Waylon & Yoga Troublemaker Michelle Marchildon talk Ageism & Negativity. #walkthetalk

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Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis.

Michelle Marchildon joins Waylon Lewis for a discussion about ageism, negativity in the yoga world & how being honest & brutally transparent will set us free.

Elephant is psyched to be working in partnership with Google+ on our new live video series, which features three live videos a week (that can be watched later, too).

michelle marchildonmichelle marchildonmichelle marchildonmichelle marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is The Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist and the author of two books on yoga including: Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga & Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga. She is a leading contributor to yoga media, including elephant journal, where she is a featured columnist. She’s also a national ambassador for the yoga resource Teachasana. She is an E-RYT 500 Hatha teacher in Denver, Colorado. You can find her on her blog,  on her Youtube Channel or take her classes online.

Ideas Michelle has discussed recently:

1. Why are many people upset with older yogis?

My next book is co-authored with Desiree Rumbaugh on how to use yoga to stay strong at any age. We’ve been surprised by the backlash in the community when we’ve written articles on this subject. It must be challenging some kind of norm in our culture of wanting older yogis to sit quiet in a chair. We want to stay as strong as possible, as long as possible, and so I’ve been called “The enemy of aging.” I guess people want us to go gentle into that good night.

What’s more, the thing about getting older, is you get this attitude which enables incredible freedom. Some people call it the “F-You Fifties.”  I have never felt more enabled to be authentic. However, yoga is not always hospitable to the aging. It is a youth-oriented business. So perhaps writing about all this is an open and authentic way is challenging people and making them uncomfortable? I don’t look like your typical little old lady.

2. Why do you want to destroy yoga?

I think many of us have been surprised by the anger in the yoga community. We’ve had a number of yoga scandals rock our world, and a number of disgraced yoga “gurus.” Everyone’s numbers in the classrooms are down. My articles bring light to this, and as a result, I’ve been accused of wanting to destroy yoga. I love yoga. But I don’t think that by hiding some of the darker elements it makes us better. I think confronting our demons makes it better. People these days are very quick to assume the worst. It’s a lot harder to think contemplatively instead. I think one of the best lessons I’ve learned from my practice is to pause before I react. And I don’t think yoga is dying. I think we just have so many more teachers and offerings that the students are spread out. It’s like cable TV. There are more options than ever.

3. How Do You Write a book?

This is perhaps the question I am asked most of the time. How do you write a book when you have a busy life? The answer is the same as with many things: perseverance. Not everyone gets to take a year off and go to Italy. I had to write my book at the soccer fields. Also, getting older helps. You realize you are running out of time to do the things you want to do. The next best thing would be to be diagnosed with cancer, which, um, I was. That also lights a fire under your ass.

4. How could you be so honest and reveal so much in your memoir?

That is perhaps the second most frequently asked question. My answer is the same: I can’t believe I waited so long. Fifty years is a long time to keep a secret. I can tell when people have read Chapter Two. They look at me differently. But for me, it’s very freeing to be honest and brutally transparent. A closet is no place to live.

Michelle’s latest on elephant:

Why Kale May Kill Us, So I’m Getting a Divorce. 

Moving on: Why I Left the Kult-A. 

Instagram May Be Hazardous to Your Health. 


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photos: Michelle Marchildon


The Elephant Ecosystem

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Walk The Talk Show

Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis is fun, yet fundamentally serious. We aim to be “The Daily Show of mindfulness,” spreading the good news beyond the choir to those who weren’t sure they gave a care. Our videos are featured on more than 20 sites, including elephantjournal.com. Fan us on facebook too.

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anonymous Feb 9, 2014 8:07am

You are so welcome. I have found that having community with me has been the biggest saving grace of getting older on the mat. Even if I have a broken toe, or sore back, I am not yet ready to do chair yoga by just sitting in the chair. I want to try and stand on my head, but I need others to hold my feet. Yay for community and older lions and lionesses of yoga.

anonymous Feb 8, 2014 10:38am

I have been practicing yoga for ten years inconsistently. I am now two months into a Yoga Teacher-In-Training program. I am 56 years old. I am also a "wounded healer" and practice social work/counselling. Hoping to combine yoga with my counselling practice in the field of recovery for I believe we all are in recovery from something. Michelle's comments today have helped me on my path. "When the student is ready,……….." I look forward to reading her books. Thank you for this video.

anonymous Feb 7, 2014 6:18pm

Michelle is partly right. I have been practicing yoga since 1997, and I am not able to find a yoga studio in my hometown that teaches somehow advanced yoga for middle aged people ( I am 54). The choices are either geriatric yoga, or bad vinyasa style yoga where the attendees scoff at women who are older than 40, and where they do more harm than good. I am forced to advance my practice through taking webinars and workshops. At my age, I am able to perform advanced asanas, and I have to warm up way more than when I was in my 30s.

anonymous Feb 7, 2014 5:49pm

I came to yoga way before it was trendy. Most of my life, people always thought I was much younger. I did yoga because I enjoyed it and transitioined out of figure skating, and dance. So I never came to yoga because of injury, it was because I was already very body aware. And I meditated regularly as part of my lifestyle. But – (here's the big but) BUT…. since I have had an injury which has stopped me from taking part in yoga for a while, and I have been volunteering in the community, I have struggled with how I'm noticing the culture change – exactly how you describe Waylon. I love some of the "big yoga names" out there too, but I don't enjoy idolizing. I go to instructors that I connect with and I follow them to whatever studios they go to, like I would have with a skating coach, or dance instructor. And re "suffering"…. I believe, anyway, that if one is not humbled by their suffering, (or witnessing others suffering), perhaps they haven't yet reached a state of true suffering or empathy. (at least thats my experience). Since my injury, I have experienced how the medical / health / so-called "wellness" field categorizes people by age…. and therefore I do not talk about my age in such a way as to categorize myself as society will do. And I think this attitude is helping me to always know that observer "me" at any age. At least I hope so ….

    anonymous Feb 9, 2014 8:06am

    Suffering brings us into more. That's my hope at least. I am more empathetic, kind and generous with myself and others as I go along in years.

anonymous Feb 7, 2014 2:56pm

Never Too Late
“Yoga is a gift for old age. One who takes to yoga when old gains not only health and happiness but also freshness of mind, since yoga gives one a bright outlook on life, and one can look forward to a happier future rather than looking back into the past which has already entered into darkness. The loneliness and nervousness, which create sadness and sorrow, are destroyed by yoga as a new life begins. Hence it is never too late to begin. Yoga, if started in old age, is a rebirth that teaches one to face death happily, peacefully, and courageously.

Therefore, nobody is exempted from doing yoga and there are no excuses for not doing yoga. How useful is yoga can only be understood by practicing it.”

—from Yoga: A Gem for Women by Geeta Iyengar (Timeless Books, 1990)

    anonymous Feb 9, 2014 8:04am

    This is so beautiful Leslie. Thank you for quoting Geeta Iyengar. I truly believe that the real beauty of the practice is only now being revealed to me, now that I'm a little older, wiser and frankly, humbled by my new physicality.

anonymous Feb 7, 2014 1:02pm

I took my first ever yoga class at the age of 58 … and later found a class taught by a 72-year-old man, focused on those who are not super flexible. It works for me, and I'm glad to have teachers who are not 20-somethings and who are aware of those of us who also are not 20-something.

anonymous Feb 6, 2014 7:21am

I had no idea there was a backlash to older teachers….lol…where have I been? I practice, I teach, I live my Yoga and am slowly moving towards my 50's. My clients tell me they enjoy my insights and inspire them to age fearlessly. I am planning on teaching (God willing) into my 80's – as I feel I'm only gaining momentum ….go fearlessly into the future!!! 🙂

    anonymous Feb 7, 2014 8:42pm

    Sabine, I recently met a woman on the subway & when we got to talking she said she was 92. (I woulda guessed 70 ish). Age came up because we were describing someone to police and they asked me the persons approx age. Of course, I am so bad at guessing because its not in my vocab. But later I asked my new friend what she did for a living and she said very happily that the last job she held was Yoga Instructor for 20 years. So go for it !!