By Susan Grbic, Growing Younger
So many younger people are taking to yoga these days as opposed to thirty years ago when I was cutting my teeth as a student and yoga was still considered way too esoteric for your average citizen.
And what an assortment of choices on the yoga menu today!
Back in the day you were either an Iyengar student (and this was truly cutting edge) or doing what my teacher somewhat disdainfully and condescendingly called ‘fruit salad’ yoga (or old lady’s yoga).
Nowadays there’s a dizzying confusion of yoga ‘styles’ to choose from.
And precisely because yoga is attracting so many young people, hundreds of young yoga teachers are emerging and trying to get established.
I started teaching when I was forty-five, pretty old by today’s yoga teacher standards. I’m now in my early sixties so I guess that makes me really old by today’s reckoning!
So how do I manage to compete with the flood of gorgeous young things, all of whom look a whole lot sexier than me? And who may well be able to bend and stretch and pivot and hold and reach rather better than me?
Do I still have what it takes? Am I still relevant? Do students want older yoga teachers?
I guess the answer is some do and some don’t. It all depends on why the student is practicing yoga.
If a student has not yet dug deep and is still ‘doing yoga’ as a form of exercise like many beginners (and hey – we almost all start there), then chances are they’ll want a yoga teacher who’s a little more spicy than me. Check out the hot and sweaty classes, the power classes, the Astanga classes – they’re full of young (and wannabe young) students.
There’s no way I can compete with those kind of classes.
My teaching can only reflect my own practice if it is going to be ‘true’, and over the years my practice has become less complicated, less physically demanding, less strenuous.
It’s much more about the breath, the mind, meditation and the notion that yoga is a twenty-four hour a day practice rather than simply the hour or two we spend on the mat.
But send me the student who needs a bit of therapeutic yoga for their back pain, or the one who suffers from anxiety or depression or is simply overworked and stressed.
Send me the student who understands that yoga is a way of life.
This is where the older yoga teacher often shines.
Our years of experience have taken us from where we thought we knew everything (or at least we felt as though we needed to convey this notion to our students) to where we realize that in fact we know very little.
But what we do know we have learned through personal experience, so that knowing is deep and certain.
Society would have us believe that growing older is a bad thing.
What I believe is that aging is a gift that not all of us are handed, and as such, it is a time to be treasured and exploited to the fullest.
Our priorities change.
We can see that life is far less serious than we thought it was.
We learn (hopefully) to take ourselves less seriously too.
We begin to understand that it’s not all about ‘What’s in it for me?’ but rather ‘How may I be of service?’
We can say with certainly ‘This too shall pass’ for we have seen this to be true over and over again.
We begin to understand that life is about joy and loving and being happy with the simple things. And that if we want to be happy we need to look within. We need to find that place where happiness abides.
And then we can invite all our students to take their own journey with us.
About Susan Grbic:
Yoga and meditation has almost always been a big part of my life. In the late ’70s I found my spiritual path and began meditating and in the mid-’80s I discovered hatha yoga. Through all the ups and downs of life these two elements – yoga and meditation – have been my pole star, giving me direction whenever I felt lost.
I began teaching yoga in 1996 – my early training being in Integral and then Iyengar yoga. In early 2000 I met Donna Farhi and she became a strong influence in both how I practice and how I teach.
In June 2000 I opened the Albany Yoga Room in Auckland and exactly 12 years later, in June 2012, I passed it into other hands in order to go and live on Waiheke Island and develop the concept of Growing Younger.
Growing Younger is about gaining a different perspective on what it means to get older, focusing not on what we lose as we age, but on what we can gain. What I have to offer is my own experience and everything I have learned over many years of study and practice. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that a combination of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, healthy living habits, positive thinking and the practice of such virtues as kindness, compassion and gratitude has profound effects not only on us as individuals but on the planet as a whole.