Fitness Magazine

When I'm 64

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Caroline Haydon
When I'm 64Paul McCartney wrote the song “When I’m 64” when he was just sixteen. I was seventeen when it was released. To both of us baby boomers 64 probably seemed a good age to nominate as something unimaginably far off—"real" old age. Looked at from my perspective now, though, it’s just the age that I completed my training in the UK as a 240-hour yoga teacher—a neat conjunction, I thought at the time. Life gallops on, of course. That was already last year, and I’m pleased and grateful I was able to enter into such a life-changing phase.
Why train so late? I’d been practicing since my twenties, but going through various stages in my ability to appreciate what yoga could offer. At first it just felt good. Much later on, I noticed that my joints felt a bit creaky as I came downstairs in the morning, and when I went along to yoga class, instead of enjoying being able to take “Option 1” instead of “Option 2” I secretly felt rather un-yogically resentful (“Option 3” was usually out of the question given most of the class was often decades younger). Should I give this yoga thing up altogether?
Then two things happened. With age came the ability to step back from my fast paced, all-consuming job. And members of my regular class started to sign up for teacher training with our inspirational teacher, Katy Appleton, in London. It felt beyond the bounds of possibility that since I couldn’t even do a Headstand in the middle of the room or sit in Paschimottanasana in a full fold that I could ever do the same. But gradually the idea grew on me. I needed to get those joints moving. What better way to make sure I really kept practising? And, even better, wouldn’t it be good for me to be a living demonstration that “Option 1” wasn’t something to be shunned, that it was an enjoyable pose where you could work to your edge? Could I even change up the way I talked about options in a class where people of my age might be in the majority? 
So last year I got my certificate. And I’ve been teaching with a preference for catering to the plus forties or fifties—and on to my seventy-plus year old students—ever since. It’s a physical and mental (remembering sequences?) challenge, of course. But the reason I want to keep teaching is the same as for so many—the desire to pass on the benefits I’ve felt, like my joints no longer creaking as I come downstairs in the morning. 
I’m passionate about demonstrating to people that they don’t have to end up with some of the postural changes Baxter wrote about in Friday Q&A: Jackknifed Posture. I want them to know that you can strengthen bone with the right poses held for the right length of time (I’m an avid follower of Loren Fishman’s work on osteoporosis). These are exciting times scientifically as we gain more information about what works—and how it works—in our practice. I would like those who haven’t come to yoga yet to know all this, or if they have practised before, to know that if they have an issue or condition, as I do with osteopenia, they can modify what they do so that yoga can become “a companion for life,” as Melina Meza so wonderfully put it. No, of course I can’t demonstrate everything. But after reading the latest literature I don’t teach Headstand and teach Shoulderstand only with props. Many full poses are not going to be advisable for some of my students, who are dealing with issues from arthritis to vertigo. Also my yoga hall cupboards are full to bursting with props to help out. If props are not enough we use chairs—wonderful for allowing those working to gain balance to concentrate on alignment. 
But 64 has another meaning for me—it was also the age that my father died of pancreatic cancer. So I share the feeling Nina expressed so eloquently in The Pains Which Are to Come that in the end the cultivating of equanimity through wisdom and practice will be the most important reason that I want to both practice and teach all aspects of yoga. I have been lucky to live longer than the last generation. Moving towards the last asana, or Savasana, understanding “letting go,” working out why I don’t meditate as often as I need to—there is still the rest of a lifetime’s work ahead, however long that turns out to be. 
In the end we can all appropriate yoga to our age and need (see the recent post Rksana: Protective Practice to Sustain Women as We Age on how yoga practices shouldn’t remain static throughout life). We baby boomers need our own uplifting, beneficial and safe practice, as Yoga for Healthy Aging so ably demonstrates week after week. I wonder if Paul McCartney ever practises?  
When I'm 64Caroline Haydon is a former TV and print journalist now teaching yoga in Gloucestershire, UK. You can find her on Facebook at Pure Yoga Tetbury or email her at [email protected]
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