The Benefits of Yoga for Women Over 40

The Benefits of Yoga for Women Over 40
 
In 1998 I started training for my first marathon.  I was intrigued by the challenge, but honestly I also liked the idea of burning all those calories, as living through the OG Supermodel days had definitely left an impression that “skinny” was the most valuable commodity.   A friend convinced me to try yoga as a complement to my running and I found the practice helped my body feel more at ease when I ran.  Yoga was a means to run more, run further, be fitter and so I went along with it.  My relationship with the ancient practice stayed that way for many years; I liked it, but it was a supplement to my race training. I kept a mileage log and a mental calculator of how many calories I burned so that I knew exactly how many cookies I could consume without gaining any weight.  During those years, I never invested the energy to dive deeper into what benefits a yoga practice truly had to offer. 

My relationship with my body and wellness only really shifted in 2009 when I became pregnant with my first son.  I was a comically big pregnant person (my OB/GYN used to bring colleagues in to look at me and laugh at how I was carrying; it was cool with me I was laughing too).  As the scale kept creeping up into numbers I never imagined, I kept offering up agreements to God.  “Hey there God, like I am totally cool with this baby weight if this is what it takes for my body to build a human from scratch.  Will you just help me along and keep me from freaking out if the numbers don’t go back to where I am used to them being?  I just want a healthy baby, please and thank you.”  Around 7-months my big belly became too uncomfortable for running and I started to spend more time on my yoga mat.  The practice helped my pregnancy-induced sciatica and chilled my mind out a bit when the realization that an actual baby was going to come out of my body started to set in.   For the first time I was not just chasing a number on the scale and started to respect the benefits of the asanas (poses) and breathing techniques.

Fast forward to Mommyville.  Wow.  I loved it and yet this adorable little nugget could bring me to my knees.  Sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique for a reason! Exhausted, I took my son with me to a Toddler and Crawlers yoga class and they became essential to my mental health.  Then came along a second son (hey, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas and can show up at your house 9 months later).  With two kids under 3, I knew I had to develop some real self care practices.  I no longer cared (much)  about the size of my jeans, but knew that I needed some sort of pressure valve release so I wasn’t a green screaming monster by the end of each day. That’s when I walked into a heated power vinyasa class at Breath and Body Yoga.  

You ever walk in some place and immediately feel like you found your people?  These were bad-ass yogis who showed up fully.  Classes were challenging, sweaty, and life affirming.  I had practiced power yoga when living in Dallas (shout out to YogaSport), but I had not picked this particular type of yoga back up in the years since moving to Austin.  And now I NEEEEEEEDED it.  I needed to rebuild my core strength, get back some of my cardiovascular fitness, and be around adults who were encouraging, passionate,  and powerful.  I loved that being at the studio meant nobody was going to ask me to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for the billionth time.  My littles are awesome, but parenthood can feel like being pecked to death by chickens.

With a regular practice I was reclaiming my fitness, but for the first time my “workouts” were primarily focused on mobility, spinal health, working my mental edge, and gratitude.  I developed a deep appreciation for my life, my imperfect body, my family, my friends, and for the possibilities out there.  I started to tap into a stillness that let me find acceptance in uncomfortable poses. A shift in my sense of self and values happened, which led me to enter yoga teacher training program in 2013.   Being a stay-at-home mom with a husband who works 24-hour shifts was wearing me down.  I needed to reclaim something for myself and teacher training was the perfect fit.  Surrounded by a group of loving, powerful yogis I became a more skilled practitioner and a better human.  I started teaching at Breath and Body Yoga in 2014 and it remains one of my greatest joys.


As I crept closer to 40, I placed a higher premium on my ability to chase my kids around the playground and down the soccer field. 
Those 20-somethings look precious in their Brazilian cut bikinis, but I am over here just trying not to fall over while giving piggy-back rides. Knowing that muscle loss can begin at this age, I picked a strength goal and dedicated myself to learning how to straddle press into handstand before I turned 41.   The first time I tried my abdominal muscles immediately cramped up!  Total fail. I doubled over and contemplated abandoning the goal and never speaking of it ever again. Two pregnancies and two c-sections are not without consequence.  But I kept with it.  I practiced at home, in class, before bed, with props, whatever and whenever, and eventually got there.  And you know what?  Being able to press up in a handstand makes absolutely no difference in your life!  It doesn’t even make you a “better” yogi! It doesn’t even impress my kids (I really expected some cool mom points for it, but nope). However, the process of setting a goal, failing, making progress, regressing, crying, sticking with it, laughing, falling and and doing it again?  THAT is life changing.  THAT is yoga.  It only took me 17 years to truly learn that lesson. 

At this point in my life, I practice yoga so that I can live healthfully and independently into a ripe old age.  I don’t want my kids, or anyone else, to have to take care of me any sooner than necessary. A close second to my love of practicing yoga is my love of teaching yoga.  I always say that my goal for every class I teach is for people to come away feeling that they have been loved on for awhile.  Life can be hard and can get very life-y; we all need places where we feel supported and seen.  I want to do anything I can to help create that environment for students.  You want to walk into a class I am teaching and lie on your mat the entire time?  Awesome, you get what you need. I got you.  You want to come to class to work your edge and learn to straddle press into handstand?  Hell yes, I am here for that too.  I am so grateful that yoga has taught me the value of both.
(photo credit to Matt Lankes Photography)

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