Why you’re never too old for yoga teacher training
I enrolled on my 200-hour yoga teacher training at the age of 52 and I almost didn’t, because I knew how many young people, mainly girls, were interested in it and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them or bond with the group.
Happily for me, I stuck with it and found my own ways of connecting with my fellow students. Yes, most of them were in their 20s and at the start of their adult lives, but there was a sprinkling of women at the other end of that journey and I ended up forming a very close spiritual bond with someone in her sixties. By the end of the course, I had bonded in similar ways with two other young women with whom I felt a connection. I learned that age was largely irrelevant when you were undergoing such intense training – it’s about who you are underneath the physical that truly matters and those young women bonded with me as a person, not as a physical collection of years.
I was recently contacted via my Instagram account by someone who was also worried about taking the same YTT course as me in her fifties. How had I found it? Was everyone really young? Would she fit in? If you’re looking at a course now and wanting to ask the same questions I will tell you what I told her.
Yes, most of the people on the yoga teacher training courses are young, but you will find a posse of older people whom you’ll probably end up hanging out with. You may even surprise yourself and find that your strongest connections are with young people. Be open to that – if there’s one thing the courses teach you, it’s that we are all connected by our shared humanity.
Overall I found that my age was a strength, not a weakness. I had the benefit of a lot of life experience to bring to it – the highs and lows of life including grief, loss, a failed marriage, a career behind me. A yoga teacher training course can lead to a huge emotional rebirth and you will be best placed to deal with it. Younger people are often facing these feelings for the very first time and I think it is good for them to see other people dealing with them in a calm, mature way. Not that every older person is calm and mature or that every younger person an emotional wreck, but I think we can offer each other stability and serenity from either end of the life spectrum.
If you are undertaking the yoga teacher training after forty, chances are you’ve racked up a fair few experiences that mean you know yourself really well and can manage your response to a variety of scenarios. Again, that doesn’t mean that you can’t allow yourself to have an emotional outburst if one bubbles to the surface, but as the main outcome of a YTT is the discovery of your own true nature, you may be further along that journey of discovery than someone in their 20s.
Similarly, by this point in your life you will know your body really well. You’ll remember what it was like when you were in your twenties – possibly more flexible than it is now, and with maybe more stamina. Or, it may be that you are even stronger and fitter at this stage of your life. Again, it doesn’t matter – it’s the self-awareness that is important here. Many yogis turn up at their YTTs wanting to show off their asana vocabulary in the first week and then learn very quickly that this is not the point of the course. If, like me, you have already modified your practice around your own body, then this doesn’t come as much of a shock. If anything, it confirms that you were doing the right thing by not punishing your body by making it do things that can cause it discomfort. You may have allowed negative thoughts about your body to invade your practice, because it appears to be restricting you from certain asanas as you get older, but the training will release you from these thoughts and you will begin to appreciate everything your body can do in a much more positive way.
One of the most extraordinary moments in my own 200-hr YTT course was the silent day, which we were offered as an option. Many of the younger students were questioning the point of it and they wanted to use the day for studying or working on their examination flow. The idea of just sitting with themselves, away from phones, chatter – interaction of any kind – for a whole day was horrifying and for those that tried it, a few fed back afterwards that they had not enjoyed it and were relieved to get back to normal.
For myself and the other older people on the course, it was to be the most profound day of the whole YTT – you can read about my full experience here. Perhaps it does take years to get to the point where you can simply sit with yourself, quietly on a beach in Goa, for hours on end.
On that day I realised that it didn’t matter how much studying we did for our final exams, learning the Sanskrit names for every asana off by heart or how to adjust a student in downward dog – what was most important as a yoga teacher was to know ourselves. What dilent day gave us all was a chance to meditate, consider and evaluate our lives and make decisions that would take us forward to the next stages of our journey. Whatever stage you’re at right now, don’t let your age stop you giving yourself this extraordinary gift of yoga teacher training. There is still time to change your life for the better.