
To whatever extent any of us are willing to explore possibilities, information and guidance are available to us. Many of us who are now in our fifties and beyond are discovering how much we can do and how our bodies and minds can still change and grow. Remember also that many students are in the same place that you are right now; they will be strongly attracted to a confident older teacher who has learned how to manifest grace and contentment physically and spiritually.
The advantage of becoming a teacher when one is older lies in the maturity level and life experience that we can bring to our teaching. There is more power transmitted in the teachings of someone who has actually addressed neck and back problems than in the lessons of one who has only modified or avoided doing poses that call for more strength and mobility in these areas—or one who has never had to face the issue of these physical problems at all. That is why I love and teach Anusara. We are trained to discover why these areas have become limited and how to make changes in our practice that transform them. When this type of work is done, miracles happen. What inspires students is someone who can say, "I [or one of my students] had that problem and now I am [or they are] free of it."
People trust someone who has been through some life experience and has learned and grown from it. What isn't good is when an older teacher feels limited. That instills fear and is a big turn-off to students.
My point is that we all have to do our work sooner or later. That's the real gift we bring to the role of yoga teacher: understanding what it takes to do our work.
Good luck to you as you follow your heart toward your true calling.
Desirée Rumbaugh teaches from the experiences of more than two decades of practice. She was one of the first students to study with John Friend, and one of the first to be certified in his Anusara method of yoga. As a full-time teacher, Desirée travels the world offering workshops, which are innovative and transformative, challenging and compassionate. She has a well-earned reputation for deepening the most new to the most seasoned practices, through humor balanced with a quest for authenticity. September 2007 marked the release of her first DVD entitled Yoga to the Rescue, which is specially designed for those who have avoided yoga because of a lack of flexibility, low fitness level or chronic pain. Her newest DVD entitled Yoga to the Rescue for Back Pain was released in January 2008 with wide acclaim. For more information, please visit www.desireerumbaugh.com.