The absurdity is our culture’s attitudes towards aging. Aging is beautiful.
I am 53 and, let me tell you, things have changed. In a certain sense, I’m falling apart. My hair is grey and my face wrinkled. My strength, stamina, flexibility, balance and cardio have all declined, not to mention my eyesight. I experience pain much more often. For example, if I sit for long periods of time, pain fills my buttocks and standing up fills my hamstrings with a dull ache. I’m much more sensitive to loud noise, cold, crowds and my limits on intoxicants has certainly declined. No doubt, some of my age-related issues are a by-product of a hyper-physical and aggressive youth. You know that old saying (which I coined), “the harder you are on anything, the faster you destroy it.” This is part of the reason I devote a good portion of my class dialogue to moderation and its counterparts of balance and gentleness.
You probably are scratching your head, asking yourself what is beautiful about my above-mentioned physical issues. Its true, aging is presenting physical issues, yet it’s not like youthfulness didn’t present a load of mental issues, such as depression, fear, anxiety, insecurity, etc. It seems like I’ve literally exchanged mental issues for physical issues, and that’s more than a fair exchange in my book. I have heard studies that say people over 50 are the happiest. The physical decline happens slowly, so usually there is plenty of time to adapt, and as long as you can be okay with letting go of how things used to be, the decline is not so bad. It might also help to see how our culture worships the most immature, impetuous, ignorant group of people on Earth, the young people, and it discards and neglects the most insightful, most experienced and wisest group of people, the older people.
Our culture has taught us to hate and reject our process of aging. How do you learn from a teacher you hate, discard and push away? You can’t! This brings me to an important point here and possibly a much deeper perspective on aging. What if our aging process was helping us prepare for all that is coming? What if within this aging process, there are important lessons and opportunities that we need, in order to learn and grow and become all that we are becoming? What if it is not an arbitrary act of decay, but rather an important process we need to experience for real happiness? The yogis of old observed the universal law of change or impermanence. This law states that everything is changing always, and I believe Einstein eventually discovered this as well. In a way, this is the law of our life. For example, try to think of one thing, anything, that you will not have to say goodbye to. Understanding this law, the yogis therefore determined that all human suffering originates through attachment. The more attached you are to anything, the more you will suffer. Because whatever you may be attached to will change, and the degree of attachment precipitates the degree of suffering. So maybe the grey hair and wrinkles etc. is the universe’s gentle way of helping us to start letting go, being less attached? As you start letting go of your youthful appearance and how things are, and you see that you are not harmed and nothing bad has happened, we become less scared and stressed with regard to the changes that are happening and the ones we know will happen, and we experience more peace. This is why, to me, aging is beautiful.
There is no doubt my physical decline will continue, although certainly there are steps we can take to help soften the blow of aging. One thing we can do is go with the process instead of fighting it. If your metabolism is slowing down, eat less, and you won’t develop the middle age belly. Change your activities to suit your energy level and recovery time. Stop frustrating yourself and injuring yourself by trying to do what you used to do. Shift your fitness mentality from “growth” to “maintenance,” in other words, instead of trying to change yourself, try to care for yourself. You know the old saying (which I coined), “the only way to care for anything is to touch it gently.” Stop measuring yourself on the quantity of your action and instead go for the quality of the action. For example, instead of trying to increase the speed and distance you run, try to determine the speed and distance you need to run in order to feel your best. How about finding the level of exertion that’s appropriate for you in a non-impacting activity. For example, instead of running, how about strident walking uphill? Remember, “More is NOT better.”
We have been taught wrongly through our capitalistic (consumer-oriented) culture that more is better. It’s probably why our country leads the world in destroying the world (pollution, soil tilth, landfills, deforestation, etc.). Yet the truth is “more” is the same as “not enough,” it’s an extreme. How about we consider something more personal, something in-between? Walking and gentle stretching are great additions. Stretching increases circulation, decreases stiffness and tension, helps maintain range of movement and ease of movement. Stretching is the ultimate physical tool in aging comfortably. In the other activities you may appreciate like lifting weights, running, CrossFit, yoga, martial arts, kettlebells etc. do 50% of your max instead of 100%. Your ego might hate it, but your body will love it. Get massages regularly. Start nurturing yourself.
Peace and love to you,
Bryan Kest Power Yoga