As I looked around the yoga room, a 40-year-old man held a handstand in the front row. Behind him a woman in her sixties stood on one leg in a difficult pose called Warrior 3, the rest of her body suspended in space.
A thirtysomething pregnant woman balanced similarly with support from the wall, and a young man, new to the practice, took rest in Child’s Pose.
Each one was practicing yoga. Each one was practicing correctly. Yoga does not discriminate. We do.
As I teach yoga, I see an increasing phenomenon in the room. People of all ages practice together, breath together, and learn together. Yoga gives this to anyone willing to give it a chance--at any age.
The yoga pose joins the body and mind, preparing it for meditation. The yoga room exhibits the joining of these ages into one community. Other forms of movement might be age-dependent or less accessible as one grows older, but yoga bends to the individual’s needs. Its benefits flow from one stage of life to the next as it and the practitioner evolve together. No time in a person’s life is the best time to practice yoga. Rather, any time is the right time.
Yoga in childhood and adolescence builds physical cognizance and it improves overall spatial awareness. Early development of healthy postural habits can help support the body through the stages of growth and decreases risk of injury in the future. Young practitioners gain the confidence to try new things in a safe, supportive environment.
Young adults in their twenties and thirties face new challenges. The stress and strain of attending college, beginning a family, embarking on a career path can take a toll on physical health and emotional stability. Yoga helps the practitioner cope with these transitions.
Adults who spend all day sitting at a desk or driving a vehicle can begin to experience poor form and posture. Common are compression in the spine, hips, and joints, along with forward head carriage and those inexplicable but persistent aches and pains. Yoga has the unique ability to increase strength, stability, and flexibility.
Later, as muscle mass begins to decline, yoga can strengthen the deep stabilizer muscles around joints--a feature often overlooked in a regular strength-building workout. Concurrently, hormonal changes can wreak havoc with men and women, and yoga can increase physical power and endurance which can decline with these fluctuations. Yoga can help in the contemplation of one’s right way of living, and a meditative practice helps to explore facets of the self without judgment or expectation.
In a person’s sixties, seventies and beyond, the practice of yoga becomes milder and more therapeutic. The focus is on mobility and balance and finding or maintaining healthy and satisfying ways to stay active while respecting restrictions. Yoga changes as a person changes. At this stage of life, yoga promotes and reinforces a well-cultivated, hard-earned mind-body-spirit connection.
So the gist of this story is surprisingly simple. The benefits of yoga at different stages in our lives are the same at all stages. A thoughtful, insightful yoga practice helps the mind cope with the inevitable problems and tragedies we can face at any age.
Yoga teaches us to try something new and put ourselves out there. It teaches us to fall down and get up. It shows us compassion and encouragement on our own terms, free from the limitations of winning or losing, success or failure. Yoga does not ask us to conform. Yoga meets us where we are. At any age, at any time in life--it’s the perfect time to begin.
By Taylor Henry
Taylor Henry has been practicing and teaching yoga in the River Valley for many years. She currently owns Seva Yoga Studios in Fort Smith. She teaches group classes and holds private sessions focusing on anatomy, sequencing, and creative ways to approach the student and the practice. She holds a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology and is currently pursuing her RYT 500 certification through Yoga Medicine and her teacher Tiffany Cruikshank.