Turning 50! Musings on 30 years of practicing yoga

Published by Annie Barrett: 
January 25, 2021

This Saturday I turn 50! I'm excited to step into my 5th decade. I started practicing yoga in college thirty years ago, just after I turned 20. This morning as I sat to meditate and do my asana practice, I was reflecting on my experience of practicing yoga almost daily for three decades. Here are my musings on my thirty years of practicing yoga:

I have often said that yoga was my saving grace and I still find this to be true. To have found a practice that would help me in so many ways and lead me home to discover and know myself on a deeper and deeper level has been truly a gift. Each decade of yoga has shown me new things about myself. In my twenties, I learned to touch my toes and stand on my head. It was thrilling. Yoga made me feel strong and free and I gave myself over to the discipline of yoga with a great deal of zeal and enthusiasm. More importantly though, in my twenties, yoga taught me that there was a place inside me that I could go to release the doubt and anxiety that often plagued me as a young woman (and sometimes still plagues me). I learned how to settle my nervous system, to be comfortable in my own skin, and to be content with my own company.

In my thirties, I became a mother, and yoga became precious "me-time" in the midst of raising two young kids. Yoga was usually the only time I had to be alone in a day, and I deeply cherished my practice as a time of crucial self-care and self-reflection. In my thirties, I learned that the bigger practice of yoga was often "off the mat." These words of yogi and author Judith Lasater rang true for me: "the strength of my yoga is not necessarily tested during my practice of poses or breathing techniques but in my intimate relationships." I realized that yoga as "skill in action" meant that there was a deeper way of practicing yoga off the mat that included my thoughts, as well as my words and actions.

In my forties, my yoga practice shifted to prioritize meditation. I became part of a dedicated meditation community, and I committed to a regular twice daily meditation practice. Although I have continued to practice yoga asana nearly daily, my pillar yoga practice in this decade has been meditation. My meditation practice has opened me to an increasing depth of experience inside myself and also with regards to myself in the world. This decade has also opened me to Ayurveda. As I moved into peri-menopause in my early forties, I realized my body and mind needed support that was different from what I was doing on the mat and cushion. The sister tradition and science of Ayurveda has offered me a framework for understanding my unique constitution so I can make conscious choices with regards to my lifestyle, diet and work in order to orient my life toward ease rather than dis-ease. Ayurveda has taught me how to align my body-mind with the rhythms of nature so I can age more gracefully.

Where will yoga in my fifties take me? I'm excited to find out!

Thank you for being my yoga community! Many of you receiving this email have practiced yoga for a long time too. I'd love to hear how yoga has shaped your life.