“ I have two replaced knees, battle with lower back problems, arthritis in my fingers and elbows and I have never done yoga before… I’m not sure that I can…But here I am and I’d like to try.”

I looked back at the face of the 72 year old woman standing in front of me on the yoga deck and felt honored to introduce and share the gift of yoga with her doubtful yet hopeful Spirit.

Goodness, if there is ever a chance to try out yoga, in the fresh air and trees, egged on by the monkeys and nyalas in our sacred haven of the bush, now is the time. The body responds so quickly to passive movements with intention, providing the mind follows with the necessary backing for each.

We began lying down on our backs with a few introductory postures to work slowly into opening the spine, hips, and shoulders.

I could see this woman was nervous within her body as she had most probably had to relearn its abilities after the replacement operations and changes that come with growing older. Luckily it was a small class of three and I could guide her gently with vocal instructions, as well as hands-on adjustments through some of the spinal twists. Little did she know that most of the postures would require mentally allowing herself to climb into them.

One of the biggest frames of mind people of all age groups carry with them when entering the yoga deck at Londolozi, is the expectation they have of themselves to accomplish something rather than to feel. “Use the hour as a personal inward inquiry as to what is happening within your own body through the movements”, I usually tell the guests.  Regardless of the flexibility, elasticity in fascia or consistency in practice, “ This is your time to explore, take note and to feel.”

As we flowed onwards to hands-and-knees table top, her full efforts in each lengthening and shortening, lifting and lowering, inhale and exhale, encouraged the other two on either side of her to pour themselves deeper into their own movements, which became noticeably more elaborate as time went on. Her body moved the way she asked it to, and it seemed to come as a surprise to her.

It didn’t matter to her that she took a little longer to straighten from floor postures to standing ones. Or that she needed extra cushioning under her knees while on the floor. Or that her range of shoulder rotation was less than those around her. She flowed through each phase of the sequence at the discretion of her own ability and intent frame of mind, and willingly took my hands on offer to assist in her one legged balancing pose. We giggled as we both wobbled over and tried again. Little did she (or I) know that three days (and classes) later she wouldn’t need any extra help standing on one leg, hands raised above head in a prayer.

We decided to keep the handstands at gentle donkey kicks and work towards being upside down completely for something in the future.

Movement holds so much freedom and it certainly doesn’t disappear with age.

Limited in certain ways, perhaps, yet the beauty of yoga is that it doesn’t ask the question of age or pose judgement on when you decide to begin. This deck welcomes every body; big, small, short, tall.

The lesson this wonderful woman left us with during our time together was a powerful one.

It is always a good idea to experience something new.

And who knows… you might find life is better when hanging upside down than experiencing it the right way up.

See you on the deck to play – Zimmer frames welcome.

Filed under Yoga

About the Author

Sam Burnell


Sam was born in Cape Town and is passionate about integrative bodywork therapies and healing concepts. Following two years of studies in Therapeutic Reflexology and Meridian therapy in Cape Town, she spent a year in SE Asia deepening her personal yoga practice, exploring ...

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on Ageing Gracefully

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Marinda Drake

A lovely inspiring blog Sam. You are never too old to learn or to try something new. You are never too old to start some form of excercise. It is nearly better for the mind than for the body. Being out in the fresh air make it just so much more enjoyable.

Wendy Hawkins

Hello Sam your blog made me smile & also very sad as I am almost the same age as your lady, I have arthritis in most of my joints & sadly cannot get down on my haunches any more, so gardening is done by bending over & if I fall over I really battle to get up unless a really strong person is there to help or something to hold onto! So thank you Sam I may have to look into Yoga as a help 🙂

Denise Vouri

Brilliant blog Sam. Your descriptions are spot on for a newbie yoga participant. I’m in the newly turned 70’s bracket and my once lithe, flexible body refuses to bend and twist, but I persevere slowly, allowing my mind to empty and soon I can put my hands flat in the floor. Yoga is new to me but I’m open to a new, more relaxing form of mind and body exercise. You’re an inspiration!!

Mary Beth Wheeler

With all the lovely toned and young bodies seen in your photos, it’s comforting to know that over-60’s are welcome on the yoga deck! Perhaps I’ll brave it next trip!

Judith Guffey

I’m convinced now. I’ll join you when I celebrate my 85th birthday at Londolozi.

Kelly Bernard

Stunning Sam, I so hope to join you on the deck some day! What an inspiring guest to have with you, so open and true to herself.

Jill Larone

Great post Sam and so lovely to read! I started practicing yoga at an especially difficult time in my life, when I really needed to reach inward and find some inner peace. I wasn’t very flexible and certainly didn’t have great balance, but the emotional calmness and wellbeing that it gave me was so incredible, and the flexibility and balance came with time. It must be so fantastic for you to practice in such a magical setting!!

Carolyn Whitaker

Thank you for this beautiful and inspiring post.

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