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i'm in teacher training - at age 62!
Photography by jennifer macniven

i'm in teacher training - at age 62!

by Bettelynn McIlvain bettelynn mcilvain
Practice Yoga | Personal Story


"age is an issue of mind over matter. if you don't mind, it doesn't matter." mark twain
At the age of 62, I am a few months shy of hopefully becoming certified as a yoga teacher. The brochure caught my attention as if the words on the page had voices. Not teeny tiny calm voices, but booming hit-me-in-the-face kind of voices. "Open the door," they said. "Embrace what you see."

Yoga teaches us that it doesn't matter why you start practicing. I'm the poster child showing that it also doesn't matter when you start seriously practicing either. And it doesn't matter if you start, then stop and then find your way back again to yoga's magic. The lessons you take away with you will sustain you. They will secretly seep into your mind and heart while you hold, what seems like forever, that side-angle pose.

I wish I could tell you that I've been devoted to the spiritual and physical practice for the last forty years. I can hear the gasps. But hold on - I was devoted to movement. That counts, doesn't it? I danced professionally in my teens, got a degree in dance and studied dance up until my mid-thirties. I lived and breathed movement. That was the place I felt bliss. I discovered the sweetness of yoga in my forties and fifties - but I wasn't a devotee. Yoga doesn't require it. It knows life and children and well, life wants our attention. It's willing to share. Be generous. Be patient. And when we are ready to devote ourselves to it, yoga waits in the wings like a stage mother supporting our journey.

So why not just keep dancing, you ask? Well, I do. Our hearts can handle more than one love. But I found that yoga asked the questions that dance took for granted. I never knew why I loved to come to the barre in ballet class until I realized that like yoga, I left the world outside the studio. I was calmed by the slow movements of the plié and port-de-bras. I never knew in modern dance that opening my arms, exposing my heart, was a mind-body connection. I just wanted to feel the music. Yoga explained those nuances to me. And, for me now, yoga brought another layer to my joy of movement. It's a pack thing - a community of kindred souls.

I was raised to believe in the laws of nature. My father was a horseman, training and caring for racehorses. It wasn't just a business for him. He truly loved animals. Dogs and cats followed him around like St. Francis of Assisi or the Greek god of animal husbandry, Aristaeus. They didn't care if my father was twenty or ninety. My guess is that these animals just liked hanging out with a kind human being. And so it is with us and yoga. I found that the people I meet through yoga are the most kind and compassionate folks on the planet. The principles of yoga encourages that. We are a pack, assisting each other. A child's joy and perspective in yoga class lightens the day. I've seen that same joy in an 89 year old woman who could out-yoga me every time.

I've learned that the students I will attract most likely will be like me in age. That's great. I like people my age. But, is that it? I was kind of hoping that I'd attact students like me no matter what age they were - because I've got a lot to give. I've got years of how-to's up my sleeve. Years of life experiences - and man, were they ever experiences. I've learned that the universe sometimes is not fair. So how do we handle that? I've also learned that with the next inhale of breath, the gifts the universe can throw our way can knock us off our feet with elation. And how do we handle that?

I have an unworldly exhuberence for my practice. The universe knows that the soul is ageless and we have much to learn, no matter how many years we have behind us or in front of us. As long as there's a positive spirit, you can't go wrong. And like the river that runs near my home, I notice its age doesn't matter to enjoy what it has to offer. Everyone lingers on the beautiful banks. Everyone.

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