I’m a competitive person. I don’t mean to be. I don’t really want to be. But despite having taught yoga for many years, there it is: I’m still competitive.
A little of this personality quirk leaked out into the class the other day when I was demonstrating chaturanga dandasana – you know, the yoga push-up position – a pose that many people love to hate. I finished up by saying to the students, ‘if the oldest person in the room [me] can do this, then you should at least be able to give it a try. Not fair to say because I’ve been doing this pose for decades, but I merely wanted to challenge the class.
However, quick as a flash, someone responded, ‘Old is the new skinny’… meaning, I guess, it’s fashionable to be old. That statement made me wonder if there is any truth in that opinion. Yes, the media feature us ‘boomers’ and war babies a lot, and that probably gives us quite a lot of marketing clout. As well, as we age, we have access to medical interventions that prolong life and create more health into our twilight years. We look good, feel good and are lasting much longer.
My impression of ageing is that it’s all about coming to terms with things. When does that start? When you look in the mirror and detect your first grey hairs or your first facial lines? Greying and wrinkling pale into insignificance when compared to loss of vision, hearing and taste. Besides these fairly inevitable occurrences, there are the various permutations that occur for each individual. When I was a youngster, I never thought I’d get sagging jowls, blepharoptosis (drooping eyelids), periodontal disease, or osteoarthritis. Other people put on weight, develop life-threatening diseases or mental problems.
Yesterday I had to have some photos taken for a magazine interview. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing the images because I just knew in advance how prominently my flaws would show up (even though they were somewhat masked by good make-up and hair colouring). Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the photos. Yes, there I was, lines and all. But, my visage showed a person who was apparently happy, relaxed and attractive in the sense of, ‘gee, I’d like to hang out with her.’
Let’s not romanticise about growing old or pretend it’s not happening. In the best of all possible worlds, looking in the mirror can be an exercise in self-love – accepting all the bits, even as they are clear signs of ageing. As someone has said, might as well embrace it all – it’s already here. ‘Coming to terms’ can be for us a practice in loving kindness.
If you’d like to boost expand your horizons about ageing, here’s a great Elephant Journal article on ageing.