In the Fall of 2001, my mother began to experience physical limitations due to osteo arthritis, sciatica and back pain. At 78- years of age, she turned to yoga to maintain her mobility, manage her pain, and soothe her spirit. Due to her serious and oftentimes debilitating physical issues, her yoga has been practiced primarily for relief from aches and pains, and for gaining physical benefits. Supports like the wall, and props such as chairs, wooden blocks and belts, as developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, have often been utilized during her practice.
Due to yoga, her body awareness and her posture have greatly improved. As she practices standing postures, she practices lifting her trunk up as she extends and lengthens her psoas and abdominal muscles. After the first time that my mother practiced a new resting pose on her own, I received a phone call from her. She stated, “You’ll never guess what happened? I fell asleep for twenty minutes while doing this pose!”
Establishing a new routine for someone at this stage of life is not easy and there have been some pitfalls along the way. Yet despite the difficulty in maintaining motivation and consistency with her yoga practice, my mother has remained committed to her yoga. As positive results continue to occur, she has come to enjoy and trust in the yoga process. Yoga has given my mother hope, healing and health. And after a lifetime of selfless giving, it is such a pleasure to see her learning to take time for herself and responsibility for self-care.
When practicing yoga together, my mother, my children and myself may all be in the same pose but in three different ways. Poses may be modified to meet each person’s needs for we each have different abilities and are at different stages of life. At times my children act as my assistants, helping their grandmother in a pose and there is always much laughter in the room. Yoga is a highly individualized process and may mean different things for different people. When doing yoga together, grandmother, daughter and grandchildren experience this ancient healing art nonverbally, and this connects all of us in a deep manner.
As I have become the conduit to carry the gifts of yoga to my mother and to my children, my roles as daughter, mother and teacher merge, and I am an active partner in their journeys. Interestingly enough, a role reversal occurs as I become caregiver to my mother while also being a role-model of living a healthy lifestyle for my children. This unique triad involving three generations practicing yoga together is a very special gift in my life. I feel immense gratitude for the opportunity to touch the lives of those I love so dearly through the yoga teachings. Regardless of what stage of life we are at, we hold the key to achieving balance in our lives. With this, we can practice our yoga on or off the mat.