I know I’ve shared recently that my family is in the midst of major destruction. My parents and brother are no longer speaking, and this occurs when my parents are 85 years old, so it’s tragic that during my father’s decline in health and mental capacity, he’s decided to take legal action against my brother for perceived financial disagreements. In the midst of dealing with my parents’ mental and physical declines, as I’m mentally preparing myself for what the future brings us all – the end of life – I find myself extremely angry for what I perceive to be a petty issue raised into a legal battle that fractures our family, I also had to do something to help celebrate my mother’s 85th birthday. I didn’t want to be with them, and I have spent less time with them because of my frustration with their behavior, but at the same time, people don’t turn 85 every day and I wanted to help her celebrate it. We have taken trips to Las Vegas every year for my mother’s birthdays for a long time. With my father’s immobility, and mom’s illnesses, this would involve traveling with two disabled people, not something I was looking forward to. As expected, there were a number of moments that were incredibly sad and difficult. But I had yoga to turn to.
I have been doing yoga now for about 11 years. I started doing it at age 50. I could barely move. I was shocked to realize how out of shape I was and how much of my mobility I had lost. I was still exercising regularly which I have done most of my life, so I had no idea of how much I couldn’t do. I remember even the simplest positions and stretches being challenging and sort of painful, more like uncomfortable. But something happened each week as I did it. The uncomfortable positions began to become less so, and the flexibility gradually returned. My sense of discovery and accomplishment as I watched these occur was encouraging and I continued on. Over months I began to be able to do more challenging poses. Then I began to feel stronger and healthier than I’ve ever felt in my whole life, and happier to. At some point I began doing a little studying about the philosophical basis to yoga, and then I understood why.
Yoga is a health practice that has many sources from India, but it was generally developed to enhance both mental, physical and spiritual health. The goal of yoga is to learn to turn off the mental chatter, or monkey brain as it is referred to, the noise in our heads that makes us stressed and miserable. Much research has been done to see what makes us happy and sad. (Check out the EDX free class from University of California, Berkeley, “The Science of Happiness). A wandering mind tends to think unhealthy and unhappy thoughts 67% of the time. That means that when we don’t pay attention to what we think, we think negatively and feel bad.
Yoga gradually trains you to pay attention to your thoughts. It teaches you to breathe through stress. It trains you to quiet your busy brain. It makes you stronger and healthier. And it’s the best pain management I’ve ever found – the inactive body becomes painful; muscles and ligaments and other connective tissue shrinks when unused, and that causes pain.
So I went to a yoga class before I got my parents on that plane. And I’m glad I did because traveling with them that day, feeling like I was, was one of the hardest days of my life. And then I went to yoga the next day, and it was worth the $70 I paid in cab fare. The class I found in Las Vegas at the Yoga Sanctuary was perfect, it almost made me cry how incredibly healing it was. Everyone there was so warm and friendly, and the teacher, Celine, was fantastic and talked a lot about healing in her class. I went again on Saturday to yoga, and I felt energized and happy again. I brought them home yesterday, and coming home was much much easier. I went to yoga this morning. Today was a wise gift I gave myself, a day off to regroup. And today I realized that the reason yoga is so wonderful is that it brings you back to yourself. Yoga brings you back to the you that is without the stress, without all the noise, and is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give yourself.
Namaste. The light in me bows to the light in you.