Aging, Yoga and Choices We Have in Life
This interview focuses on two topics each of us has to face sooner or later: getting older and the choices we have in life. I hope you enjoy and feel free to share your most important takeaway in the comments below.
Sheena Nancy Sarles is a life-long student of well-being in body, mind, and spirit. She is the founder of Growing Younger Gracefully workshops, classes, and newsletters, a certified Yoga instructor, a Holistic Life Coach, and a Reiki practitioner. She is also a communications professional, mother, and grandmother who lives in Massachusetts with her husband and regularly travels to Bali.
In short, what is the journey that brought you to where you are in life right now?
I was a mom to two little boys that grew up and I was a dancer at a small company where I lived, and then I found myself in my mid-fifties realizing that this was not the most healthy way to move my body. I was doing fitness and pilates but there was no spirit, and then a friend said, do something completely different and I did a yoga class, and so I found yoga and experienced how good this was for my body and my mind. Realizing that every pose has a spiritual element.
“When I was a dancer the choreographer said, ‘lift your sternum’ whereas my yoga teacher said ‘open your heart’ and I wept. That’s what I was looking for”
And then, as I’ve been practicing and practicing, watching my body age and my children growing up and getting married, I started wondering ‘how do I want this to go? What does well-being look like?’ Everybody is not 22 and a ‘yoga kitten’ so how can we do yoga and be vibrant and vital as we age?
As women get older we become invisible and I saw people starting to hide. It can be intimidating getting older. So I started talking to people and they said ’you should write this stuff down’. That was when I began giving workshops and sending newsletters and now meanwhile I have written a book called ‘Growing Younger Gracefully -Your Guide to Aging with Vitality, Pizazz and Resilience’.
Because nobody talks about aging. It’s the disease. Everything is anti-aging, all the magazines, cosmetics, marketing. The funny thing is that all those models that look so beautiful… that isn’t even how they look, they are all airbrushed. And we all here feeling intimidated. We may have lines, we may have laugh lines. And it’s ok. When I was very young I had an aunt that was very wrinkled, and I said to my mother: ‘Isn’t that great, you can see where she smiles, even when she’s not smiling’. That’s what I saw. And if you want to do botox and facelift and it makes you feel good, that’s fine, do it, but do it from the inside not from the outside. It’s not going to change who you are inside.
“I think that aging is about gratitude, it’s not about regret. It’s not about what I don’t have anymore but looking at what I do have”
I say these gratitudes in the morning and one of them is: ‘I am so grateful I have the capacity to do what I want to do today’. I have a body that’s healthy and I don’t wake up full of aches and pains. I attribute that to my yoga and also have a very healthy diet. Saying thank you in the mirror instead of ‘what’s going on’.
“Getting old is inevitable, aging is a choice” -anonymous
What do you love most about the Bali Spirit Festival?
This is my fifth or sixth festival and I love every minute of it. I love the classes, I love the people, I love that it’s all different kinds of people with so many talents. You sit down and you talk to someone, and they’re just so interesting and they’re from a different country and they’re all in love with yoga or music.
This year to me is one of the best, it’s not a frantic tone, it’s very calm. The music is very beautiful, and I love that the property is small and manageable. I love the people, the connections, being nervous about presenting and then being able to be of service. And just the energy, everyone is smiling, you don’t see anybody arguing, you don’t see anybody dissatisfied (I’m sure they must be, but I never see it!), even on the tiny walkways everybody makes space for each other to walk around.
It’s really loving. At times it’s hot and people are not always comfortable, but the people that run the festival understand the bottom line and provide that for everyone.
“My goal this year has been to look at the schedule
and to take the class that’s least appealing”
I do a lot of yoga and I always go to where it’s comfortable, I decided this festival I’m going to take all the classes that I know nothing about, knowing that I can leave if I don’t like them, and I’ve learned so much. This morning I walked past a Qi Gong class, I’ve never wanted or chosen to do Qi Gong and I was pulled right in and fell in love with Qi Gong. I would have never taken that class otherwise. There are so many options all the time so you can always find a place. And sometimes I just love to sit here and look at all the people and all the energy, like the little kids and the jugglers and somebody on stilts, you never know who or what you’re going to see next.
What one thing would you want the whole world to know?
We have a choice. We may not have the control to manage every situation, but we do have the choice of what perspective we are going to take. We can look at every challenge as an opportunity or we can look at it as ‘why me’.
“No matter what happens, there is another door that can open,
there is another window to look for”
The death of my sister and best friend was a devastating part of my life, yet I created this whole yoga program (Yoga for Living With Loss) from it. I would absolutely prefer to have not lost them, trust me, but that wasn’t what I had control over, I only have control over my perspective. I read a book years ago when my husband and I were first dating ‘Happiness is a choice’ and so that would be my main message along with: wake up with gratitude, be of service and do your best. Which is beautifully described in this expression by The Dalai Lama:
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can”
-The Dalai Lama
Article and interview by Nicky de Koning, Social Media and Soul Coach, Supporting Soulful Entrepreneurs to Shine Online at www.nickydekoning.com.