I'm often told that I look younger than my 53 years, but this wasn’t always the case. Before I started practicing yoga and let go of all that was binding me emotionally and physically into a tightly compacted ball, I looked and even acted much older. Those who knew me then can attest to the fact that I've changed.
The picture on my driver’s license from well over a decade ago was so bad I once almost didn’t get through security at the airport. The picture was so bad that when I took my daughter to get her license a few years ago, the person at the desk saw mine and said, “We have to get you a new license with a new picture on it!”
The woman in that old picture wasn't me, or at least she wasn't the person I am now.
Who was she? A tightly wound, shut-down person whose light had been extinguished by the events of her life and how she was holding on to it all. Due to my inability to process and work through life events — a cancer diagnosis, my mother's death — things just continued to build until I hit a breaking point and knew something had to change.
Today, that version of me is nowhere to be found thanks to a regular yoga practice and a few other things that make me look and feel much younger than I am. Here are my tips:
1. Find a way to connect with yourself.
This was my first and most transformative step.
After not being able to sleep, take a deep breath, or really feel anything, I visited a doctor who recommended I give yoga a try. And so I found myself in a studio for the first time, nervous and unsure of what to expect.
I knew that my current life wasn't working for me and that something needed to change, but what I didn't know was that "something" was me.
As I began a committed practice, I also began to connect with myself, and although it wasn’t pretty (I cried during every class for a long time), I became aware of all I was holding on to.
It was only once I recognized this that the layers of emotional and physical baggage melted away, allowing me to move more freely and breathe more deeply to heal body, mind, and soul.
2. Let go of ideas about how things "should" be.
As I started to connect with myself, so, too, started the process of letting go of old holding patterns.
Recognizing and confronting the things that were dragging me down allowed me to forgive myself and others for things in my life that had been hurtful. I stopped trying to control my life and instead began to live from a more heart-centered and open place.
My appearance, expressions, and movements became softer. I was less affected by the inevitable bumps we all face and was more able to feel hopeful and happy.
Learning to let go of perfectionism is one of the most profound things I’ve ever done. It allowed me to be in the world with more ease, grace, and compassion for others and myself. Nothing is more true than the statement, "no one is perfect"; appreciate and accentuate your strengths, and learn to love the characteristics that aren’t.
3. Throw rules out the window.
Make your own. Find what works for you and let it. Don’t let anyone say you're "too old."
When I finally realized I didn't need to pay attention to what others told me was "right" or "wrong," it was huge. No long hair after 50? Knee-length skirts and dresses for women my age? Forget it ... life is too short not to do what feels good for you.
I stopped paying attention to what others told me I needed to look like. Only short hair over 50? Forget it! No skirts above your knees? I just bought a faux leather miniskirt, which I wore to dinner few a days ago. Life’s too short not to make the most of it!
4. Always keep moving.
As we get older, our bodies start to dry out and get stiff if we don’t keep them moving. Yoga and walking are my exercises of choice, but find something you love that works for you, and stick with it. In 10 years, you won't regret your boosted metabolism, bone density, and muscle mass; I promise.
Before yoga came into my life, I rarely smiled because I was too caught up in my own misery. But when you smile, your body gets the message that you're happy and it responds in kind. If I am going to have lines on my face (and I do), let them be smile lines!
We can't go back and change the past, but we can choose how we move forward. By choosing what feels good and healthy for you (not what others tell you is good and healthy), you can slow down or even turn back the clock on aging by getting and staying in tune with your body.