I have just added Willie Nelson to my list of personal heroes. I’m sure I’m not alone, there. An octogenarian who has recorded more than 200 albums since he started his career in the 1950s, he has long since earned his place as a country music legend, humanitarian, social and environmental activist and American icon. (And that was all before he became the elder statesman for the legalization of marijuana!)
His legacy aside, I was unprepared for the experience of witnessing Mr. Nelson rocking out to 4,000 people in an Atlantic City amphitheater last Sunday night. My mind and heart were blown wide open by the very force of his being: energy, love, creativity and joy just pour out from this man. He is resonant with vitality and, at the same time, grounded by learned wisdom and deep pathos. He is eye-catching and familiar, with his creaky voice and warm smile, that signature bandana and silvery braids. He is not at all what you think of when you hear the words “senior citizen.” As I stamped my feet and raised my glass to the anthemic “I Didn’t Come Here, and I Ain’t Leaving,” I sent my appreciation to him—not just for his musical gifts but for the spiritual teaching he has offered through his own life. What an exquisite example of “agelessness,” and right on time for our September issue on that theme.
I came home inspired to learn about how Mr. Nelson has spent the last eight decades. A guy who has been renowned for his Zen-like disposition and affection for “herbal supplements,” his biography reads like a playbook on longevity. True to the ideas presented in this month’s feature piece, “Ageless Being: Staying Vibrant in Mind, Body and Spirit” by Kathleen Barnes, it’s clear that he has kept his mind in a state of continual expansion, his body supple, and his heart porous.
Yoga, much like the tae kwon do that Mr. Nelson has practiced since he was a young man, is one of the most powerful forms of agelessness. It is both a preventative and a curative for dozens of health-related issues. For me, it’s been a 17-year journey to ease muscle tension, lift depression and decrease anxiety. Two years ago, I took the 200-hour teacher training in the Integral Yoga tradition, founded by Swami Satchidananda. His motto, and the aim of the yoga that he taught until he left his body at 87, was “easeful body, peaceful mind.”
I realize I’m aging, too. I’ve watched yoga culture grow in the U.S. over the past decade. I often mourn that in many studios, the philosophy is downplayed in favor of the sexier, more acrobatic elements of the form. Still, by and large, I am pleased to see so many people practicing, and the impact that is having on our culture. It’s not a coincidence that in an age when you can buy yoga pants at Target, we are seeing increasing acceptance of yoga and other alternative health modalities by the medical establishment. Meredith Montgomery explores the implications in our second feature piece, “Yoga Enters the Medical Mainstream: Research Proves Its Health Benefits.”
In our special “Local Yoga Voices” section, we hear directly from local yogis about what this practice has done for them, their students and the communities where they teach, in Bucks and Montgomery Counties. We’ll hear from Robbin Alston of Áse Yoga, Pooja Erica Andersen of Chalfont Yoga and Patty Ferry of Whole Body Yoga about yoga’s profound ability to transform us from the inside out.
For those who are new to yoga, or haven’t practiced in a while, we’ve also included a local yoga directory with a list of popular studios in the Bucks and Montgomery region. If there’s a studio you know and love that’s not listed, just drop us a line and let us know. We’ll be sure to include it next time.
I end with gratitude for the wisdom of the sages on this tricky business of living and dying. I’ll keep working to find peace with my body and mind even as my vintage increases. So at the end of the day, I can say with a smile, in the words of my guru Willie Nelson, “roll me up and smoke me when I die.”