By Vanessa Shribman

    For most of us ageing is a challenge. We worry about the deterioration of body and mind and the restrictions that are bound to come as we get older. Seemingly, there is little to welcome and much to dread.

    Youth is the dominant paradigm. It is as if ageing is the short end of a long youth. Advertising and media leads us to believe that youth is the ideal and anything beyond this is inferior. However, the truth is that middle age and elderhood makeup most of our years.

    How long are we young? 25 to 30 years? With extended life expectancy to 80 years and beyond, being young is a short proportion of life yet we chase that youth for the rest of our lives, as if that is the ideal. 

    Rather than embrace the wonderful aspects of ageing including wisdom, knowing who we are, increased confidence and competence, we strive to be young. 

    The key to feeling positive about ageing is staying strong physically and embracing the experience of elderhood as an adventure.

    There are no limits to how we feel and what we can do! To be able to embrace ageing with confidence and joy it is important to feel healthy and strong, so that the changes in the body do not cause us to limit the expanse and quality of our lives. 

    Feeling strong and healthy causes us to be confident at taking on new challenges and living life fully. If we feel weak and vulnerable, we become more fearful and over time our world shrinks as we limit ourselves. 

    This became clear for me when recently celebrating my 60th birthday in South America. I wanted to attempt all the challenging and physical activities that make this area so exciting, such as cycling down Death Road in Bolivia, or exploring the Uyuni salt desert at 5000 metres. A small voice of doubt penetrated my determination in the form of ‘am I too old for this?’. 

    But I wasn’t. I managed to accomplish all the challenging activities I had planned. I attribute this to a life of yoga practice. 

    Yoga has given me confidence in my body. Each day when I practice and challenge myself on my mat, I feel a sense of youth in body and mind. The physical daily practice keeps me flexible and strong. Mentally it imbues me with confidence because I know that my concept of ageing is just that- a concept. 

    Each of us creates our own story around ageing. I am not willing to limit myself by a concept of what I should be doing at 60. Yoga gives me the confidence to challenge myself in other areas of my life. Yoga also gives me the tool of acceptance of, and dispassion in, observing the changes that ageing brings. 

    We can control how we age both physically and mentally. If Yoga is not your deal, then find a daily activity that makes you feel empowered and strong. Try not to see ageing as a failure but as an opportunity to reap all that knowledge and wisdom that you have accumulated over the decades. If we are striving for youth we will inevitably fail, but if we embrace whatever age we find ourselves at our possibilities are unlimited. 

    Vanessa Shribman is a Senior Iyengar Yoga a teacher, Buddhist practitioner, Holistic Physiotherapist and Childbirth Educator in her 6th decade. She teaches at Body Voice Centre in Footscray and has a private clinic in West Footscray. To find out more go to her website at

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