I believe there is a Yoga of Aging. The word “yoga” has come to mean the various classes and workshops that people go to for stretches, postures, and the associated benefits to health and energy. Since it was first introduced here early in the 20th century, yoga has grown tremendously and is now an integral part of the cultural landscape. But the word originally included the entirety of spiritual practices developed in ancient India; the physical yogas so popular today are only one of them.
Meditation is another yoga. The word itself is related to the English word “yoke” and it means to join, or become one with. In a spiritual sense it means to become one with the divine. I think that aging itself is a kind of yoga, the “Yoga of Aging,” if you will. The second half of life is the natural time for a human being to turn his/her attention to larger issues of meaning and spirituality. It is when we finally realize in our own body that this adventure of life will end, and that we will return to the divine-or at least go somewhere not here.
Of course many people in their 50s and older go to yoga class for the physical and energetic benefits of what can be had there. But there is a deeper yoga that you don’t have to pay for, and that is the yoga of time passing, of the succession of birthdays that begin to have a different meaning than before.
In the legend of Gautama the Buddha’s life story, there came a time when, as a teenager, he went forth from the protected environs of the palace where he grew up, to see what kind of world lay beyond its gates. The first thing he saw was an old man. It says in the traditional story that he had never seen such a person before, and was shocked. Of course, in real life we see old people, such as our grandparents, from an early age. But when do we actually see them? That moment, which often occurs while we are looking in the mirror, is the beginning of the Yoga of Aging. I’ll be writing more about this inner Yoga in future posts.
For those interested in yoga as we familiarly describe, it the Yoga Journal is the classic magazine on the topic.