oj staying young

Lifelong yogis share their secrets on how to age gracefully, by Diane Anderson

Western yoga's master teachers can make the practice seem so effortless: performing challenging asanas in youthful-looking bodies while offering up profound wisdom and playful camaraderie. But the inevitable changes that come with getting older aren't always easy to handle. We talked with six inspiring yogis —all of whom happen to have had at ¡east fS birthdays — to gather their insights about what decades of yoga practice can do foryuur body and mind.

Patricia Waiden

Patricia Walden has studied yoga with B. K. S. Iyengar for more than 33 years. As the star of the ever-popular yoga for Beginners DVD, she's been teaching in people's living rooms for years, as well as at her Boston studio and around the worfd.

Sometimes I'll wake up stiff and wonder what my body w ill feel like if I start doing backbends. Then I begin practicing, and I forget that I'm 62. Twenty minutes into my practice, I feel younger. Inevitably, the power of yoga takes over and you feel ageless!

About 10 months ago, I went to my mat with the intention of doing a series of dropbacks from Tadasana (Mountain Pose). i thought, "Gosh, I'm over 60.1 don't know if I'm up to it." Then I remembered Iyengar's 80th birthday He did 108 dropbacks. His feet were planted; they didn't move. I realized it was my mind, and not my body, saying I couldn't do it. As we get older, we have to be careful of the tricks our minds can play on us. Sometimes your mind tells you to be careful for good reason, hut sometimes it's telling you that your body can't do something that it can do.

I look at films of the demos I made when I was in my 30 S and 40 s. I did a demo for my 50th and 60 th birthdays. My poses arc better, more integrated, than when I was younger. My flexibility and strength are more balanced, as are my effort and relaxation. I try to never take my body for granted. One of the things that comes with the aging process is that we feel such gratitude that yoga came into our lives and that our bodies still enjoy bending forward and backward,

I also enjoy more mental freedom now. My mind is much more expansive than it was in my 20s. T was judgmental and critical and narrow-minded. Things roll off my back now in ways they didn't when I was younger. I experience more contentment, and I don't have that obsessive thinking or cling to things iike I used to. Asana, meditation, and pranayama are great, but the philosophy really pays off, and vou start looking at things from ayogic point of view.

Thtyamas and niyamas [restraints and observances, the first and second of the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga] arc really in your cells. I don't think about whether T should tell the truth; there's no choice. And I allow other people in my life the freedom to be exactly as they want to be. Even though we know it isn't effective, we often try to talk people into what we think they should be doing. That's a prison. It t;ikes time to plant newsamskaras [patterns]. There is such freedom in letting people do what they want to do. You and they will be happier if they're doing what they want to do. Practicing yoga is a way to free yourself from suffering.

When I was younger, I would think, "When X happens, I'll be happy." When, when, when. At a certain stage in practice, you see that you can't base your life on contingencies. Things can change at any moment. Why not be happy now? Yoga has helped me go through reallychallenging times with grace and ease. You can say, "OK, things are hard right now, but everything changes. "When everything is great and integrated, that will change, too. Yiu savor good times and don't get as thrown with the changes. You just ride the wave. It's so much less stressful.


Kaur Khalsa

Kundalini teacher Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa and her husband of 27 years, Gurushabd, started Golden Bridge Yoga in Los Angeles and New York. Her passion is to help raise money for various orphanages around the world.

I get up at 3:30 a.m. I have a 2V2-hour meditation and chanting practice. My guru told me to rise in the ambrosial hours in the morn ing: "Clean your mind, get empty. Work hard and share what you have. Go serve for the rest of the day" The greatest energy is when night turns to day. No other animal sleeps through sunrise. The cows and chickens are up and about. But humans sleep in! Getting up early will keep you young.

And service is another great way to stay young. If you have no idea why you are here, if you are confused, you won't feel fulfilled. We all have a purpose. Ask what it is that you are supposed to do. If you serve, you don't have to worry and you'll always be taken care of. You can do yourself in worrying about yourself Because you arc worrying about death. But look outside yourself! There's so much work to be done. I want to teach and stay young and vital. Serving others is one of the best ways to stay young.

Irv new things out. I read lots of books, I swim, run, do weights, dance. I try a lot of things. And I am quite attentive to what I eat. So many people are depressed and

suffering. When you ask about their diets, you find there's a lot of sugar or fast food and not enough greens. Eating whole foods — organic veggies and fruits—is best. Having a garden and growing things keeps you connected to life. We have four dogs, so I think having pets is great. And stay social. It's important to celebrate and connect. We like to have people overall the time.

The yoga is just pan of the practice. Yoga is like cake without the frosting: Something's missing. You need meditation. It's the frosting.

Gratitude is another really important practice—seeing how even challenges are part ofyour path. Everyone has had tragedies and traumas. I've gone through hard stuff. Rut I'm grateful that all of that happened. Instead of saying, "Whv me, God?" I can now say, "Thank you." Learning forgiveness is key. If you hold grudges and resentments, then you get bitter. It shows on your face and in your organs. And you get old in your mind. So be grateful and forgiving. That's the only way to truly stay young and happy.

There are upsides to getting older. Now that I'm 6y, I get a io percent discount on Wednesdays at Whole Foods. That's great. And I really like getting a discount at the movie theaters, too.

David Life arid Sharon Gannon were performers and artists in New York City who discovered yoga and became deeply committed to practice. They created the Jivamukti Yoga method in 1984.

Sharon Gannon

Aly teacher, Sri Brahman an da Sarasvati, said, "Yoga is that state where you arc missing nothing." I like the sound of that. Yoga practices should help you to get over otherness and become more connected to life. I have come to realize that I am more than my physical body and mind. I have come to realize my eternalness, and that, I suppose, is related to youth oragelessness. This has occurred for me, more or less, because the yoga practices have helped mc to realize what my body and mind are actually made of. They are made of unresolved issues that I have had with others.

When you get an understanding of how karmas have shaped your body, you begin to act in a new way toward others and yourself. Your daily life becomes exciting, and like a child, you can hardly wait for the next opportunity to encounter an aspect of your past that needs to be resolved back into the emptiness of your own heart. I feel like this. The nature of a body is to change. All bodies Start out young and then get older as the years pass.

I am committed to the practices that Patanjali outlines as the

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