Ida Herbert was recently recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest yoga teacher. She's 96.
I had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know her at a weekend yoga retreat where we both offered and received asana practice.
Although I had seen Ida at our local YMCA, where she volunteered for many years, I'd never spent much time with her or been to one of her classes.
What an inspiration!
At 96, this woman has more brightness, vigor and flexibility than many women a fraction of her age.
Her class was challenging (my abs got a workout from the multiple navasana and raised leg climbs!) and funny (many of us had tears rolling down our faces from her well-timed and quick humor). It was also amazing to experience her as a human being, full of kindness, grace and contentment.
She began our evening "gentle yoga" practice standing at the front of her mat in Tadasana. We continued through various heart opening standing poses. As she moved into the balancing posture of Tree, she swayed a little and both feet came back to the mat.
"Listen," she said, smiling, "I’m 96 years old, I deserve to stumble a little!"
The retreat fell on Remembrance Day here in Canada, and so, on the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour we came together in the great room of the center to share a moment of silence and reflection while watching the presentation on TV, which panned in and out on various faces of veterans in attendance.
Ida, with her small, yet strong frame was the closest to the TV and might have been standing the proudest. I couldn’t help but wonder about all that this woman has seen over her 96 years and felt touched to be able to share this moment with her.
Afterward, I asked if she'd lost loved ones in past wars – she said that she had not, however, her late husband had been a prisoner of war and she had been impacted in many ways by the various degrees of conflict through which she had lived.
In that moment, I was reminded of just how much we have to learn from the generations before and after us, and the importance of taking time to reach out to people of all ages and from all walks of life, as this is where true wisdom and connection lies.
Ida, through her yoga practice and in her overall demeanor demonstrated a level of calm, grace and vitality that affected everyone at the retreat this past weekend.
She is a living example of the power of yoga. With a quick wit and gentle, broad smile, she brought a sense of joy to the room whenever she entered.
When asked to what she attributes her longevity, she replied with a twinkle in her eye. "Yoga and never having had children… oh, and fish oil!"
And so, while my children might cause me to grow old a little faster (I think they’re worth it), I will continue to devote myself to my yoga practice and just might boost my daily intake of fish oil…
If I can share my yoga practice with others at the wonderfully vibrant age of 96, as Ida does now, it will be a gift, not only to me but to those around me.
Ida closed the practice by limberly moving into sukhasana and sharing the following words:
"Cup your hands in your lap. Inhaling, raise them up to the sky and make a wish. Now catch that wish. I hope for you to catch joy, laughter, kindness, compassion and peace. Now draw the hands down to your heart and allow this wish to fill your heart and whole being. Namaste."
Thank you Ida, for inspiring those around you and shining your beautiful light.