A Letter of Gratitude to the Wise Women of Yoga. ~ Christine Festa

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I see you.

You come to class with integrity and you carry your body with grace. You are in your 50s, 60s, or maybe in
your 70s. Sometimes you are wearing simple sweatpants and a t-shirt, other times you show up sporting a big rock on your finger and Lululemon pants so fitted it’s as though they were hand-sewn for you. Rock or not, those fingers have fine lines, and those lines represent years of wisdom gained.

I hear you. 

You let out a gentle sigh as you stretch back to downward facing dog. It’s a sigh that signals comfort and familiarity. You’ve been here before, maybe hundreds of times,  or maybe thousands of times, but in this pose you find release. You find peace. You go into your body and forget what is happening around you.

I practice with you.

You might glance over at me and smile. What exactly is behind that smile? Do you snicker to yourself as I set up my brand new Jade mat, because you remember a time when there were no sticky mats? Have you been practicing that long? Do you smile at me because I remind you of a daughter or a granddaughter? Smile aside, please know that it is an honor to practice next to you.

I teach you.

Again, you smile at me. Perhaps I say something that truly resonates with you, or maybe I say something
that you’ve heard, in some form hundreds of times before, from dozens of other yoga teachers you’ve studied with.

You take a breath as my hands adjust you. My hands handle your body with care—a body that has seen decades of joy, sorrow, gain, loss, history and triumph. I handle you with care not because I think you are fragile, but because I hold such respect for you and where you’ve been.

I handle you knowing that where I take you might not be new, but I hope, I just hope, that it helps you find some sort of release.

I notice you.

You float into headstand, as you have hundreds of times before. Your mind is calm and clear. It seems as if
you’ve completely forgotten that there are other people in the room. You breathe, you press your foundation into the mat, your toes stretch towards the sky, and you find stillness. You notice me.

I fly into crow pose with little effort. Perhaps you used to do the same. Maybe you’ve retired the pose
because your body has changed, and it might no longer be appropriate.

Perhaps you look at me with longing, wishing that you still had that type of practice—more likely, you look at me knowing that you were once there, and one day I will be where you are, watching a younger version of me. I bet you could care less if everyone else in the class flies into crow.

After decades of yoga asana, you’ve long left your ego behind. You are confident, cool, and collected. You don’t need to perform for anyone. You don’t need to do every pose. My ego is busy whispering in my ear to fly higher and do more. Maybe we can grab coffee after class and you can help teach me how to keep it quiet?

I tip my hat to you.

Perhaps you are not the woman that I’ve described above. Maybe you recently came to yoga, and wish you had discovered it sooner. I hope you know it doesn’t matter the point at which you discovered it, what matters is that you are here now, in the present. I hope you know that it is something that can be a part of you for the rest of your life.

No matter your level of yoga experience, your level of life experience brings an element to your practice that I won’t be able to comprehend for decades to come. It doesn’t matter what the body physically can or cannot do on the mat, what matters is what transpires in your body and your mind while you flow, meditate, and breathe. The “stuff” that no-one else can see but you.

I bow to you, wise woman, however old you are and no matter where you are within your yoga practice. I hope you know that I want to be like you when I am also in my wiser years.

You inspire me at every moment. Your presence reminds me that I can also keep my practice with me for the rest of my life, no matter what form it takes. Thank you for showing up to the mat week after week.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you again, from the bottom of this much-less-wise yogini’s heart.


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Assist Ed: Bronwyn Petry/Ed: Sara Crolick

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Christine Festa

Christine turned to yoga when the stress of her 9-5 job became too much. Soon after her first savasana, she was hooked. She discovered that it not only gave her a much needed break from her hectic day, but it also calmed her mind and helped her remain in the present. Her passion for the practice grew and years later she became a 500 hour certified teacher. She is a self-proclaimed alignment junkie and is kind of obsessed with inversions and arm balances. She also writes both silly and serious blog posts for her website.

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anonymous Oct 12, 2013 12:31am

What a beautiful article.

anonymous Oct 11, 2013 9:11am

At 68, I am so fortunate to have yoga mates in their 70s and 80s. I think of them as wise yoga women, but Christine is also a wise yoga woman. This article touched me to tears as I realized that I'm pretty wise too. Thank you.

anonymous Oct 11, 2013 8:06am

At 62 and just back into yoga after decades away, I loved this! My Jivamukti teacher is so gentle but helpfully demanding. The young Kripalu pup elsewhere let me overdo and pull something in my back, more interested in the more experienced, supple ones. Thank you for this!

anonymous Oct 10, 2013 11:14am

Hey, some of us really ARE fragile … not looking for "release" in a yank adjustment … agile but limited in physical range, so to speak.

Too many young teachers around, would never think of adjusting someone like me, as they would their frail grandma (assuming they actually LIKED their grandma ….) …

I weighed this little—last—when I'd been 12 years old … and don't want the whirlwind tour for my "journey" …

    anonymous Oct 10, 2013 12:47pm

    As the young teacher who wrote this article, I hear you loud and clear. I never yank anyone in my adjustments (nor should any teacher for that matter). Also, I ask each and everyone of my students if they have any injuries or conditions that I should be aware of before starting class. I hope all teachers do this. Thank you for your words of wisdom. Namaste!

anonymous Oct 9, 2013 8:16pm

One day, young one, you'll look back and smile at all asana's you've formed, knowing that there comes a time when you move beyond that, and finally understand what yoga truly means, you'll sit quietly and connect within, radiating that with what you are connected with and you'll no longer be attached to whether you can kick asana or crunch into crow. My deepest wish for you is that you may experience that too..

    anonymous Oct 10, 2013 5:55am

    I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for the kind and graceful words. Namaste.

anonymous Oct 9, 2013 5:58pm

Oh I love this , so beautifully written , Full of grace , love and respect . Almost brought a tear to my eye ….
I am 57 , I have been practicing yoga for about 8yrs. Currently taking my yoga teacher training .
I too do not care if I can do a handstand , head stand or flying crow…. It is important to me to keep moving my body ..
I am hopeful to look as beautiful , graceful and relaxed as this lovely woman .~Namaste~

    anonymous Oct 10, 2013 5:55am

    Your kind words are treasured and much appreciated. Thanks for reading. Good luck with teacher training, it changed my life!!

anonymous Oct 9, 2013 4:28pm

As a 62 year old who started practicing in 1967 and recently started teaching, I am sooooooo moved by this article. Thank you <3 Namaste and hugs.

    anonymous Oct 9, 2013 6:00pm

    Yes jann , I too loved this article .

    anonymous Oct 9, 2013 7:16pm

    Thank you so much for the kind words and best of luck teaching!! Namaste.

anonymous Oct 9, 2013 4:11pm

As a 60 + yogini, I cried reading this. Oh, you are wise, so very wise. Thank you for sharing this wisdom.

    anonymous Oct 9, 2013 5:59pm

    Ms Marcia , I am with you . wise wise wise ……

    anonymous Oct 9, 2013 7:15pm

    Thank you so much for your kind words. Namaste.

anonymous Oct 9, 2013 2:06pm

Such a beautiful article! I smiled all the time while reading. I practiced on a prayer rug at home and a simple towel in class back in 1974. No mats, bolsters, blocks. Yoga clothes were sweats or satsang 'whites' not Lululemon black. But that's not what made me smile most. It's ALL of your words and how you wrote with such an open heart. You understand that it doesn't matter when someone starts a practice or which asana they can or can't do. What matters is that one practices at all and connects with all others honestly with respect, love and kindness. I am honored that someone younger looks at older women with gratitude this way. Too often we become invisible with age. Thank you. You are a wiser yogini than you know!

    anonymous Oct 9, 2013 7:14pm

    Your words just made me cry. Thank you so much. Namaste.