Forgive me; it’s been seven months and 10 days since my last appearance on the mat. Caregiving and grief do weird things. I always felt so good after yoga; why wouldn’t I extend that self-care into a time when I was draining myself of positive energy, sacrificing my own career and presence with my family to care for a dying parent? That question and its consequences lingers, painfully.
As I dove headlong into caregiving mode for my mother in home hospice, my focus shifted entirely to her and her comfort. That alone was draining, but the environment in which I had to care for her was negative from the get-go. I ended up caring for her and another who had no capacity for empathy. Mentally and emotionally, I became utterly depleted by the frustration of creating a positive environment for my mother as she died, and the truly negative and destructive environment which existed. It was a battle I could not and did not win. And I lost more than my mother.
My lack of self-care during this time drained my body of the necessary chemistry to keep me healthy. Depression set in quickly, followed by the ebb and flow of “normal” grief. I could not return to work, nor could I find the energy to do even the smallest of routine things like eat or feed the dog. My spouse stepped in in a big way, and with his help and the help of a compassionate nurse practitioner and therapist, I have climbed out of the abyss.
But even after reaching the ledge and climbing out, I still couldn’t bring myself to return to yoga. My mat sat in the corner of my office and I knew I should get it out and begin to focus on myself positively, but until 10 days ago, I did not. I’m not entirely sure what brought me to roll it out, but I did. I tuned to my favorite YouTube yogi, Adrienne, and started the 30 day yoga boot camp. I can’t say I’m feeling better physically, but mentally I’m motivated by the thought of self-care that was so utterly lacking for the previous months. As a mother, I’ve always sacrificed my own needs if they interfered with those of my children, and I’m afraid I’ve taught that lack of self-care to them. So now I am doubly motivated to return to my yoga practice and make sure my kids understand the importance of never allowing themselves to disregard their own healthy routines for any reason.
I’ve written about yoga for grief before, and never had the opportunity to really understand it beyond the anecdotal until now. Yoga rescues us from a pit of unreachability by others and ourselves. It brings us, day by day, back to the land of the living, even though the dead may still be on our minds every moment of every day. Yoga helps us accept where we are at any given moment, but challenges us to keep moving. And that’s the key to returning to yoga when you’ve left it behind – it’s a motivator, a comforter, and a daily routine that keeps you mindful of your own self-worth. Look in the mirror today and say, “Namaste” to yourself.