As we age, it sometimes seems as if we and our bodies are at war. We live in a culture that seems to put a negative spin on aging, and all too often, we buy into the negativity bias of aging. And all too often, we are so disconnected from our physical bodies that we fail to recognize or acknowledge the compassionate nudges and clues our bodies give us about what they need to keep working on our behalf. Our bodies are wise, but we need to connect with that wisdom.
It is essential to recognize that every single thing our bodies do every minute of every day is to benefit our existence—to keep us alive and hopefully healthy. And even when we aren't taking good care of ourselves and giving back to our bodies in the form of healthy habits and wise behavior, our bodies still work to keep us alive. Every pain, every headache or stomach ache, is a warning that there is something we need to address. Too often and for too long, our response is to find a pill that will "fix it."
When we are young, we may be overly obsessed with how our bodies look. Are we thin enough, are our bodies' shapes appealing to whomever—in other words, do we look good enough? And then we are dismayed when as we age, our bodies do not look the way our society says they should look; they also don't feel like we want and expect them to. And whom do we blame? The demon enemy—OLD AGE! Sometimes we react by simply being in denial. I recently met with an eighty-year-old who said she wanted to start doing yoga. She was dressed to the nines when we met, fully made up and doused in her favorite perfume. She absolutely denied that she was old. And when I, not that much younger than her, said there's nothing wrong with being old, she was visibly angry and upset.
Embracing the wisdom of the body is a good thing to do at any age. But I think it is an especially beneficial endeavor if we want to age well and with grace. One of the best places to begin this journey is to start a yoga practice. And by this, I don't mean just taking a class called "Yoga" once a week. A practice is something you endeavor to do regularly with a desire to get to know and understand your "Self" more deeply. When you get a glimpse of your whole self and don't just see the aging face you don't recognize in the mirror, you can begin to feel gratitude and appreciation for the exquisite vessel that you live inside of.
Yoga can help us find a new way of being in our bodies—a way that allows us to live and breathe from the inside out. Learning to tune into our bodies from the inside out can give up insights that help us to "make the house of the body a fit place to live." I love this description from Donna Fahri's classic book on yoga, Bringing Yoga to Life. Our bodies are wise, and it is never too late to tune into and take advantage of this wisdom. Our bodies will respond in kind when we do.