Yoga-Agelessness in the Face of Aging by Brant Rogers
Some eyes rolled, a few jaws dropped, and several faint moans blew across the class when I explained that mid-life begins in our 40’s. Many of my more mature students hadn’t expected the label so prematurely. But to be more precise, I believe mid-life begins when we are touched by the notion that this body and mind are here temporarily. We gain a sense of middle age when the fog of delusion begins to lift a bit and we are faced with the prospect of leaving. My brother reached mid-life while a senior in high school after being diagnosed with leukemia. Most of us begin to suspect our mortality in the fourth or fifth decade of life. Some of us remain clueless through our last moments.
Faced with the limitations of time, body, resources, and a busy and manipulative mind, most—no, all—of us negotiate for a place of comfort in this fog even as it lifts to reveal the final destination. Botox, surgery, diets, supplements, drugs, new lovers, gymnasiums, and even yoga studios offer this temporary comfort and capitalize on a promise of keeping this unpleasantness at bay.
The paradox here is that students who attend my introductions to yoga for those of us in mid-life are the most receptive to yoga practice as a spiritual journey. I’ve observed that such students have a deeper, more profound, and honest sense of the suffering we create as we cling to what is temporary. They are open to an honest practice that allows them to reside in the here and now with warts and all.
My sense about these students is that, at this stage of life, they have had plenty of opportunity to “do” things well (and perhaps not so well). With age and with the dissipation of the energies of the body, this land of doing becomes a desert that turns drier. At this stage we are more capable of letting go of the “doing” and of being with ourselves in a direct experience of our lives and all the feeling it involves.
Joseph Campbell said that he didn’t think people were looking for a purpose in life so much, but rather, they’re looking for the experience of the rapture of being alive—physically experiencing this now, this here, in all its joy and pain. This is precisely what our yoga practice is designed to offer us: a path into the rapture of the experience of our existence.
Our history is strewn with the wreckage of explorers trying to find the fountain of youth. All of those doomed journeys began with the belief that we could own what we call youth. Yoga practice doesn’t offer anything of the sort. It offers us a way of being whole, an opportunity to let go of the seeking for something that we can’t own. Rather than finding the fountain of youth we become ageless in the face of aging.
Brant Rogers is an Anusara Yoga instructor in mid-life who teaches at the Sanctuary: A Center for Yoga, Dharma, and the Healing Arts. (www.yogajoy.net) He can be reached at the 503 235-5616 or at [email protected].