The Incredible Lightness of Ageless Yoga
Fifty-something yoga teacher, Sigrid Matthews’ “Yoga for Well-Being” class is overflowing with women and men in their 40s, 50s and even 70s, although you would never guess it from the way they move.
Sigrid has been a yoga teacher for over 30 years. More than three years ago she became co-owner of Black Dog Yoga, the largest studio in LA’s San Fernando Valley, where she has been teaching to a packed room ever since it opened 16 years ago. And this year she opened a second studio in West Hollywood called Yoga Vibe.
A former theater major who studied Shakespeare in London, on this day she opens the class of 50 or so gregarious students with her favorite quote from Shakespeare,
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
And the room breathes out a great sigh.
How did this class become so popular?
Ten years ago I started shifting my focus as a teacher, building more content for people who are aging, who haven’t devoted their whole life to this. I also had gone back and gotten more training in yoga therapy which is a whole system of teachings.
Our teachers are used to saying “try it this way, or try it that way,” so it opens the door to everybody as opposed to “this is the only way you’re going to do it and if you can’t do it then you feel defeated.”
I don’t care if the yoga is hard or soft. It should all be yoga for well-being. That's what yoga is. Well-being is for every age. It’s not code for old age.
We love that your class still offers a great workout without feeling like we’re taking a class for old people.
I say it to my younger teachers all the time, baby boomers don’t want to feel like you’re going easy on them. They want to feel like they’re accomplishing, they’re working. They’re the same people who did step aerobics etc. You’ve got to give them enough to feel like they’ve done something but not put them in a compromised situation, and especially psychologically, where they feel like, “I used to do so much and now I’m doing nothing.”
It’s been my personal mission. Everybody should be able to get this great experience. It doesn’t have to look the same for everybody but it should feel great for everybody.
It’s funny, we’re finding women at this age actually want to do more in their lives.
I think women in their 50s and 60s become more globally oriented and less family oriented. Which doesn’t jive with our idea of being a grandma type.
When I was in my late 30s, juggling two small babies and working constantly. I was like, "I will retire by the time I’m 50, I’m going to be done with this teaching."
Nothing could be further from the truth, I’m more interested in teaching than I’ve ever been, I feel more creative in my teaching. I couldn’t wait to do something more before I actually bought this business. And I don’t feel overwhelmed. There are times I feel really busy, but I don’t feel overwhelmed by it. I can’t imagine not doing this at least into my 60s.
Does yoga double as meditation?
Yoga can be mindful and it can help you move to a meditative state. But there’s value in learning how to be still. Especially if you’re a baby boomer, especially if movement is burning calories, especially if you don’t think if you’re not in motion then you’re not somehow accomplishing something.
It’s been an important and valuable lesson for me because I’m a mover. I don’t stop. So for me to stop, and realize that since I’ve been meditating I’ve actually been thinner, since I’ve been meditating it’s been easier for me to follow what I think is right eating, since I’ve been meditating it’s been easier for me to be patient with my children etc.
It only takes 15 minutes to shift how you feel. Connecting with your breath. It only takes 15 minutes to open up your hamstrings and open up your body. It really doesn’t take that much to get a shift physically, mentally and emotionally.
Put it in your schedule the way you put something else in your schedule. It’s non-negotiable.
Some studies claim yoga is anti-aging. Do you agree?
I do. If you do enough yoga and you start to understand it so that you’re living it more than just doing it, you get lighter, you get happier, you get freer. That’s the anti-age part. If you just smile you look ten years younger.
I have a student who is in her late 70s who got on a bus one day and the driver said, "I know you do yoga." And she said, "How do you know? And he said, “Because you’re so light in your eyes.”
I do think it's age defying.
Watch Sigrid's video series for perimenopause through post-menopause stages below: