What’s Age Got to Do with It?

Via Peg Mulqueen
on Oct 31, 2013
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eka pada rajakapotasana

I wondered aloud to my teacher the other day…do you think Guruji thought of himself as more of a healer than a teacher?

Because sometimes I think we’ve taken this system out of context and forced it into our own more rigid, assessment-based educational model. With a perception of poses doled out based on some sort of merit system. Like those who move forward are to be congratulated while those who find them selves stuck or repeating must lick their wounds.

I read a blog the other day and it struck a chord with me. In fact, the author who is a (virtual) friend of mine sent it to me, believing her story might resonate. Her message did—but her words did not:

“Asana-wise, I have reached not just a roadblock, but my ‘peak.’ I keep saying to myself, ‘Hey self, you’re 42. You’ve made it halfway through Third. This is an accomplishment!’ … Working your way “up” the Ashtanga asana ladder is all I’ve known within the 12 years I’ve been practicing. What’s next is working my way down.” (Genny Wilkinson Priest)

Yes, I’m six years older than my friend. But quite frankly, I’m not ready to accept that I’ve “peaked.” And actually, this sentiment feels as uncomfortable to me as being hailed or congratulated for still “working my way up.”

You see, the forwards and backwards thing is misleading. If we consider this through more academic eyes, then yes—progression is a sign of advancement just as staying put or (heaven forbid) repeating is a sign of regression—or worse, failure.

The goal of an asana practice is to heal, purify and strengthen the body, yes? My goal is not necessarily to lift my Eka Bakasana A on the left side with straight arms, for five breaths…or, actually—it is. But more for the reasons I cannot, to overcome my obstacles, physical or mental.

So I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe all these postures are simply prescriptive, like some ongoing, brilliantly designed treatment plan. And the plan has order for a reason, as its transformational effects are well documented and studied.

But also, individualized and so doses will vary—as would pace:

The aspirant that goes to a Guru will find that the Guru will tailor his practice to his particular bodily constitution. Yoga should never be learned from reading books or looking at pictures. It should only be learned under the guidance of a Guru who knows the yogic science and is experienced in its practice. (Yoga Mala)

(And if Guruji were here to amend his book, I’m sure he would now include YouTube as well.)

So the longer I practice, the more I begin to see this practice less as an educational teaching model and more as a systemic healer. These postures are not (or shouldn’t be) a reward earned for a well-executed performance.

Instead, as the medicine works its magic, we continue on with the treatment. And if something stops working, we revisit.

The primary series begins the healing process. Second series brings further cleansing. Third moves us into a more elusive space where power and grace come together. And so on…or not.

If it appears linear, it’s because for the most part, it should be for the person in good health. But when we get sick or old (like me), we don’t get sent back a grade—we simply resume a treatment plan that meets our current needs.

Guruji began teaching yoga in a hospital. The story goes that one of his final tests from his teacher was to cure a man who was ill through yoga

So I ask my teacher again:

Do you think Guruji saw himself more of a healer than a teacher?

David G. got that crinkled, pained look on his face—the very same one he gets when he looks at my down dog. And he just started shaking his head …

No Peg. No. Guruji was a master of yoga. And yoga is a spiritual practice.

Ok, so my medical model might need to be tweaked and expanded. I get that. But still, there’s no graduation or failure as mastery has never ever been the goal.

Yoga is the goal. And yoga is a spiritual practice.

Spirit dwells in timelessness, free from the past, free from the future.


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 Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Alberto Villoldo: Yoga, Power, and Spirit


About Peg Mulqueen

With a gentle warmth and contagious sense of humor, Peggy shares her passion of life and love with all those she meets. She was a counselor for many years before stumbling upon one of the oldest forms of healing therapies: yoga. Since then, she has been helping others lead lives of change and renewal, exploration and—all from a yoga mat. When not on her mat, Peggy (her husband and two children close at hand) can be found on a surf board in Maui—learning to fall off gracefully and get back up, or suspended 500 feet in the air on a zip line over a Costa Rican jungle—conquering her fear of heights, or searching for the perfect cast, fly fishing in the wilder places of Montana. You can follow her adventures in yoga on her blog here.


2 Responses to “What’s Age Got to Do with It?”

  1. cosmicmom says:

    I'm turning 63 during my 200 hour YTT in December and feeling a little intimidated with all the youngsters that I know will be there. Thanks for your article.

  2. @pegmulqueen says:

    as much as i want to congratulate you, i actually think that's inappropriate. more appropriate would be to THANK YOU on behalf of your YTT group. the experience and depth you will bring to the learning is something that can only be accumulated by living – so congratulations to THEM for getting you! rock on sister!