Aging is inevitable.  How do we do so gracefully?  It is all too common to try too hard to stay young.  Youth is celebrated, whereas aging is something of a curse.  Why so?

I see this a lot in the fitness industry - people think that to feel younger, they need to act younger, busting themselves with brutal workouts that are appropriate for twenty-somethings, but are not appropriate for fifty-somethings.  When we are young our bodies are a lot more forgiving.  We have not yet lived long enough to collect all sorts of imbalances in our bodies, so the focus on fitness comes naturally.  Running marathons, triathlons, bicycling, high intensity Power Vinyasa Yoga, it is all good.

By the time we hit the thirties and forties, we have a certain lifestyle established that is molding our body to suit - sitting at the computer, in the car, doing some repetitive movement at work, even athletes and physically very active people begin to feel that the body has changed over the years to accommodate daily activities.

In my mind, age should bring with it wisdom, self-knowledge and understanding.  If we hang on to youth against nature, we are denying ourselves self-acceptance that is such a gift.  As my body ages, through Yoga I am learning to listen to it.  I can feel that some things, even though I can do them, are just not appropriate anymore.  I find myself more interested in slowing down a bit, in taking my time during practice, and find ways not so much to deny aging, but to allow the process to be smooth and dignified.  When I stop pushing my body, it responds with easing into life.  It does not need to be a struggle.

So, instead of running, I walk.  Instead of Power Vinyasa, I do moderate, traditional Hatha.  A leisurely swim instead of countless laps on a timer.  I try and mitigate the damage my lifestyle inflicts on my body by tailoring my Yoga practice to my needs.  Knowing what those needs are also helps, and needs change as we age.

Meditation and inward gazing is a must as we become older, it is the only way to learn what/who we are, and to begin to respond accordingly.  As old age approaches, and the body is wearing down, the mind is still active and capable of great things.  People often are dismayed by the contrast - the mind feels so young, so full of life, but the body is no longer.  The only way to make peace with it is to start cultivating the mind before the body ages completely - with regular meditation while we are still young.  That way, by the time the body gives out, the mind has traveled a great distance as well and is able to appreciate the old age, and to surrender to it with grace.  One learns to experience life deeply on a spiritual, mental and emotional levels, and does not miss so much the body not being able to experience it anymore.  With meditation, we learn to let go of transient things, and come to accept the body as one of those transient things, as well as appreciate the eternity of the soul.  No fear!