Maurice, 83 years young
Meet Maurice. He was my greatest source of inspiration during my stay at the ashram. I spotted him from early on in my trip to India and felt drawn to him from the word go. He had a wonderful aura and energy around him and was often to be seen sitting alone but looked so serene and at peace with himself.
An opportunity arose during a Gentle Yoga Class when the yoga teacher was talking to him and Maurice said he didn’t understand English too well. Someone mentioned he was French and as I speak French I took this as my cue to introduce myself to him after class and find out his “story”. In fact the yoga teacher was “congratulating” him on his wonderful yoga practice and asking how old he was. Well, Maurice is 83 years young and hails from Béziers in France. He started practicing yoga 53 years ago at the age of 30 and undertook his yoga teacher training at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram – where we were staying – back in 1987. He taught hatha yoga back in France for 15 years and created a company with his partner where they offered yoga and meditation classes locally.
He travelled to India regularly and had been to this ashram umpteen times, however, prior to this particular trip to India he had not been practising yoga for 5 years. I’m not quite sure why he had taken a break from his practice but I do know that he had decided to travel to India 6 weeks previously, specifically to Cochin, on the South-West coast of India where he had slowly recommenced his yoga practice, introducing it gently at first but finding his love for yoga was soon rekindled he decided to return to the ashram. He had initially intended to stay for a fortnight but was feeling so much benefit from his yoga practice that he was staying for another 2 months!
I asked if his family were worried about him being there – he has two children and grandchildren too – but he said they were used to him going away. He had travelled regularly to India throughout his life, often staying for 6 months at a time and so he said they wouldn’t be worried. I found this fact alone to be remarkable, particularly when I think back to the physical restrictions that my own grandparents experienced in their eighties. They certainly would not have been boarding aeroplanes alone to India and spending months sitting cross-legged in an ashram! Clearly Maurice is fiercely independent and fit to boot. What an inspiration! His only limitations, he mentioned, were with any postures that might involve jumping as he felt his ability to balance had declined. This is a common complaint in older age which is why yoga is so great as one advances in life as the only way to improve balance is to actually “balance”. However, judging by this photo I took of Maurice in Vrksasana (Tree Pose) with half-lotus variation, his balance is not too bad at all!
Tree Pose – half lotus variation
He was quick to tell me also that he had always been vegetarian and his entire family too, that his children (now in their sixties) had never eaten meat. Clearly he felt this had played a part in his good health and wellbeing and was very important to him. I asked if his family practiced yoga but he said not at all. His partner, however, was considering joining him at the ashram on another occasion on account of his extolling the benefits of the practice to her. He said that if she agreed to come he would fly them out First Class as a treat 🙂
Interestingly Maurice mentioned that he had felt very tired at the beginning of his stay at the ashram; that he had found the schedule to be tiring but that after the initial fortnight had passed his energy had come back and he was now feeling great. I found this observation to be very interesting as I personally found the schedule to be exhausting but I wonder had I stayed longer whether this too would have passed for me.
He was keen to demonstrate a couple of other postures for me which I will share here to further inspire and show how yoga really is for all ages, for young and old, no limitations, and how a regular practice can see you well into your twilight years.
Maurice confident in Sirsasana (headstand)
Incredible suppleness in Paschimottanasana “Chin to Shins”