yoga knows no age


Jan Campbell - photos by Betsy B. Jones

Just months away from her 79th birthday, Nashville yogi, Jan Campbell hasn’t even begun to think about retirement yet. Our Hill Center educator, Ciona, sits down with Jan for a few words of wisdom.

“Right now I’m looking at 85 as maybe a good year to consider thinking about retiring,” says Jan, laughing. She delicately moves her hands with intentionality and grace as she speaks.

The 78-year-old yoga instructor opened Nashville’s first yoga studio in 1986. She is the first teacher of many of our community’s yoga instructors.  Her days are filled with yoga classes, workshops or teacher trainings and, frankly, she can’t imagine a better way to fill her days than with the thing she loves most. She inspires that same joie de vivre in others.


Ciona with Jan

be an exclamation point not a question mark

She tries to get her students to walk around like exclamation points. “A student told me that if we look around us, we see that people on the streets look a lot like question marks.” They often walk about with hunched shoulders and a closed heart. “Life does a number on us . . . it’s almost like we’re getting back into the fetal position. But yoga opens our hearts and helps us breathe better.” Jan sits and stands upright with her chest open. If there’s any such thing as perfect, her posture has discovered it and now laughs in the face of the assumed gravity of aging. “We are all aging; it doesn’t matter what age you are,” Jan says.

jan - yoga - pose

the breakdown before the breakthrough

Yoga has added many life-changing qualities to Jan’s life. Thirty-two years ago she faced a crumbling marriage and the reality that she was about to be a single mother with three children. She was a successful real estate agent at the time, which she enjoyed but was also starting to feel like there was something else she was supposed to be doing with her life. This is when curiosity took her to the mat. Before long, Jan found that she was eating better, feeling better and sleeping better. “Life began to evolve,” says Jan. So much so, that she trained to be a yoga instructor and left her job to share her passion with others.

still going strong

“Yoga won’t slow down the fact that we’re aging but it will slow down the effects of aging and add to the quality of our lives.” Jan lives a healthy, active life where she enjoys hiking regularly and travelling as often as possible. She has been to several countries, including India where she studied yoga.
She still travels across the United States leading yoga
workshops and instructor trainings.

Jan reminds us that “life is too rich and too full to not do something with the golden years!”

We say, ‘Practice yoga so you can remain active in physical sports as you age. In Jan’s opinion, no-one is ever too old to start because the poses can always be modified for an aging body. Feeling inspired to hit your mat? Us too! Check out the gift of yoga for an at-home practice.

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I turn 50 this year and just found yoga about 15 months ago. I don’t plan to stop. This woman is an inspiration! Yoga has put me in good shape and has opened doors off the mat, too. It brought me to an opportunity to write, blogging on yoga for some local D.C. area websites, all of which are compiled at

Comment by Yogini @ — January 5, 2012 @ 8:44 am

This is beautifully written, Ciona, and Jan is such an inspiration! You both look positively glowing and gorgeous!

Also, <3 for representing Nashville/Hill Center Lulu. That was just icing on the cake, for me! :)

Comment by Holly — January 5, 2012 @ 9:20 am

Hi there,

I hate to say this- but intentionality is not a word- I believe it’s intention… :)

Be well!

Comment by Rosa — January 5, 2012 @ 9:34 am

Thank you SO much, Ciona! It is inspiring to hear the story of Jan and appreciate you sharing it with us all. Love.

Comment by Anna — January 5, 2012 @ 11:59 am

Intentionality is a word! Check out web link above.

Comment by Anne — January 5, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

Thank you so much, Ciona, for showcasing one of the most amazing women I know. Her practice and life are so deeply intertwined; Jan definitely LIVES yoga. I love that my initial introduction to the practice weaved it’s way through this teacher. Blessings.

Comment by Raquel — January 5, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

I love this so much! So inspiring…thanks for sharing this with us, Ciona :)

Comment by Alexis — January 5, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

Jan Campbell is Nashville’s first lady of yoga! Blessed to have been a student of hers. Happy birthday, Jan!

Comment by Ceci — January 6, 2012 @ 5:49 am

Thanks for sharing this story. I just love the thought of being an exclamation point instead of a question mark, and the insight paying attention to the world around us can provide. She has to be one of the most beautiful women I have yet to meet.

Comment by Lanecia — January 6, 2012 @ 6:53 am

Jan has been my teacher for over a decade. She is an inspiration to us all and is living proof of the power of practice. Jan’s dedication to Iyengar yoga and Mr. Iyengar’s teachings has inspired and shaped numerous teachers in our community.

Comment by Aretha Blevins — January 6, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

Jan’s dedication to Mr. Iyengar’s teachings has inspired countless teachers to pursue their studies in the Iyengar tradition. Her dedication to Mr. Iyengar’s teachings is one of the reasons she is practicing with grace and strength at 78yrs. This was not mentioned in your blog but it is something I am positive that Jan would want you to make note of. It is with gratitude that I count her as my mentoring teacher.

Comment by Aretha Blevins — January 6, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

I love the story! I did my very first Yoga sold and now I am going to have a line to sell..very excited ! I can even do personal lamps if you have a great image…Joan is a good one. Hm! Thank-you! See only Facebook page Lynn Melanson

Comment by ShadesofNature — January 7, 2012 @ 10:55 am

As one of Jan’s students, I wanted to express how much of an inspiration she is to me and all of her students.

I hope this article spreads the inspiration worldwide.
Thank you for sharing!

Comment by Connie — January 8, 2012 @ 5:39 am

Jan is an eminently caring and dedicated teacher — her own distinct vitality characterizes every class. Students come away with a feeling for what is good about humanity.

Comment by Ed Dubell — January 9, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

I started Ashtanga yoga at 61. If you’re afraid you’re too old to start, push that thought away. Yoga is for everyone – any age, any time.

Comment by Mercury — January 14, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

I’m so glad you did an article on Jan. She deserves to be nationally recognized for her work bringing Iyengar Yoga to so many people. I am inspired every day to be like Jan Campbell! Her classes have changed my life and my body, all for the better. Thank you Jan.

Comment by Holly — January 15, 2012 @ 9:34 am

Ok, she is amazing! Such an inspiration.

Comment by Allyson — January 23, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

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