Aging, Experience, and Maturity

Jan 11, 2024

Yoga Instructor Teri Martin smilingYoga Instructor Teri Martin shares about Aging in Yoga – follow her at @sassyatseventy or @terigrangermartin!

When I was first approached to write an open letter addressing Aging in Yoga, I was hesitant.  Yes, I am one of the older instructors still actively teaching, but that really makes no difference.  But wait, of course it does!

I have been practicing yoga for more than 25 years and, as an experienced instructor, I certainly have matured – personally and in my teaching.  And, yes, along with that, have been some physical challenges – but not necessarily because I have gotten older.

Regardless of age, we all become ill, get injured, require medical care, or merely need to take a break.  However, those personal periods of limitation have had the effect of informing me in my own physical (asana) practice, teaching me to be more patient and thoughtful in my approach to movement.  But more importantly, they have taught me to cultivate a heightened awareness of the limitations and challenges of the students in my classes – whether beginners or more advanced practitioners.

As I get older, I have a better appreciation for the effects of aging.  However, while I am physically more cautious, I am also more willing to take risks in my life and thrive on living from moment to moment.

I was trained to teach yoga, not perform it for the students to follow along with, and this approach has been invaluable when I have not been able to physically demonstrate because of an injury or age limitations.  There certainly are some poses I no longer do because I am now wise enough to realize that I may harm myself. 

But at this point, I am ageless. Whatever does it even mean to “act your age,” “look your age,” or “dress age appropriately?” I’m simply me and live my life as me, with no age association.  The mere fact that I am older has given me many valuable years of experience acquiring and developing the tools and skills to become a more effective yoga teacher.  And the personal development and maturity gained through my years as student, business professional, artist, wife, and mother have been an incredible asset.

I now have more clarity in my life, increased patience, and a fine-tuned ability to observe, listen, and understand the needs of students, as well as the skill to adapt and alter my teaching to the individuals who show up to class that day, regardless of age or level of experience.

Recently a younger, newer, teacher confided in me that she felt like an imposter, overwhelmed with the thought that she was not knowledgeable enough to be a good yoga instructor.  I asked her about her basic understanding of alignment, sequencing, cuing, using Sanskrit, yoga philosophy, and, more importantly, what were students’ reactions after her class.  Her response was all positive.

My advice to her, as well as to anyone else, is to ease up on yourself and just keep on practicing. Be patient, curious, and constantly explore new ways to approach things on and off your mat.

In my view, more experience as a student and teacher, regardless of age or number of years, will provide you the maturity and confidence to feel comfortable in your personal and professional growth.

I did not become a yoga instructor to be rich and famous, to be popular, but rather to instill in others all the wonderful benefits of the physical practice in association with developing the ability to be more thoughtful and to live in the moment.

As an older yoga teacher, my desire is to provide an example to others so that they can empower themselves to recognize and develop their own particular personal areas of strength and flexibility.  The practice of yoga, through the combination of physical practice, breath work, and meditation, helps us to cultivate resistance as we get older – giving ourselves permission to open to the unknown. 

Aging is not a fixed point, but rather a continuum and constant state of transition. Yoga provides us with the means to become adaptable, nimble, and pliable – not just in our own body, but in our minds to be accepting to the changes and limitations of our bodies, and to truly appreciate the value of our lives. 

Getting older provides a much better understanding of what truly matters.

Written by Teri Martin, yoga instructor at Bella Prāṇa Collective in Tampa, Florida