Age is a funny business. When we’re children, we want to be taken for older than we are. Remember those milestones: double figures and then, finally, those longed-for teenage years? We flushed with pride when someone said, ‘You look so grown-up.’
At some point, perhaps as the laughter lines start gathering at the corners of the eyes, we start to deny the passage of time. We want people to think that we are younger than we are – or, failing that, to be told we look good for our age. The thing is, of course, that most of us are wearing well, especially we yogis.
I don’t know if it is improvements in lifestyle or simply changing expectations, but if you look at photos from the Edwardian era, everyone seemed like a pensioner. It’s as though there were no degrees of adulthood. Once you were married and had fulfilled your role by ensuring the family line continued for another generation, that was it. You put your hair in a bun, wrapped a rug around your knees and waited for it all to end.
Somewhere along the way, we switch from focusing on youth to wearing our age like a trophy. I’m sure we all know people who say proudly, ‘I’m 85, you know!’ not in a way that implies we are meant to make allowances for them, just the opposite: we are expected to respond with incredulity.
The young and the old are allowed to speak as they find. In my last post, I said that children don’t hold back when it comes to verbalising their observations. I had a similar experience when teaching in a care home, where one of the elderly residents was less than impressed. After about five minutes she’d had enough. ‘I’m going back to my room,’ she declared. ‘This is just getting on my nerves.’ Bless her for her honesty.
One of the joys of yoga is that you can’t be too young or too old. Let’s not get hung up on the numbers, but instead let’s celebrate what we can do, whatever it says on the calendar.