Thursday, May 13, 2010

Deep Thoughts

Several things inspired this week's post: my 80-year-old teacher, Nicky Plaut; in Madison, Linda Sama's lovely, 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.


YogaSavy said...

The wisdom and experience they offer is great! I love teaching my seniors as they are fun, young,smiling and take each day as it comes. They have a sparkle in their eyes that lights up the room. I love them

Rachel @ Suburban Yogini said...

So true Brenda. At 20 I had no idea how darn gorgeous I was, and I look at photos now 16 years later and think "Really? I looked like that? wow!"

But if I had the wisdom and confidence that has come with the ups and downs of the last 16 years then truly I would have been obnoxious.

We have what we need at the time that we need it.

Much love

heather said...

Posts like this one make me want to print them and share them with my classes for inspiration!

It's so true - I get lots of "young things" in my classes, so flexible but so UNWILLING to listen to alignment cues. I can almost predict what injuries they are going to have in 3 or 5 years if they keep on, because I was the same way.

Every creak and ache in my body is a reminder of what I didn't know when i was younger, and I appreciate it for that reason.


Kristin said...

So very well articulated Brenda!

I especially got a chuckle about the young gal needing to cool off her hip bones as I have a student who does that through out class. By the end of a session her tank top is tucked up under her chest and her pants/shorts are like wise adjusted. :p

I disliked my 20's. I enjoyed my 30's. I'm *really* looking forward to my 40's because I know now that I have SO MUCH yet to learn and maybe someday I too will be wise. :)

Tiffany @ Moving Meditation said...

I definitely understand your message here, and I enjoyed this post (and Linda's). I'm 34, and I certainly realize now how little I knew at 24 - and I'm sure this is just the beginning! But it's a process, and I wouldn't give up any of those years - I learned too much. And I can't fault others for working through their own journeys - no one gets to choose his/her age, after all.

One thing I've learned is that age doesn't always dictate how much disappointment someone's tasted. I work with a beautiful 20-something who has already lived through more tragedy than I think most people deal with in a lifetime. And you never know what inspires someone to act a certain way. What if this young woman you mentioned has successfully overcome an eating disorder? Perhaps that body is something she worked really hard for. Or maybe not. I guess I'm just saying we don't always know the backstory.

Again, not trying to take away from the meaningful message of your post - just wanted to mention that because it felt important.

All the best,

Bob Weisenberg said...

Beautiful blog!

Bob Weisenberg

Jennifer said...

LOVE this - as I quickly approach the big 3-0 I've been thinking about all the things I have learned and how much I have grown and how less consumed I am with thoughts of having the perfect body or the perfect life or trying to make myself fit in to what I think is "perfect" and I'm looking forward to learning and growing more as I age...Thanks for this reminder! :)

Brenda P. said...

Thanks, all. I'm still thinking about this...the idea of collaborating with the body instead of seeing it as an adversary. Working with rather than fighting against.

Also, how obsessed the marketing world is with selling youth and improvements to the body. And how eager people are to buy. I guess because that's a lot easier than selling improvements to the mind.

Hmmm...stayed tuned.

Linda-Sama said...

"how obsessed the marketing world is with selling youth and improvements to the body. And how eager people are to buy."

because we live our lives as if we are going to live forever.

one of the things (i.e., the huge difference) that struck me about India and indeed, why I love it, is the differences in attitude about life and death. life and death happens on the street in india, literally.

sure we have homeless in america, but somehow it is different. so many things here are considered "not nice" or too upsetting to see for public consumption or something to be hidden away. life and death is in your face 24/7 in india.

one of the most beautiful things I saw (IMO) was a "funeral" procession in the middle of the night, the body was not hidden. people beating drums, throwing rose petals on the street, and firecrackers. as I walked closer I saw the body in what looked like a small pickup truck with the back door down, covered in flowers. all this amongst the street dogs, the cows, the beggars, the food stands, careening traffic, in front of what was at the time Chennai's newest mall, still beautiful and clean with it's marble and glass. moving slowly and reverently amidst the cacophony of Chennai. to me, the entire scene was honest and starkly beautiful. death in life right before my eyes.

I hope my body can burned on the Ganges and my ashes sent down Ma Ganga.

charlotte bell said...

Thank you for the beautiful post. I'm 55 as of today and have been practicing yoga for 28 years. It's true that in my 20s my practice was far more impressive to look at than it is now. But I wouldn't trade the hard-won mindfulness and subtlety of understanding I've gained over the years for all the advanced backbends in the world.

Emma said...

wait... WHAT???!!!

Nikki was my teacher in Madison, too! I went to here @ Mound Street, although I've heard from a friend that she isnt there any longer. Are you a Mound Streeter, too???!!

Brenda P. said...

@Emma, small world, eh? I first met Nicky thru Mound Street, but she has subsequently moved all her classes into a studio in her lovely home near Midvale Mall (Hilltop Yoga). She teaches 5 times a week and her waiting list is months long...

I searched her out last fall, when I decided I really needed to get back to a class for myself with some regularity. At that point I couldn't start with her until January--I'm now signed up thru Dec. 2010.

I love having an excuse to sneak up to Madison, too...

Anahita said...

As a twenty-four year old whose yoga practice is just beginning to bloom, I have to say that I absolutely loved this post.

I especially connected with this:

"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 want so much to move into this space of wisdom - and I will be wise enough to accept that some of it will only come with age. In the meantime, I will keep showing up on the mat. I love having this type of attitude to model, though.

Thanks for the post!

Namaste_Heather said...

What an inspiration she must be! Isn't it amazing the progression we go through and the priorities that shift and change as we age? I was just talking to someone last week about how I was a totally different person in my 30s than I was in my 20s. I'm 40 now, ready to turn 41 next month and I cannot wait for the journey that lies ahead.
Love and light,

emily said...

I love how eloquently you write about your teacher's body being "an accomplice in good health." Been thinking about this a lot since reading it a couple days ago and it is something to aspire to for a lifelong practice. Thank you for sharing!