I have been spending a lot of time with my parents, which is allowing me to dip my toes into the stream that maybe awaiting me. Mum and Dad are in what we might call the 4th Age (over 75), which is a relatively new concept in a society that is now living longer. (I am in the 3rd Age which accompanies me from 50-75yrs. Wow that came fast :)
The 4th Age is a milestone and should be a joyous time of life if one is happy, healthy and loved. It is the time of completion, according to Melita DeBellis 'this last stage of Earthly life allows us to review and revel in the fullness of our lives with “no regrets” and to prepare for whatever we believe comes next.'
Melita goes on to say, 'this time of ever more heightened awareness and growing acceptance of our mortality can lead us to the peace and joy of surrender. All of our life is in one sense a preparation and prelude for this stage.'
Sadly, for a lot of our 4th Agers this is not a reality. They are now in ill health and in a spot of trouble unless they have planned well. And I don't mean planned finically I mean planned their health and wellbeing and their support network. Even though we are living longer we are not living healthier, we are being kept alive by a system that makes an incredible amount of money out of ageing and declining health. There seems to be a focus on holding off symptoms rather than creating a healthy life.
Traditionally the younger members of the family were available to help out and the elders would move in and be looked after. This is a hard ask these days as we tend to be committed to working longer and harder to make ends meet. We are having children later and so these years that we may have spent looking after our parents we are looking after young children. Retirement age is hiking up higher and higher, we are literally on a roller coaster ride to the 4th Age.
So how do we plan for this? What do we choose that might make a difference? Of course there are unforeseen events that will have all of our plans fly out the window. Aside from that we have many choices, I have always said to my children that "with every choice you make you create your life" and this is where living mindfully makes a difference and this is where yoga enters.
I was asked recently if I think yoga is for everyone, truthfully if you can breath you can practice yoga. Let us not fall into the mainstream idea that yoga is twisting oneself in knots, lifting into headstands and dropping into backbends…yoga is all of this but yoga is also life, yoga is union, yoga is breath and yoga is peace within.
My teacher, Maaida Palmer, was in her 70's when I met her and she passed over at age 84.. My introduction to yoga was physically gentle and focused on the deeper practices of meditation, relaxation and Kum Nye. I came to understand that as we age we need different things in life to support us, even though I was only 24 at the beginning of my yoga journey, most of the students that I taught with Maaida were over 50.
Yoga doesn't discriminate, what is does do is gives us well grounded and time tested practices that will prepare us for whatever
comes our way. Last week in class we talked a lot about how yoga is a way of putting ourselves into unusual positions and then focus on the breath and mind, lets see what is happening. Are we
able to breath in a steady manner or are we huffing and puffing and blowing our selves out trying to prove something. Are we able to see how the breath changes when we are mentally stressed out,
can we feel our heart beat, can we feel our diaphragm move when we breath. Where am I at today? How do I feel, what do I feel? Let's get in touch with how we feel, what sensations move
around inside of me, what thoughts crash through my innate mental calmness?
This, to me, is what yoga answers and this is why yoga is so mainstream now. It helps us decipher the world we live in in a very unique and personal way…no two people will respond the same way to a posture, a breath practice, a meditation. Yoga shows us how to be different, how to be uniquely ourselves. How to let go of comparisons and how to live and practice in the moment. Every time we come to the mat we are different, life has changed, we have taken numerous more breaths, the weather is different, we may have has some incredibly great news or we may have been disappointed or hurt.
So what do we have? We have NOW to make a difference. How we invest in our health and wellbeing now will give us the results that we are hoping for as we get older and hopefully wiser. Don't let your age (where ever you are), your health or your attitude hold you back any longer, come and join me on a yoga mat and lets invest in your future together…
Om Shanti, MJx
Melita DeBellis - Midlife Unlimited - Inspiring Life's Second Act