Stages of Ascending the Mountain

Oct 28, 2023 | Age, The World at Large | 0 comments

Photo of libbie and eve at a yoga workshop they are teaching

Two Yoga Elders Share Their View

Libbie Nelson and I have known each other since 1984 after meeting on a Boeing 747 bound for India. We have followed each other since then, recognising and respecting the other’s yoga journey.

Our paths have crossed many times over these intervening years. I would stay with Libbie in Byron Bay when I visited, as I was teaching in an annual yoga therapy training. More recently, we were called to help facilitate a ‘Yoga for Grownups’ video course designed by Maria Kirsten. Tragically, she died before she could present the course herself.

Then Covid came along and Libbie and I took each other’s weekly zoom classes. We are different in what we’ve studied and learned over the decades, and yet it turns out that we are complementary and share a high regard for each other.

The more I’ve gotten to know Libbie, the more I wanted us to create a collaborative project: teaching a workshop together. But what could we distil out of our 40+ years of yoga teaching? We’d both been ‘ascending the yoga mountain’ but stumbling along different zigzag paths.

Then an idea came to us. We could with great authority talk about the stages of yoga we’d traversed. These stages also represented our ageing process, starting as youths and now in our late 70’s. Once we landed on our workshop theme, the content evolved organically.

There is a traditional Hindi construct that features four stages of development for a yogi. They translate from the Sanskrit into 1) the student phase, 2) the householder, 3) the forest dweller, and 4) the renunciate.

Libbie dusted off this rather old-fashioned structure and then added some extra stages. Voila! We discovered we’d been through all of them (except the final stage) and that we could talk about the various practices and tools that helped us physically, mentally, emotionally, and in our spirits.

We taught this two-day workshop this year in the Northern Rivers and on the Midnorth Coast of NSW. Both times it has been an absolute delight to co-teach but also to have had such warm responses from our participants.

I particularly liked this summary from one person who I believe ‘got’ what we were about:

[The workshop] reminded me that change is constant, and neither the body nor the spirit can do what they used to do – and perhaps neither should they. And that the practices around yoga and other forms of self care are adaptable to whatever life presents, and can be a tool for finding serenity, release and joy in any circumstance.

I’ve been fortunate to have had yoga as a constant companion for most of my adult life. I love yoga teaching and feel fortunate that it is the kind of profession in which one can be deemed valuable, even as an old person. In our culture where youth is desired and sought after, I think Libbie and I can both honestly say, all stages of development are richly rewarding.

And the view from near the top of the mountain is lovely.


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