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Conversations from the Mat

Musings on Aging and Yoga by Anne O'Brien

Yogawoman - Thursday, November 08, 2012

Teaching my weekly Tuesday class, I was reminded of the sweetness of yoga at any age. Barbara, 82, who never misses a class, was next to my new student Hallie, 22—learning, exploring, enjoying the benefits of practice. Age in many ways is truly just a number for yogis – how fortunate we are to have an embodied practice that helps us remain healthy and agile as we are

At 51, practicing for over twenty years and teaching for eighteen, yoga brings ever-deepening joy, skill and knowledge to my practice. Yoga has brought me community with cherished friendships and fulfilling opportunities for studentship and inquiry. Practice has been my path to retain health, vitality, life balance, and the courage to be out in the world as I am, especially now, on the cusp of a new stage of life.

In my 30’s yoga asana were fun and challenging; yoga studies, new philosophical territory that I only skimmed. Today, my practice is essential to feel good, really good, physically and emotionally. I still love the big poses and rigorous practice. With time the physicality of the practice will change but this isn’t daunting as I am confident other aspects of yoga will offer sustenance. That may already be happening; recently my interest in yoga history and philosophy bloomed so vigorously that I returned to graduate school to pursue this quest.

There remains a vastness to explore in my personal practice and to learn from more senior teachers. Perhaps really fine yoga teachers must be advanced in age (or wise beyond their years) because there is so much practice, reading, experience necessary to really know our subject. In this, there is no substitute for time. Elder yoga role models show me the way into my next decades. Indra Devi (1899-2001) and Vanda Scaravelli (1908-1999) are my icons as pioneering women teachers who moved into their 90s with indefatigable energy, wisdom, and presence.


Dona Holleman, 70, helped me find courage in a difficult time and through her example, I realized that it is OK to be a fierce female teacher. Chad Hamrin, 62, demonstrates the wellspring a strong, inquiring practice brings to keep pedagogy fresh. Chad’s 36 years honing his teacher’s eye in Los Angeles inspire me to keep observing ever more deeply. Alice Rocky, 76, teaching yoga at the college of Marin for 32 years with no intention of retiring, offers an example of longevity in personal practice and career. And IYISF’s own, Jaki and Allan Nett, offer great inspiration in living a fully integrated yoga life.

Every community has seasoned yogis in their midst; don’t miss the opportunities to study with them, and mine the formidable knowledge and inspiration you will find there.

Reposted and thanks to Anne O'OBrien

Anne O'Brien, a senior teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, teaches modern hatha yoga, an inspired, life-affirming fusion of yoga practices drawn primarily from the Krishnamacharya lineage. Her classes offer precise technique, physical challenge, and creative innovation, laced with yoga philosophy. She encourages students to find their unique path to santosha. Anne has taught for nearly 20 years, trains teachers throughout California and Mexico, is the yoga consultant to The North Face, and is completing her first book, Modern Yoginis, on the contribution of Western women to the practice of yoga

Anne obtained her Bachelor’s degree from UCLA, earned a postgraduate degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy, and recently completed a Masters of Arts in Humanities at Dominican University. She speaks Spanish, Italian and Turkish and holds dual European and United States citizenship.

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