I’ve found who I want to be when I grow up. Yes, I know, just be yourself they say, but in the context of the larger world, we all look to role models that influence us along the way.I want to be like Maia. Strong, flexible, open and aware and grateful for the lovely, simple things in her life: plants and flowers, a good cup of coffee, a colorful and orderly home, healthy food, the wind outside her window. What can money buy that trumps true simplicity?
The film above, called My Friend Maia, “captures the secrets of eternal youth as Maia Helles, a Russian ballet dancer turns 95 but still remains resolutely independent, healthy and as fit as a fforty-year-old Julia Warr, artist and film maker, met Maia on a plane 4 years ago and became utterly convinced by the benefits of her daily exercise routine, which Maia perfected, together with her mother, over 60 years ago, long before exercise classes were ever invented.” (2011)
Maybe I resonate deeply with this film because it touches a mysterious place inside me; if I could choose another life, I would have been a professional ballet dancer. As a child, I remember asking my parents for lessons, but at the time, strapped with 5 children on a single income, it was not an affordable request. Then in my twenties I took interpretive dance classes in college (it was the early 70’s, where everything was open to interpretation), and post college, when my boys were young, I put the time in at the ballet bar with a local teacher. My body is not built to professionally dance, mind you. I’m 5’10” and big boned.
But the feeling of dancing is the ultimate freedom; it’s like riding a horse with the wind in your hair. Moreover, dancing is an extension of your soul, an expression of one’s deepest emotions and proclivities. It is a gift you give to others (I attended a wedding once where the groom’s sister shared a special dance for the newlyweds); and it is a vehicle of healing, a release of joy or sorrow that in some way, moves the dancer and audience on a visceral level, as effectively as do the visual arts and music.
With the dream of dance set aside, for the next 15 years, I studied yoga with an exemplary teacher (Lynn Minton), who started the first yoga studio in Anchorage. She named her studio, Yoga, the Inner Dance. Oh my…what a stroke of luck being brought to this art; I’m dancing…albeit in slow motion.
Reference to “the inner dance” in a yogic context includes the play of “citta”, or the dance of the mind; how thoughts and emotions expand and fluctuate to weigh you down…or lift you up, and how observance of those thoughts and impressions affect one’s quality of life.
Even as we age, we can carry ourselves with beauty and grace, as Maia does, from the inside out. Go to the mat each morning, say a little prayer, and move in whatever way pleases. The main point is to move. Keep moving. It reminds me of an 86 year old Alaskan elder, who, as he reminisced about how his life had slowed way down said, “Oh, to be eighty again…”
Maybe eighty is the new sixty?