Aging isn’t easy. Mainstream culture dictates that each passing year inches women closer and closer to a place of irrelevance within society. Barraged as we are with advertisements that denounce wrinkles, gray hair, and sagging skin, it’s no wonder that the masses have come to equate aging with “wasting away.” But if we pause to think critically about it, when it comes to the topic of growing older, women are up against a harmful double standard rooted in toxic patriarchal thinking. As we age, there is no doubt that our bodies change; but that does not mean that they lose their beauty or their value.
Most women would agree that each new season of their life brings with it a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that can only be gleaned through the passage of time and the accumulation of new experiences. Yet our culture remains stubbornly obsessed with female youthfulness. The same standard is certainly not applied to men, who are instead typically judged by markers of achievement, like their education level or their career status. Clearly, the stigma around getting older requires further thought, further visibility, and further conversation—which is exactly what we’re here for.
In the latest issue of our Aging Gracefully series, we were so excited to hear from Marjorie Nass, an accomplished yogi, inspirational lifestyle coach, and all-around extraordinary woman. Over the past 17 years, Marjorie has been a positive force of transformation in the lives of thousands of individuals seeking to relieve joint pain, lose weight, and improve their sleep, among other things. From leading international retreats to teaching private classes, workshops, and online programs, Marjorie has made an enormous impact on the lives of so many people. Read on for her thoughts about how women can (and should) rethink aging, and reclaim their enormous worth in the process….
KG – What does "aging gracefully" mean to you?
To me, aging gracefully means continuing to be active and doing the things I love! Whether it’s yoga, hiking, walking, traveling and spending time with loved ones, the ability to move my body with ease is essential to aging gracefully. Once we are limited physically, emotional and mental decline often follows.
KG – How do you think society affects the way we feel about aging?
MN – It’s tough because most women portrayed in the media are younger individuals. And many older women have had cosmetic work done, which is their choice, but skews our perception of what natural aging looks like. Younger women tend to be the standard to which all ages of women are held so it’s hard to feel positive about aging.
KG – Do you think there’s a difference in the way we talk about men aging versus women?
MN – Yes. We generally don’t talk about men losing their looks as they get older, or that their best years are behind them. In fact, the conversation is often that men get better looking as they age! Women are often negatively compared to how they looked when they were younger.
KG – How do you think we as women can support one another as we age?
MN – I love having women in my life from all age groups. Since moving from NYC to La Jolla several years ago, I’ve cultivated friendships with women a decade or more older, as well as much younger, and find there is so much to learn from one another. Creating community is a vital way to support one another as we age. Loneliness is one of the greatest risks to our health, so support other women by reaching out regularly, and continuing to develop new friendships through other friends or your interests.
KG – What is one misnomer about aging you wish you could dispel?
MN – That having aches, pains and a decrease in energy is inevitable, and means that “we are just getting old”. These symptoms are NOT a normal sign of aging, but are clear messages that something in the body is not functioning optimally. There is so much we CAN do to alleviate pain and low energy through simple lifestyle changes, including yoga. I see remarkable shifts in clients who follow my Pain Free and Energized programs, including one 69 year old who went from being barely able to walk a few years ago because of foot, knee and hip pain, who now competes in triathalons!
KG – In your experience, what role does yoga and mindful movement play in the aging process?
MN – It’s absolutely essential. Daily movement is key to maintaining our strength, flexibility and balance, and yoga helps with each of those. Mindfulness, and mindful movement are about bringing awareness into our daily life, which we can all use, especially in this day and age where we are so distracted. The mindfulness we cultivate on the mat informs all areas of our lives physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Life inevitably has its ups and downs, and yoga can help us through it all.
KG – When it comes to transitions, we are often advised to “focus on the positive.” What’s one positive thing you think people should keep in mind about growing older?
MN – Gratitude for being on this earth as long as we have. I call aging living in our bodies longer, and getting older is a privilege that not everyone gets.
KG – What do you think when you look in the mirror and see yourself changing over time?
MN – Sometimes I don’t notice the changes, as I just look like me. Other times I’ll see a photo from years ago and it’s clear that my body and my face have changed. Then I shift that thought and remember much more I can physically at 55, than before I started yoga at 32. Like a handstand!!
KG – How can we open up the conversation about aging gracefully so that getting older doesn’t feel like such a taboo topic?
MN – This Kira Grace series is such a great start. I think gathering women to talk about the subject will also help. It could start with just you and a friend and grow from there.
KG – Do you have any mantras or specific inspirations you look to when it comes to easing your mind about aging?
MN –As my 95 year old Aunt Aileen said recently on her birthday, age is just a number (she said that on her 90th too!) In the 1970s, she took me to exercise classes at her gym, and has been working out her whole life, so staying active is key. She lives completely independently, maintains social connections and even drives short distances. She’s an amazing inspiration.