I’m not quite sure why you let yourself bend so far back. You’ve not taken yoga since the prenatal class two years ago–and let’s be honest, that was really just a 50-minute meditation and an excuse to get out of the dinner dishes. Natarajasana felt good at the time, I’ll give you that, but that attempt at the Lord of the Dance pose, was just a plain old bad idea. More like, Lord of the who-do-you-think-you-are-fooling-with-this-Dance pose. You know you’re going to pay for it someday. And by someday, I mean, tomorrow. When you wake up and can’t quite move your neck the way it should move. You know, left, right, up, down. Thank god your eye sockets didn’t attempt an inversion or you might never see tomorrow.
Lordy, Lordy, look who’s forty.
But in that moment, on your mat, I know. It felt good. It felt like you were connecting with every muscle in your body, every fiber of your being was in that pose, pulling in every direction to go as deep as you could. Admit it, you felt like a goddess. And maybe a little like Giselle Bündchen. You weren’t thinking, in that moment, holding that pose, about what that extra little tug was going to do tomorrow. How your back would give out, when you were bending over to pull your toddler out of the bike trailer. Oh boy, not this again, not now, not here, you’d find yourself saying in your head so as not to scare your sons who were staring at you from under their wobbly, oversized bike helmets, watching you grimace while you lowered yourself to the ground with your knees.
Let’s be real, at forty, it’s not about showing off anymore. It’s not about bending farther than the college girl next to you in her cute little yoga pants with her cute little yoga butt. It’s not about impressing the teacher, who just got back from a yoga retreat in Costa Rica with her flaming red hair and her tattooed skin radiating sunshine from her core. And by core, I mean, her ass. But it is about feeling real, about diving into the pose, and diving deep, to remind yourself that you are still alive, this is your body and it’s beautiful.
But try to remember, will you, that beauty looks different at forty. Try to remember that it’s not about the ageless, powder-finished beauty you had at twenty-three. It’s not about laughing into the camera like you did back then, wearing a faux fur coat, spiked heels and hot pink lips in a kebab shop somewhere in South London after a night in the bars. Try to remember it’s different now. It’s not about the hair you dyed from platinum to ash and every shade of blonde in-between before you turned thirty, or the Saturday afternoons you spent at the beauty counters with Bobbi, Elizabeth and Estee, perfecting your pout.
Beauty is different now. Like that yoga class last week, let this new era of beauty stretch you. Let it take you to new places, beyond the old picture perfect, pouty paradigm. Stay where you are and these stretches will surely wear you out. You’ll keep pulling, lunging, tearing, twisting and wincing; all in a vain attempt to stop the laughing girl in the photo from aging. That is to say, from living.
If done well, this living will be exhausting. And by exhausting, I mean, exhilarating, all-consuming and thoroughly unpredictable. Then, just when you ask for proof of this life, this crazy life, she’ll swoop in and leave her indelible mark everywhere. Your eyes, your hands, your arms, your thighs. These are not mine, you’ll hear yourself saying more often, these are my mother’s hands. These are not the ones you know from your youth, the ones that carried you to the altar (and back again), through your own roaring twenties, and dirty thirties, through the maze of mothering, and all of the space in between.
Lest this begin to feel like the beginning of the end, beware. Where beauty once carried you, it’s your turn now. You need that back to be strong, to stand tall and carry the confidence that comes with a life of substance. And your boys, let’s not forget them, they’ll need your strength too. Next time you’re on your mat, go easy on yourself. A thing of beauty won’t be around forever if you don’t take care of it. So take it easy.
And by easy, I mean, child’s pose.