My Post-50 Yoga Journey: Time to Celebrate Accomplishments
"How do you feel?" asked my teacher B, after I concluded my final one-hour practice teaching to become a yoga instructor. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all that I had accomplished during the past 16 months of YTT 200 training at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies in Camden, NJ.
There was a bond among the five of us who went through the journey together. We were forever changed in mind, body and spirit. During our closing ceremonies, we surrounded each other in a circle with a special blessing and chant of "om."
We were encouraged to observe and give positive feedback after each practice teaching session. "Leave the teacher open to new possibilities, alternatives and choices rather than the idea that there is a right or wrong way," B said.
As new teachers, we each created an affirmation about ourselves and our teaching. "I, Judi, am grateful for having completed my YTT 200 teacher training and look forward to sharing the benefits of yoga with others," I chanted three times, and then my classmates and teachers repeated it in unison to reconfirm.
Becoming a Teacher, but Always a Student
Gerald Marzorati, a former editor of The New York Times Magazine, wrote an essay in April called "Better Aging Through Practice, Practice, Practice." He recommends that during your life after 50 that you "Find something—something new, something difficult—to immerse yourself in and improve at."
He writes: "Which brings us to the beauty of a disciplined effort at improvement and, I think, the only guaranteed benefit of finding something, as I found in tennis, to learn and commit to: You seize time and make it yours. You counter the narrative of diminishment and loss with one of progress and bettering."
That's how I feel about yoga. I started practicing about eight years ago, after my husband M passed away. The physical part of the practice helped me stretch my body, increase my flexibility and improve my balance—both on and off the mat. When I focused on my poses and breath during those difficult times, I let go of my grief. Yoga helped me slow down and heal when I felt stressed.
The more I practiced yoga, the more I wanted to learn about this magical union of movement and breath.
In 2015, I started my training to be a yoga instructor.
In the fall of 2015, I registered for YTT 200 instructor training. I was hesitant and anxious after signing the papers. Could I handle the physical aspects of the program at my age? With my postmenopausal memory lapses, would I be able to guide a yoga sequence with multiple three-dimensional poses? Should I attempt this challenge during my life after 50? Was I ready, as it says in the The Bhagavad Gita (the first book of yoga) to go on a "journey of the self, through the self, to the self"?
I learned about anatomy, including the abdominal organs and how they move during asanas.
The past year and a half of studying and experiencing The Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras eight-fold path of yoga have been incredibly fulfilling—physically, emotionally and spiritually. From asanas to anatomy, from pranayama to physiology, from meditation to the Vedic lifestyle—my mind and body have been stretched in new directions and it feels really good. Even better, I know this brief expanse is only the beginning. Hopefully, I have many more years left to improve. Gandhi studied the Bhagavad Gita constantly during his lifetime.
"We are perpetual students," said B. "The best thing for a teacher is to be a student."
Teacher B (center) reminded my classmate A (right) and me that we are always perpetual students.
I Am a Yoga Instructor
"I'm expecting an emergency phone call," said my teacher N during the beginning of our Gentle Yoga class last week. "Can you take over and do the warm-ups if I have to leave for a few moments?"
The phone rang and up I jumped, ready to lead 20+ yogis and yoginis. There was no time to prepare, no time to worry. I guided the class through a joint-freeing series and the six movements of the spine.
I remembered the steps for each asana, thanks to all the practice and wonderful education I received at Lourdes.
My graduation certificate arrived in the mail today. I can't wait to frame it and hang it on the wall. In many ways, it means more to me at this stage of my life than my college diploma from Cornell University did at 21. A few years shy of 60, I am excited to celebrate my new accomplishments.
"Now the learning begins," said my teacher N, as she reminded me of all that I will learn from my students as I embark on the next part of my journey.
To read other posts about my yoga journey, click on the links below:
My Post 50 Yoga Journey: The First Step
My Post 50 Yoga Journey: It's About Mind, Body, and Spirit
My Post 50 Yoga Journey: Learning How To Expand My Prana
My Post 50 Yoga Journey: A New Perspective on the Body and Mind
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.