This post is dedicated to all of my friends and family living life north of 50.
It is a personal source of pride and sometimes a dwelling space for a bit of internal show-off mentality - postures of mind and heart completely contradictory to the practice of yoga. My head stand. It always feels good to be the oldest lady in the class who is one of only a handful who can stand on the head. Over time, I have learned to move with control, especially on the descent. But we all know what they say pride comes before…
And so on this particular day, I was slowly coming down out of this posture, with my legs straddled, when I felt a small tweak and then an inward groan. Though my husband assures me that he had this experience during his intense sports playing days, I myself had never experienced a groin pull. Until that day.
I remember when I was a regular runner (a more accurate description would be jogger, though I realize that word is quite out of fashion these days) in my late 30’s. There came a time when I grasped the reality that I had passed my peak and prime. Even though I could keep up this activity for a time, I wasn’t going to get faster and most likely was on a slow physical decline in that area. In actuality, this particular form of exercise became a casualty of back-to-back spine surgeries. My physical therapist offered these words: “If you tell me that you can’t live without running, I will work with you to minimize risk of injury, but given your physical make up, I recommend that you find other ways to pursue fitness.” I surrendered. Pounding the pavement was not the best way to address my personal fitness needs given the physical body that I was granted.
This give and take process has only become more complex as I age. My dad assures me that it gets even more complicated and often says, “old age is not for sissies.” These days it feels like a giant tightrope walk to stay healthy and strong without doing too much damage along the way. I recently had a bone density scan, and I have the mild beginnings of osteoporosis. I was chatting with my naturopath about this, and she recommended jumping on a trampoline or repetitive lifting of 3 pound weights. Great, I thought. Those are things I can work into my routine.
With fair warning from a close friend on the possible issues for women my age of bladder leakage while jumping, I set out to jump for 10 minutes. About 5 minutes in, my left foot began to hurt. It was an issue that had taken three podiatrist trips, one orthopedic foot specialist and an expensive pair of orthotics to address. Ok, even if my bladder can handle it, jumping on a trampoline is not my answer.
So the next time I was doing my cardio workout at the YMCA, I picked up 3 pound weights and swung them in all sorts of directions as I moved. But after several go rounds of that solution, my sciatic nerve began to call out to me. NO WAY I am going back to that kind of back pain if I have anything to say about it. I have settled on using 2 pound weights, for now.
I could tell you several more tales involving issues of everything from teeth to cholesterol level to sleep, but I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say that I find myself in the same circuitous inner dialogue over and over. “If I do this, it affects this, so I need to do this, but then it will affect this” and then doing my best to choose the healthiest path forward. Many of my current fitness challenges are complicated by the presence of a 10 pound inner tube that has taken up residence around my waist since I was ushered into the passage called menopause. So many things to consider and balance.
In my 30’s, it seemed as if life would go on forever. Rationally, I knew this was not true, but it sure seemed like the challenges of middle and older age were in a very distant place. That distant place arrived in a hurry.
I have learned the importance of listening to my body and giving honor and space to injury and breakdown. Despite my desire to head right back into yoga classes that have the descriptors of power, intermediate and level 2, I am learning to be content in the yoga practice called gentle. They are lovely classes in a very different way. These experiences are also a reminder that when this body and mind know that it is time to take yet another step away toward more appropriate exercise as I age, there will be another place for me. I hope that by tuning in more fully to what my body is saying to me, I can avoid a few of the tweaks and groans.
One of my yoga instructors often ends class with an encouragement to be grateful for the bodies that we have. She reminds us that there are those who for many a reason are not able to be on the mat at all. As I approach the days and years ahead, no matter which yoga postures I can and cannot do, I wish for my heart to be always in a posture of acceptance for what is coupled with gratitude. I am convinced this will lead to aging with more grace for myself as well as spill out and over onto others. Namaste.