Movement with Grace as We Age: Cruising Off With Compassion & Care
By Vanessa Van Noy
Grace is defined as a pleasing way of moving and a thoughtful way of behaving. Grace is learned. Grace is developed. Grace cannot be given, like a paycheck or passed like a bloodline. Grace is earned through hard work and considerate practices. Grace is peaceful confidence; a thoughtful strength. It’s a state of being that we are all striving for whether we realize it or not.
One of my teachers always told us to consider our bodies as a car, the only car we would ever own. He used to say, “If you only had one car your whole life you would take care of it right? You would treat it like the most important thing that you had. You would take meticulous care of it, making sure it had everything it needed, keeping it clean and in good running condition. You would treat it like it was more precious than gold because you never get another one.” Our bodies are more valuable than gold, and we don’t get another one. Yet some of us do treat our cars better than we treat our precious bodies.
When we first get our hands on the wheel of a car, most of us drive with reckless abandon. We drive it too fast and too far. We put in cheap gas and don’t keep it so tidy. During our youth, we feel invincible. We eat and move without too much forethought past what tastes and feels good. We rarely start paying attention until something goes wrong or something breaks down. Seldom do we take the time to preemptively look under the hood, or give our vehicle what it really needs until that check engine light comes on.
And oh, I regret to inform you that the check engine light will come on.
Some of us break down before others due to sports, injuries or perhaps an accident which makes us pay attention a little earlier in the game. But for most of us, the wear and tear will start showing a little later. Maybe for some of us, right about now.
For me, I started getting really active in my late 20s early 30s. I was never into sports and I don’t have a competitive nature. It just wasn’t my thing. I started teaching yoga and practicing Muay Thai. I beat myself up and bent myself into pretzels for over a decade. I felt like an unbreakable machine until everything came to a screeching halt. A trifecta of a car accident, inappropriate yoga practices, and a pounding training style took a significant toll.
My spine just quit.
I herniated my neck during my yoga teacher training; I herniated my lower back picking up a potted plant. (I wish I could insert a rolling eye emoji there for that one.) My body has never been the same. I have told my students often that my injuries have been my best teachers. Today I have many, and they have taught me a lot. They have taught me to slow down, they have taught me to be more mindful about how I physically treat my treasured vehicle.
Much to my chagrin, I am now officially “vintage.” I have a few dings and dents and sometimes my parts make funny noises, but I’m still pretty nice to look at. I took care of myself the best I knew how. Each decade has taught me new things and new ways to take care. A lot of which I wish I would have known earlier. But I guess we can all say that.
As I move into the halftime of my life, what I do with my body is constantly changing. I don’t beat it up so hard and don’t bend it back so deeply. I must be more thoughtful with my movements, more conscious with my practices. I don’t want to run my body into the ground because it’s the only body I have. Where there was once aggression, now there must be grace.
I still train and I still practice; I just pay more attention. I don’t go so hard. If I feel like I did too much, I give myself time to rest. If I have an injury, I give it time, space, and support. My relentless training sessions are replaced with moderate hikes. My Cirque du Soleil Yoga style is replaced with something more carefully constructed, more intelligent. One day, I’m sure, it will be walks and slow stretching. But not today. For now, I push myself only as far as my body is willing to be pushed, and then I take my foot off the gas. Treating myself with compassion and care is very important for me, and for all of us moving forward.
As the odometer clicks away the miles, we can all decide to grind our gears and push them to the limit, at risk of blowing our engines and getting stuck on the side of the road, perhaps permanently. Or, we can shine up our tires, put in the supreme gas, and cruise off into the sunset with some grace.
And a good facial doesn’t hurt either!
Vanessa Van Noy has been teaching in the New York metro area for nearly 20 years. She has worked with pro and collegiate athletes, people with physical limitations, and everyone in between. She specializes in creating practices that are fluid, functional and fun. She encourages humor & compassion, perseverance & perception and love & laughter. Vanessa is very hands-on in her classes, using touch as a way to deepen a posture or just show a little love.
Vanessa is a distinguished yoga teacher known for her compassionate activism, unique self-expression, and intelligent style of teaching. Vanessa has been featured in numerous blogs, sites and magazines across the globe. She has advanced her already extensive trainings with rock-star yogis such as Bryan Kest and Ana Forrest. Her style has grown and developed over the years, but her undeviating standard has, and will always be, challenge, compassion and community.
Vanessa is the founder of “Headstands for Hunger “a yoga-based non for profit whose mission is to unify local yoga teachers and their communities, to feed hungry people and homeless pets nationwide.