I was having lunch the other day with someone who's done yoga with me (I hardly know any other kind of people) and we were talking about the benefits of yoga and how it really helped her out after surgery. She reminded me about how yoga is so great when you get older because flexibility and range of motion will have a bigger impact on your quality of life than previous fitness levels. She said even people who were runners and worked out don't do better than the general population, but that people who are flexible are able to get around much better.
I shared with her about one student I have who has Alzheimer's and how he doesn't seem to remember me and I remind him regularly that we're doing yoga and that all the money in the world isn't going to buy that guy's mind back. It's really hard on his family, especially his wife to see him that way. My friend asked me if I'd rather be in a fit body and have lost my mental faculties or keep my mental faculties and lose my body, and wouldn't it be frustrating to be in body that can't do the things it wants to.
It didn't take me long to answer at all - I would have a preference - my mental clarity is really important to me. That doesn't mean I don't value my body and don't get me wrong, I really hope I don't have to make that choice! And I also don't know what's going on for my guy - his mental clarity might be super-strong but he's not able to communicate - it might not be at all how I imagine it. Nonetheless, for our conversation, for the way we had it over lunch that day, I chose to keep my mental clarity rather than physical fitness.
Our bodies inform our feelings to some degree, but it's really our minds that determine the quality of experience we're having. Strengthening the mind through right knowlege, through meditation, concentration, reflection, self-study, all that good stuff, is useful at sharpening our experience of life so it comes in crystal clear and we have an experience of being truly alive. All the fitness in the world won't give us that.