Taking Yoga Off the Mat

Sitting by my father’s hospital bed the other day, I thought of how I’m grateful for my yoga practice, not for the physical poses (asana) but for the breath practice (pranayama), mindfulness skills and tools I’ve learned along the way.

I scan my body and find my shoulders and neck stiff and filled with trepidation and nervous energy. I remind myself to feel the seat I’m sitting on and feel my feet solidly on the floor, strong as a seated mountain. My physical body settled into the chair and the backs of my thighs, pelvis and spine, as I feel supported by the metal cold chair. I find myself sitting more easefully and feeling more grounded.

While my father sleeps and worried thoughts fill my brain, I inhale and silently say the word peace to myself, and then exhale and say the word ease. I witness myself in flight fight mode and calmly take my thumb to pointer finger and inhale and then move to the middle finger and exhale. Slowly breathing and touching each finger one at time while I inhale and exhale alternating fingers and hands.

And then when my father wakes I am able to be present for him, hold his hand and offer some comfort. I am better able to listen to what he is really saying when he asks if I want to take his Murphy bed and other possessions home. His Murphy bed has been unoccupied for months while he sleeps in his hospital bed.

Watching a loved one slowly withdraw from the world is frightening and sad. Being in touch with the feelings that ebb and flow is not always easy but using these ancient tools makes it a little easier to breath.