Desiree Rumbaugh — Moving Through the Ages with Yoga

When we tend to think of yoga that’s accessible for all ages and for aging bodies, we trend toward restorative and gentle yoga, as if our aging bodies across the board lose the will for a physical challenge. It doesn’t have to be that way, according to international teacher, author, and PBS contributor Desiree Rumbaugh. “When I was younger, I’d always hear older people saying, ‘I used to do this or that,’” she says. As a very athletic and disciplined practitioner, this wasn’t how Desiree envisioned her own practice changing through the years. She figured that there had to be a way to continue to age well, without giving up the difficult physical practice. 

As she herself crossed the threshold of 50 and beyond, that’s what her teaching began to showcase. “How do we keep the party going? How do we keep the fun going? How do we keep our wrists and our back and our knees and our neck able to withstand these poses without injury? So that’s what my teaching is like,” she says, “answering those questions and giving people a lot of ideas.”

Creating a Community 

Desiree isn’t alone in this pursuit. She has what she calls a pit crew of physical therapists, weight trainers, and different people to advise her and keep her — and her students — safe as she explores what it means to embrace physicality for older bodies. As the Western yoga world continues to move toward accessibility, Desiree says that she inhabits an important space. “I think that’s kind of interesting to go learn from the lady who’s 63,” she says, “the lady who has been doing this for 35 years, and does everything like handstands and backbends.” 

It’s not only an inspiration because of her age, but because of what that kind of flexibility — both physical and of the boundaries we consider in our own minds about the physical — represents. “It’s not because I’m lucky,” says Desiree. “I’ve had to work to change habits and figure out why these pains were there. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs just like everybody,” she says. “How have I gone into it instead of around it or avoiding it?” 

This doesn’t mean just haphazardly experimenting with advanced poses. In her thirties, Desiree recalls just being able to go the park, for example, and kicking up into a handstand. This isn’t a possibility at 63, when the stakes are much higher if she falls. This “makes me more aware and conscious,” she says, “so there’s the mind aspect. I think as we age, we need to have stimulation of new thoughts and new ideas and new experiences.” That’s what Desiree’s teaching is really all about. 

What Students Can Expect in Her Class

Desiree recognizes that her approach may not be for everybody — but she’s not trying to be. She wants her students to explore their own boundaries, and learn something about themselves that they may not have thought was possible. Her classes inspire students to understand that hard work and dedication results in progress; that you have the power to change your body and your mindset for the better. She also wants to “stress the fun of playing in a yoga class with your friends, even though it can be solitary practice. That’s a big one for me,” she says, “the joy of connecting with others in a playful way where we encourage each other and the support of the community.”

That’s what being at SYF is all about for Desiree — that connection of being with others of likemind, “supported by the breathing and the chanting and the working together mindfully in the present moment.” It’s why we’re so excited to be back together after two years apart, and why we hope you’ll join us in June. 

Tickets are on sale now! Come experience the transformation of SYF with us. We can’t wait to see you soon.



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