The first time I felt “other” because of my age
After I took early retirement and travelled extensively, I decided to become a yoga teacher. I liked teaching the over 50’s as I found that yoga was very good for my body and could be beneficial for others in that age group. As in any profession it is important to be well trained as yoga teachers can inadvertently harm their students with the wrong movements, etc. I enrolled in advanced training in yoga and was by far the oldest trainee - 20 to 30 years older. I didn’t have a lot in common with women who were as young or even younger than my daughters – I had long since had my first baby, married, had a career, and those decisions were far behind me. But we did all share a love of yoga and a desire to teach others because of our passion for yoga. We had very different ideas on how to teach yoga (which is how it should be) but in general we melded fairly well in the trainee mode.
I did take a few treks to surrounding areas on the weekends with some of the other women and other then a few rather odd comments – you walked that whole way (probably 2-3 kilometres) - which took me aback. But it was meant kindly and so I said nothing. I am a very private person so I probably did not put forth much effort to let people know me and had
contributed little to conversations outside of yoga. I knew my observations of whatever they were talking about would probably not mesh very well with theirs; we had very different viewpoints.
The training went pretty well: I learned what I was supposed to, did the exercises and all that was required. At the end of the training, we all had to say something nice about the other trainees (I really hate this – it is fake and people just mouth platitudes) but whatever. I thought it would be difficult for the other trainees to say a lot about me but I was quite shocked at what did come out. I was “inspiring”. I was absolutely infuriated by that; in fact I was ready to take someone’s face off I was so mad (not very yogic). I was very taken aback by my own reaction so I didn’t say anything other than terse (I’m sure) thank you’s.
It took me awhile to figure out why I had that really strong reaction. It was because they were quite shocked that someone of “my advanced age” was a yoga teacher. Now you can blame the media which only portrays yogis as young, fit, slim, usually women doing impossibly difficult poses. Very few of the trainees fit that mold either but of course I was the farthest from that picture. Yoga has great breadth and depth and can be easily modified to most people’s bodies (I have since taken training on how to teach yoga to people that have brain injury and spinal cord injury – so yoga’s benefits can be felt by people with a variety of issues), including older bodies.
As I have aged, I don’t actually pay much attention to how I look; I’m much more interested in how my body works and to support it so that it works well for a long time. And it is quite true that we live in our mind and maybe we don’t recognise the changes in our bodies as being very important. We think we are just like we were when we were young; we feel and act like we always did. I saw myself as a yoga teacher – albeit teaching over 50’s but teaching yoga – while they saw an old woman. And old women apparently don’t do much. They don’t walk 2-3 kilometres, they don’t go to a foreign country by themselves to take training, they don’t start a yoga business and they don’t teach yoga. I think the disconnect between those two views hit me in the face when they said I was inspiring; I wasn’t supposed to be there, I wasn’t supposed to be able to do the training, I wasn’t.
I was “other”.