by Brenda K. Plakans
Several things inspired this week's post: my 80-year-old teacher Nicky Plaut in Madison, Linda Sama's lovely and thoughtful birthday essay, a bit in the NYT's Science Times. Overall theme: the wisdom that comes with age.
I watched a beautiful young thing jog around the track at the Y today. At each pass by the mirror, she checked herself out and by the end of the run had rolled her tank top way up and her shorts way down. I guess her hipbones needed to cool off. I thought about how much energy you expend on your appearance as a youngster--am I pretty/strong/buff/tan/thin enough? And, I guess when you've got such smooth skin, such endless energy, and haven't tasted much disappointment, it all seems like something that really matters.
One thing I find so inspiring about my teacher in Madison is that even though she inhabits an obviously aging body, she moves with such grace and ease. I watched her feet while we were doing Adho Mukha Svanasana and they looked so strong and balanced. Nothing scraggly or misshapen, no bulging veins or discoloration. Instead of seeing her body as something that must be tamed and offered up for others' approval, she presents it as an accomplice in good health. She works with it rather than against it, accepting the limitations (she now uses a headstand-chair) but still moving through all the poses her much-younger students obviously struggle with. I guess that's what 50 years of yoga will do...coupled with a good attitude.
This is where Linda's post and the NYT article come in. Linda talks about the acceptance that comes with age and the peace and calm that result from that acceptance. The article is about a study showing adults over 60 are much better negotiators, judges and counselors because of their ability to see multiple perspectives and their recognition of the limits of knowledge. There is no black-and-white. (Well, as long as you're not an aging member of the Tea Bag Party) I guess you start to realize that all the fighting isn't worth it. There's nothing to Win and you just wear yourself out.
I'm still pretty early in my Middle Age, but I hope I to take all of this to heart and let it guide. They say that Youth is wasted on the young, but I think I agree with the other maxim that says, "you can have everything, just not at once." You don't get boundless energy and an unlined face with deep wisdom--that would be overwhelming. As I move towards more lines though, I think I'm just fine with the trade-off.
Wisdom has more staying-power, anyway.
Peace out, y'all.
About the Author
Brenda K. Plakans has been studying yoga for 21 years, teaching for 7 and writing about it for 4. Her first class in 1989 in Philadelphia, PA was with Senior Iyengar teacher Joan White, and she continues to be influenced by that tradition and other alignment-based practices. She completed her own teacher training in 2003 in Washington DC, with Oya Horiguchi and continues to study with Nicky Plaut in Madison, WI. With her own students, she is a champion of common-sense yoga; no brand names, no celebrities, no secret handshakes. She hopes to bring her classes peace and calm simply by focusing on asana; the resultant wisdom from a beautiful Utthita Trikonasana is always relevant to daily life.
She lives in Beloit, WI with her two sons, ages 3 and 6; her geology professor husband; two cranky, aging cats; and an oblivious goldfish.
For more information about Brenda and her "Common Sense Yoga," including access her "Yoga Journal" articles, please visit her blog: Grounding Thru The Sit Bones.