As I sat in Panera trying to figure out how to start out my first “blog” entry on my love and passion for yoga and how I got here, I was quickly reminded how yoga made its way in forming my vision of a “Do Good Movement”….
After 10 minutes waiting for my 2012 HP laptop to load up, surrounded by the smells of the freshly baked bread and soup, I began to enjoy lunch. Sitting across from the entrance into Panera, I saw a middle-aged woman pushing an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair into the restaurant. Her voice and tone were so calm, so kind as the gentleman dragged his feet on the ground in front of him as she pushed him.
“Dad, can you please put your feet back on the feet rests?” Her father, she had brought her elderly father out for a nice lunch away from home. How this brought back memories…
She looked around the restaurant trying to find a place where they could call home for the next hour as they enjoy a meal together. The restaurant wasn’t too crowded but the table that had the most room to accommodate her father in his wheelchair was the one I was sitting at. I looked at her and asked, “Would you like this table?” She insisted that it was not necessary and that she could find another. I of course insisted that she take it since it was more room for them. She was very gracious and her father was even able to mumble out, “Thank you sweet girl” to me. A tear nearly streamed down my cheek as I packed up my laptop, lunch and moved to the next table.
That moment quickly brought me back to the time where I was just like that women pushing one of her parents in a wheelchair into a restaurant. I can recall it like it was yesterday, helping my 54 year old mother out of the car and assisting her in the wheelchair. I’d then roll her up to the doors at a Panera and somehow manage to open the door with one arm, hold it open, drag mom in the wheelchair through the door with one foot while holding the door open with my other foot and grabbing the wheel chair all at the same time. Phew- how I did that I don’t know. Super women powers I guess. It was really hard for my mom to make it anywhere let alone out of the house. The lung cancer she had been battling for the last 11 months was slowly taking her. My vibrant, ambitious, determined, loving mother was slowly seeing the end of her life approach sooner than it should have. But it was those few moments, having lunch at Panera, where I could make life seem “normal” again or in this instance exciting. By getting her out of the house, away from the medicine, nurses and hospice care, and out to a simple meal with her daughter life seemed so much sweeter. The simple things in life can be the most fulfilling and rewarding at times.
This small snippet is just a blink into my story of how yoga truly changed and saved my life. Before my mother’s diagnosis with lung cancer I had decided to sign up with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to raise funds for MS by participating in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Again, another story on it’s own of why I decided to run in the marathon which I will get to down the road, but after my mother told me that she had cancer my marathon turned into something different. It turned from MY marathon into OUR marathon. The morning of my mom’s first chemo treatment I put a gift by the coffee pot where she would go first thing. It was something small in regards to cost and size, but for us it meant the world. It was a small charm bracelet with a heart engraved saying “Together We Finish Our Marathon”. Cancer is a marathon. From diagnosis, to treatments, to (if you survive) the after effects of treatments- it seems like it never ends, but it does. You somehow get through the hard times, the upset stomachs, the aches and the pains and you push through. Much like a marathon for 26.2 miles you are pushing yourself and your body through the pain, the tears, your own mind telling you to stop and that this was a very dumb idea. You push on. Somehow, by some miracle, you make it to the finish line.
On October 9, 2011 I ran my first ever marathon in Chicago. I crossed the finish line with 4:04 minutes. My mom was unable to be there due to her treatments but the morning of my race when I went downstairs to get my morning cup of coffee, there was a small box sitting next to the coffee pot. I opened it and it was a similar charm bracelet I had given my mom just a few short months earlier. But this one had a little runner with a diamond on it. With it was a card that said, “Together We Finish OUR Marathon.” That bracelet helped me to cross the finish line because it was no longer about the race or what my finish time was. It was about a mother and a daughter and their journey through a marathon of life. In my mind if I could make it through these 26.2 miles, then we could make it through her fight against cancer.
So how does this all come back to yoga you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Now if you have ever run a marathon you know that it more or less destroys your body! 26.2 miles of bouncing up and down on your joints is by no means a healthy way to spend over 4 hours of your day. But hey, it’s quit the bragging rights when you have done it. After I ran my first marathon I had destroyed my muscles around my IT band and had to go to physical therapy to help repair it. While there it was suggested that I go to yoga to help with stretching while maintaining some fitness since I couldn’t be running. So I went…
My first class was much like many others first class experience. “What did I get myself into?”, has crossed everyone’s mind I am sure. There were a lot of poses where people were looking like misshaped Auntie Ann’s Pretzels and people breathing extremely heavy with the instruction to use their jumanji breath? Wasn’t that a movie? I was totally lost but did my best to go through the movements while still maintaining some sanity. When we finally got to the final resting pose, savasana, it hit me. I laid there after 75 minutes of twisting and turning, lunging and bending and just began to cry. I had no idea why these tears were streaming down my face. I mean I had just completed a pretty epic event in my life. But as I lay there, I just let it out. Tear after tear, breath after breath I was letting the stress, the fear, the anxiety and the anger of so much that I haven’t ever tapped into out on my mat. It was at that moment that I feel in love with yoga.
Little did I know that yoga was going to be my saving grace in the months to come. Besides rehabbing me back to health, yoga was my way to reconnect with myself through the hardest time of my life- the death of both of my parents. How a young girl, just 25 years of age, could take care of two ailing parents, plan two funerals and manage to pick up the broken pieces of heart to continue on with life doesn’t seem possible. I am here to tell you that it is.