A site for Gen-X men, by Gen-X men, about the stuff in life that really matters.
The Arrow Logo - SVG
Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Arrow community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? 

Yoga for Beginners Who Think They’re Too Old for This S—t

The secret isn’t mastering impossibly complicated yoga poses

Two yoga poses, the left is a difficult pose with picture of a man putting thumbs down as a response. On the right, an easier pose with man winking with approval
Shutterstock (4)

I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly 20 years, and it amazes me how little the perception of yoga has changed in that time. People still think that it’s an activity for young, fit women in expensive exercise pants.

The truth is, anyone can practice yoga, at any age. I’m a good example of that. 

Though I certainly have skills I lacked when I started — I can stand on my head for five minutes, sit comfortably in half-Lotus, and a handful of other wacky Buddha-style tricks of flexibility and strength — it’s not like yoga transformed me into some sort of unstoppable physical marvel. 

I weigh approximately the same now as I did when I started practicing, and I have more or less the same muscle tone. My body is healthy for my 51 years, but it’s also just ... normal.

Yoga hasn’t made me physically special, but it has helped me maintain. My mind is clearer, calmer and more tranquil than it would have been without yoga and meditation, my breath is deeper, and my patience for life’s troubles is greater. 

My world isn’t perfect, but yoga has deepened and enriched my ordinary experience so that I can’t imagine life without it. 

And it’s accessible to you as well. I’m not going to provide you with “essential yoga poses” because I’ll let you in on yoga’s greatest secret: 

The poses don’t matter. 

If you do them, it helps to do them well and correctly, because there are physical benefits. There are certainly levels of difficulty and mastery. But the specific poses themselves mean nothing. 

Here’s what actually matters.

1. Study with a teacher you like and respect. 

Whether it’s online or in person, you need a trusted guide. There are plenty of charlatans and fake gurus in the yoga world, but there are many, many more nice people who just want to share what they’ve learned. If you connect with someone, go with him or her and commit. 

2. Don’t get attached to results. 

It took me a year to learn how to do a headstand. And that was a short amount of time, yoga-wise. As a beginner, you’ll fall and stumble and occasionally look ridiculous. If you don’t, you’ll be the first. But it doesn’t matter. This is a process. 

3. Observe your thoughts. 

You can’t “clear your mind” no matter how hard you try. The annoying chatter is always there. When you’re doing physical yoga or meditating, the key is to watch your mind do its perambulations. You’ll be amazed at what you find. 

4. Focus on your breath. 

Whether you’re in a simple, supported, restorative pose, a basic Downward Dog or a triple-reverse-inverted Scorpion pose, breath is key. Watch it, keep it steady, and everything else will come to you. Except for maybe the triple-reverse-inverted Scorpion pose.

5. Find a comfortable seat. 

That’s the first instruction of every yoga session — and the last. Whether it’s your first class or your 5,000th, a comfortable seat and a calm mind are all you need for a successful practice. 

I’m confident that you can do this — because I’ve done it, and I’m a total clod. Don’t be afraid of yoga. It’s good for you. Get your butts on the mat.