I’ve been thinking about easy-going yoga practices vs. those practices where you push against…actually I’m not sure what I’m pushing against. Against what my body can easily do today, perhaps. Against the line where a luxurious stretch becomes effort. Against aging.
I mentioned it in a comment on the Friday check-ins a few weeks ago, I’ll quote my comment here: “…striving vs. maintaining, or possibly it is working hard in the practice (as in this post by Stacey Ingham about a recent David Garrigues workshop) vs. pleasure in the practice (as described by me in this post about the first David Williams workshop I went to).” Who doesn’t want a pleasurable practice? Why wouldn’t we just do easy, relaxing practices? I mean, duh.
But it’s like this wall of flesh is advancing on me. That’s the big bad boss in one of my kid’s games, “The Wall of Flesh,” I love that, haha. But look, if I push against it, this relentless advancing wall, I CAN gain ground. I CAN get stronger, more flexible, more able. On the other hand, if I do an easy practice, if I don’t push against that wall very hard, or at all, then IT advances. Just a little on any given day, but it does, and before I know it I’m back to pushing again, just to maintain, or I have to make my easy practice even easier, to maintain the feeling of ease.
Pushing practices are harder (obviously) and it’s much more of a challenge to get myself out of bed to push. Easier to get myself out of bed for something I think will pleasurable. Yoga as tai chi feels delicious. And it does maintain, and even advance (if you do it every damn day), although slowly (but safely, fewer injuries on this route). But that wall of flesh gets more powerful every year and the ground I’m standing on is turning to sand. I find I have to throw some hard-work practices into the mix on a regular basis just to keep where I’m at. Tai-chi yoga isn’t enough.
Joe Friel is a world class cycling coach and has written the bible on Cycling Past 50. In it he looks at studies on older athletes, either that keep up a ‘good enough’ training schedule as they age (they drastically slow the deterioration that comes with aging) vs. the ones that keep pushing hard. The pushers are just as good, or even better (faster, greater maxVO2 values, etc) than they were in their 20s! Bottom line: use it or lose it. (Friel has a new book coming out soon that I’m interested to read that looks at fitness and triathletes after 50, called Faster After 50, check it out if you like lots of science with your exercise reading.)
As Pamela says in the comments of that above post: aging body is real. We’re more tired just doing the same old things. Injuries happen more easily and take forever to heal. Everything is harder. I want to rest. It seems…kind…to honor that. I want to be kind to myself.
On the other hand: “Don’t give aging an inch!” says Gillian Lynne, and 87 year old choreographer in this terrific interview, part of the documentary, Fabulous Fashionistas, about older women who are killing it with style and grace. Two parts here: the first couple of minutes (first vid) introduces her and her work (and her husband who is 27 years younger):
And in the next couple of minutes she talks about her morning yoga/stretching practice and about pitting herself against the aging process, very inspiring.
Each day, each practice, each asana in a practice, I look at the question of how much to push, how easy to let it be. Sometimes ease is what’s needed just to show up at all. Sometimes I have to buckle in for some pushing—and I’m not talking about crazy, I get injured too quickly. But there is a continuum isn’t there, from going through the motions of practice like tai chi, through some effort, through wringing myself out. I almost never wring myself out. I’m lazy! And afraid of hurting myself—it takes SO LONG to heal…. I want some of Gillian’s verve and energy to keep up the fight. Actually I don’t want to fight at all. But it seems unavoidable. The war of attrition. Maybe there is a different way to frame it? Maybe engage, instead of fight…?
My weekly check-in is in the comments. Fridays are open-thread days to drop in, say hello, talk about your practice, what you did, what you didn’t do, commiserate, ask questions. Home practitioners especially need some community time and the Cyber Shala can offer that. Please join in!