That 70’s Thing

By September 29, 2012

There’s this disco-ball spin of sensorial experiences that goes through my mind when I think of the 70’s- a flurry of the gloss and struggle iconography that my child-mind picked up and absorbed in nuance. Soultrain, The Black Panthers, Mustang cars and Hang-Ten clothing, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Lee, David Bowie, and Cher. Evel Knievel. The Vietnam War, and veterans. Woks and yoga. Astro pops. Tang. Jiffy-Pop.

I don’t know if this makes sense to you, but somehow the sheen of this 1977 video of B.K.S. Iyengar brings it all back.

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 age.

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.

Please consider taking the IYISF Ageless Yoga class!

About Anne O'Brien

ANNE O'BRIEN has been studying yoga for 20 years and teaching for 18. She is an internationally recognized yoga leader and has been an IYANC community member for many years. Anne was recently appointed to IYANC's Board of Trustees and we are grateful for her service!