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”A Yogi measures the span of his life not by the number of years but by the number of his breaths.” – Sri Swami Sivananda
One of the commonly asked questions that people will ask me is how old I am. Honestly, I tend to forget (and it’s not from senility haha). But there have been times where I’ve had to get out a calculator in order to determine my age. It’s just not something that I think about that much. And for good reasons.
It’s partly because I’m a non-conformist and it’s also because I find that age association tends to be more constrictive than empowering. Think about it – you’re always either too young or too old for something. And when someone learns your age their perspective shifts and their ingrained cultural perceptions begin to shape their idea of who you are. Over time this can have an effect on us but only if we allow it to. Time is flexible to our perception of it [Read: Mind Your Perceptions].
Between us, you are not your age.
Most of the time people are surprised when I tell them how old I am (the same age as Jesus when he died). It’s partly because I don’t fit into the cultural box that people tend to associate with my age group. Which is totally fine, because I try to maintain mental flexibility around my age. There’s a saying in Yoga about how that which we focus our attention on tends to grow in size. Mindfulness meditation practice is one way we can learn to navigate the potential pitfalls of our thoughts.
I’ll let you in on a couple of secrets, one of which is that your perception of yourself is one of the most powerful tools that you have in your belt. One of the ways that this comes through is how we talk about ourselves. Some examples of disempowering language patterns are:
- “I’m getting too old”
- “I’m broke”
- “That (behavior) is just who I am”
Another potential pitfall that’s commonly used in speech is in associating with our physical illnesses (example: “my arthritis”).
How we view our life experiences can also be limiting. While growing up in a small rural town in Maine, I was advised to avoid considering high school as the peak experience of my life. And any time that we get fixed on thinking about some aspect of the past as the being the “best” we create further mental resistance to anything new or different. Excessive reminiscing about the past can have a very debilitating effect on the yogic practitioner.
The other anti-aging secret that I’ll share is the value of having a regular practice of backbends. Your true physiological age can be measured by the flexibility of your spine. And psychologically, backbends help us to access the “backpack” of our past which is held in the back body. Releasing and opening the body through back bending helps us shift our past memories towards the front body and sense of the future. This process brings us more readily into the experience of the present moment.
A fellow yogini who has a youthful and powerful presence once told me that age “is all spirit.” How old is your spirit?