|Krishnamacharya aged 50|
I did ask if it was OK to share the email on the blog but and the writer was more than happy but I forgot to ask if they wanted to remain anonymous, so lets just say the email is from T.
"First of all thanks for sharing so much about your practice in your blog. It really inspires me for my practise!
I have topic, where I could not find answer or advice in any other place.
It is about ashtanga and age. I'm 47 yeas old now, I started regular practice 6 months ago. My progress is steady and I'm happy about it. However I'm aware that at some point I will have to adjust my practise to my physical abilities and limitations coming with the age. Maybe I worry to early? Maybe, but I can't see in shala in Warsaw (Poland) any older, I mean 50+ practitioners :-)
I think 50+ is age when ageing effect starts and your body stops liking such a intensive practice like regular ashtanga. I was hoping that 2-3 years of ashtanga will give me solid foundation before I can make conscious choice regarding my future practice. More pranayama? More meditation? Selected routines from Vinyasa Krama?
So the questions coming to my mind are like:
- until which age ashtanga provides best benefits for your body?
- when and how ashtanga yoga practise needs to be modified?
- is Vinyasa Krama more suitable for 50+ yogis?
I was hoping You can share your experiences about it".
My own view on this is that I started Ashtanga at 43, unfit and overweight as many of you know. I worked hard at it, perhaps a little too hard given the condition I was in when I started but was lucky enough to avoid injury. I ended up practicing Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A and Advanced B, although the latter not really regularly enough to lay claim to it. Still most of the postures became possible.
So yes, Ashtanga is doable in your late 40s. I'm 50 now, the same age as Krishnamacharya in the old Black and White movie.
That said while you can practice a hard, fast paced Ashtanga into our 50's and beyond we don't have to practice it that way.
I've tried to show on this blog that there are many ways to approach your Ashtanga, it doesn't have to be as fixed as it often seems. or how it gets mischaracterised in the media or misrepresented in some of the 'look at me' or promotional videos.
- We can add more preparatory postures, something in line with both Pattabhi Jois' and Krishnamacharya's teaching
- We don't have to practice it at such a hard, faced pace as we often see it presented. We can slow down the breath, lengthen it, this too is very much in keeping with the 'original' teaching.
- We don't have to practice the full sequence, just the sury's and the finishing sequence or the last three postures is fine, or up to navasana say, and then on to finishing. Yep, in line with original teaching.
Many of the senior teachers who have been practicing for 40 years or so and are now in their 50s/ even 60s do something similar I think,
- We can cut out some of the transitions in between the postures, we did that anyway with the switch from full to half vinyasa, we can cut out the transitions between sides, or even between groups of postures.
- We can make more time for a little pranayama and meditation again all in keeping with what appears to be the original presentation of the practice
- And no, we don't have to fully bind Marichiyasana D say or have the full expression of every posture before we move on, we may never bind Mari D - as Manju Jois said, keep working on the posture, on deepening it, opening up in it so as to breathe more... we don't drop it necessarily but don't have to fully bind it with our hands either before moving on to the next posture.
Personally I don't think you need to wait until your 40's to modify your Ashtanga practice, actually I don't really like the word 'modify' here, I prefer 'focus on or bring out other aspects of the practice'.
It would be just as appropriate to take a slower approach ( a long, slow, full breath 'like the pouring of oil' ) to Ashtanga in your 20s as in your 40s or 50s
Like you I was very aware of my age thought I needed to get through the different series while still just about young enough, figured if I could reach Advanced by the time I was 50 I could then slow down a bit....there really was no rush. Primary is just as important as advanced series or Intermediate for that matter, it probably is all we ever need ( with the clarification that we may want to bring in other preparatory postures or do variations of some of those in the series).
My own practice as you have seen is a slower approach to Ashtanga, I really donut tend to see a distinction between my Vinyasa Krama and Ashtanga practice now. After a long time focussing on a Krishnamacharya approach to primary I'm currently working on the same with regards to intermediate series. once I have my 2nd series back I'll probably practice along similar lines as Manju above, in the morning part primary, part 2nd series and a little of 3rd thrown in for luck followed by pranayama and chanting. In the evening a couple of changing vinyasa krama subroutines but with more focus on pranayama and meditation.
Hope that helps, I hope others have something to add on this.
Adding this comment to the body of the text because of the links.
Nice fb post from Ramaswami this weekend
About 25 years back this young man learnt a few asanas. He has been practising them regularly especially sarvangasana. I meet him almost every time I come to Madras/Chennai. I talked to him a few days back during my present visit. “I am still doing many of the asanas-- especially sarvangasana alone for 10 minutes everyday. I feel good about this sarvangasana. Can I continue to do that” he asked, “I have just turned 90” he said.