Yoga Practice With a Middle-Aged Body

starting a yoga practice with a middle-aged body

I first tried Yoga in my late 40’s, and I did so grudgingly. My husband had discovered Yoga at our fitness club and had been nagging me for weeks to go to a class with him. I envisioned contortionist-like movement coupled with 60’s-style meditation, so I was sure I wouldn’t like it. I only agreed to go to a class to stop his nagging.

Don’t tell him this, but he was right! Yoga was a great workout – I felt pleasantly fatigued and at peace when I left the gym.

That one class turned into a regular Yoga practice (4 or 5 times a week for 50-60 minutes.) I experienced the benefits of Yoga first-hand; you could even say I became a true believer.

That’s why I’m kicking myself because I quit doing a regular practice and DANG! My 60-something body wants it back!

I have a pretty good idea what it’ll be like to start a Yoga practice with a middle-aged body.

The good thing about being this age is I know my body better. I know what it’ll take to get back into regular practice and I know how my body will react to the practice. (I know how much time I’ll need to spend in the hot tub to recover from each practice :D)

I also have no illusions about myself, my habits, and my lifestyle. I know I won’t be committing to a 50-60 minute practice each of the 21 days. I know I need to plan practice time around my already-full schedule.

I also know I’m preparing for a 5K in September with our Boise Kids, so somehow the two fitness goals will need to mesh together without me feeling like all I’m doing is exercising!

Mental Preparation #1: Don’t be overwhelmed – if I plan it, it will work. Just Breathe. (Haha! A very Yogic concept – I’m already on my way!)

A major tenet of Yoga is to avoid all negative judgment and to view yourself with kindness.

If there are days when all I can do is the minimum 15 minutes, I’m OK with that. I know starting any exercise program is a challenge at this age. I’m no longer the 30 or 40-something woman who has the ability or desire to fight through the pain. I no longer get motivated by the statement, “No pain, no gain.” (Well, not after the pain starts…)

If I’m completely honest, I’m overweight and have a bag full of excuses that I can bring out whenever I don’t want to do any exercise program. It’s probably not a matter of “if” I do the minimums, it’s “when” I do them.

When that happens, I know I don’t need to beat myself up, because I’ve learned I like myself anyway. My self-image doesn’t accept punishing myself if I’m not perfect.

Mental preparation #2: Don’t judge myself harshly. Remember, I don’t have to be perfect before I like myself.

Another Yoga teaching is removing all ego and competition with yourself and others.

I was raised in a very competitive family. Heck, my brother and I started having coloring contests in pre-school! My nurtured instinct when accepting a challenge is to CRUSH the competition. Usually, that ego-driven spirit has led to injuries when doing any exercise program.

I realize this 21-day challenge is more of a you-can-do-this-let’s-help-each-other event. There is no need to be better than the other participants (unlike a weight-loss challenge or an exercise points challenge that I’ve done in the past – too many times, actually.)

Instead, my real issue is my own ego. When I get on the mat I’ll need to accept what I can do without forcing flexibility too far or holding poses too long.

Mental preparation #3: Remember to recognize where my body needs time and patience and don’t try to progress too quickly.

Starting a yoga practice with a middle-aged body will take non-judgmental self-acceptance.

I wish I had the body of my 30’s or 40’s, but I don’t. I long for the strength, agility, and endurance I had years ago, but don’t want that body enough to go back to those times in my life. Nnnooo, I like who I am right now, thank you.

Who I am right now knows a thing or two about myself. I know I have wisdom and strength gained from years of experience. That wisdom and strength have taught me I might be out of shape and overweight, but I know how to love myself enough to do this. I know enough to measure my progress, not my perfection, so the hard part is over. The decision is made and the intention is set. Bring on the pain! (J/K!)

  • Brook Mendez

    The self-acceptance and practice of kindness to ourselves, and our bodies, is one for all ages. I get into the habit too often of pushing too much or too far and then having to take time of to heal and recover, and not just exercise but pretty much everything. I need to remember the yogic principle I once learned of “lovingkindness” and actually practice that regularly.

    • Melody Smith

      It’s a hard lesson to learn – I think our culture glorifies the “no pain, no gain” philosophy, so if you don’t live by it, you don’t feel like you’re making any progress.

  • Good on you for getting back into it (and for the 5k challenge too!) I keep thinking about yoga but that’s as far as I get. Now I’m using the elliptical machine I realize that 15 minutes is a VERY long time – funny how it goes so quickly when I’m on the computer though!

    • Melody Smith

      HaHa! You’re so right! When I’m doing sprints on the treadmill,1 minute feels like forever! I hope you’ll give yoga a try – there are some really easy and thoughtful workouts on the internet you might like. Just look through them and find a person and style you think you’d like.