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OMG!!! I'm 64 next week!                                         

Last year at this time I published a blog post which I'm re-hashing this year - because it's still relevant - and some students won't have read it. So here it is:

Don't know how you feel about birthdays - particularly the "big" ones marking the end of a decade. Some people get nervy reaching 30 never mind 40 or more. And I was somewhat disturbed the last time I visited my hairdresser to find she and another girl  working there were having botox done - one of them not even 30 yet - and quite frankly - stunning looking without any "help!"

What's that all about?!

I'm not about to have Botox any time soon that's for sure, but I have to admit that hitting 60 bothered me.

Where had the time gone? When I was in my 20's, 60 was ancient!

And it wasn't the 60 so much that bothered me either! Know what it was?

It was the countdown to 70 - which scares the hell out of me!

I find each birthday since 60 my inner gremlin is saying - "Only 10 years to 70! Only 9 years to 70! only 8 years to 70!

And now, next week, I'm only 6 years to 70!

How scary is that?!!

My 70 plus yoga students will tell me it's not so bad. They look fab; and their quiet determination to do what they can to stay as fit as they can for as long as they can is inspiring, even if they are already feeling the effects of age through inflexibility or other conditions. They come to yoga because they want to increase their sense of well-being - and hold back the years - just like my hairdressers do - but through something far more powerful than botox.

And that's why I'm grateful to yoga.

I have long-standing friends, some of them younger than me, who are struggling with their health.

I feel blessed. I'm more supple than my kids. My core strength is pretty damn good for someone my age, though I say it myself - and I'm working on strengthening it even more. My energy levels are good, and my enthusiasm for life's challenges and experiences remain strong.

I have some twinges of arthritis in my right hand (probably RSI from typing too many blogs and training courses!!). And yes - there are some saggy bits around the neck (and other places I'd rather not divulge!!) and some wrinkles I sometimes feel bad about - but on the whole, I'm not doing too badly.

I say this not to brag. Because I don't think it's anything to do with genes.

I believe it's EVERYTHING to do with yoga.

And for those of you thinking to yourself - "oh well it's OK for her - but she teaches it/has more discipline/more time/" etc - actually, while I did teach for 5 years in my twenties - between 30 and 60 I didn't teach because life was just far too hectic with children, career and all that. And even my personal practice - whilst I never gave up entirely - was often spasmodic.

But I did keep returning to it - and I did build a routine which - whilst it was only 15-20 minutes long, I managed to do regularly. Truth is, in the end, it was no longer discipline - I began to notice how when I didn't do it I didn't feel so good - so I wanted to do it - and then that became as much a habit as cleaning my teeth before bedtime.

I know I can't do anything about my birthday next week! Whether I celebrate it or not (and I AM going to celebrate!), it will happen anyhow. I WILL be 6 years from 70 in exactly one week - whether I like it or not!

I can't change that!

But what I CAN do something about is HOW I get to 70!

Here's what yoga does for me:

  • Yoga challenges me to stretch myself a little more every day.
    (Remarkably, what this physical stretching does for my mental ability to stretch outside my comfort zone is pretty cool too!)
  • Yoga is helping me increase my strength and flexibility - in every way.
    The more I gently challenge myself, the more I realise I can do. (Physically AND mentally!)
    This is not about doing foolish things; about over exerting yourself or competing with others or trying to show off advanced poses - but it IS about gently encouraging our bodies to continue to move with grace and ease and comfort; so we can still squeeze out every drop of fun and adventure or even handle life's challenges better.
    (You know there's increasing research now showing older people, given a regime of weight training/other exercise, fare far better health wise than individuals not on that regime.)
  • Yoga encourages me to care for my body - and eat healthily. In the last few weeks I've started moving from being vegetarian to vegan.
    Psychology research suggests that if we build discipline into our lives in one area, it spills over into other areas. For years now I've never dieted - despite having yo-yoing weight and slight bulimic tendencies in my teens and early twenties. 

    I found myself wanting to eat more healthily - taking more interest in how to eat a balanced and interesting diet. I stopped weighing myself - and focused on looking for foods which would keep my energy high, and leave me feeling good rather than bloated or sluggish. I've been vegetarian for 14 years now - and following my time in India for my advanced teacher training, have decided to move gradually to vegan.

    It's not about being obsessive - it's just about caring about what I put into my body - (and maybe a new-found respect and thought about where our food comes from.)

  • Yoga keeps me calm - and sane - and grateful!
    Life can be challenging - and no matter what your age, those challenges can sometimes knock you sideways.

    It's no different for me. Over the last year I've seen my Mum degenerate severely as dementia takes over. As I write this it's unlikely she will see out the end of the month.

    I can't tell you how many times I've left her and fallen apart. There are times when it all feels too much.

    And I know many of my students face, or have faced similar daunting challenges. We need a reserve - a bank of inner strength and resilience, which will help us through those periods with a little more grace and ease.

    Yoga always helps in those challenging times - even when you don't realise it!

    Sometimes you look back and you don't realise yoga is actually helping you cope, until you realise how you've managed to stay a little calmer than usual in a crisis; or when you've had a setback, you've bounced back a little more quickly than you used to; or when you find yourself appreciating little things somehow a lot more than normal.

    Yoga's mental and emotional effects are often subtle - but quite profound. As you build resilience in your body, you build resilience in your mind - with massive personal benefits.
    (And hopefully staying calmer, more grateful and less likely to frown will stave off those wrinkles a bit more too!)

Quite an impressive list eh?! Can botox do that?!! I think not!!

I may be 6 years off 70 next week - but I think I'll continue to pass on the botox and stick with the yoga!

I hope you do too.

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Shona Garner

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