Students, usually starting in their 40s on, will often come to me with excuses for why they aren’t trying a pose or can’t do a certain class or retreat. What they don’t know is that they are buying into a cultural myth (see video above), and because they are buying into it, they are living it.
Our beliefs are potent and create our lived experience. If you believe that once you are over 40, there is less and less you can do physically and mentally, then that will be your experience. Not because there is any truth to it, but because you will act on your beliefs, or more often than not, fail to do things because of your expectations.
One way this shows up in yoga is telling yourself that you don’t need to try or can’t do the ‘hard’ class or pose because of your age. That is a thought, and there is not necessarily any truth to it. This same phenomenon can also show up in people with injuries or who have some illness. They may have been told, or tell themselves, that they cannot do something because of their injury or disease and have never thought to question whether there was any real truth to the thought that they can’t or shouldn’t.
I’ve also seen this same phenomenon arise with people who use family in the same way. I can’t do this (retreat, workshop, training) because I have to take care of my kids. And yet if we look around, we see plenty of evidence of people who have families and kids who do amazing things that single people are not doing. So does having children define what one can and can’t do? No, but it can if we let it.
Now, I am not telling you to ignore your doctor, abandon your family, or do anything stupid. However, I am asking you to begin to question your thoughts because no thought is ultimately true and yet you will act or not-act if you believe an idea.
One of the great revelations that tends to occur with regular meditation is that a thought is just a thought, and it is not “The Truth.” Additionally, we can see that relative-truth is dependent on perspective and that we can change our perspective and so change our reality.
So, when you have the thought, ‘I can’t do that (insert challenging thing in yoga or life that would require you to get out of your comfort zone) because I am (insert excuse like, sick, too old, too weak, out of shape, a man, a woman, inflexible, have a family, etc.)’ then I recommend you begin to question that thought and explore how perhaps it’s opposite is actually just as true if not truer. You are always free to more closely examine an idea that shows up in your mind. Your thoughts will define the boundaries of your life, but only if you believe them. When you question your beliefs, you can find out just how great your experience of life can be.
This process is called inquiry, and it alone can change your life. Genuine inquiry often leads to revelation. Even if you are never able to do said “challenging thing,” by questioning your beliefs, you are freeing your mind of habitual thought patterns that may have been limiting you and making you unhappy and unhealthy.
Additionally, just trying to do said “challenging thing” you are usually benefiting your body and mind because you are stimulating them to grow and growth is an essential quality of the Shakti (Kundalini) side of the Shiva-Shakti equation. A good yoga class gives us plenty of opportunities to question our thoughts and move beyond them.
So please watch the above video and see what is possible when we don’t believe what our culture tells us about being in our 90s and then share this post with someone you know who is being limited by their beliefs.