What Yoga Means to Me

November 5, 2014 | by Michelle Meier

People practice yoga for varying reasons, whether to improve their health, tone their body, calm their mind, overcome illness or grief...no matter the reason, yoga has a way of touching our souls and forever transforming our lives for the better.

As I watched the rise and fall of my mom's chest in the hospital bed, I wondered when her last breath would be.  I'd wondered about this for six months.  I came back to my own breath, breathing as mindfully as I do on my yoga mat, and I found myself more centered and present.

I first came to yoga through my dad many years ago.  But back then it was about how flexible and fit I could get, concerned more with how I looked rather than with how I felt.  I loved the physical challenge yoga inexhaustibly presented me but it wasn't until almost three years ago that yoga grew to be something so much more meaningful in my life.

After an eighteen-year battle with breast cancer, my mom discovered it had metastasized into her bones.  She amazed me, my family, and everyone we knew with her refreshingly positive attitude about the 6 month life sentence she was given. 

Rather than focusing on anger, depression, hurt or pain (don't get me wrong, we had our share of tears together), my mom inspired us by focusing on the Love she felt from God and our family and the Joy she felt in each precious and fleeting moment we shared together.

During those final months, my mom stumbled across an article about Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world's oldest yoga teacher.  Moved by this inspiring woman, she suggested I should train to be a teacher.  I was already teaching dance at the time so it seemed like a natural segway.

Little did I know that it would not only be an education for me, it would end up being my lifeline.  

As my mom's physical condition deteriorated, I could feel my heart breaking even more.  But every time I stepped on my yoga mat, I was given an opportunity to release the deep emotions I carried within and, inevitably, I walked off of it a stronger person, more capable of letting go of my mom, who was my best friend and soulmate.

Even on the days when I didn't have the strength to hold a Warrior Pose, I surrendered into Child's Pose, letting myself cry right there on my mat.  

Yoga helped me recognize when I needed to give love to myself by spending time on my own, on my mat, or with friends and not feel guilty about being away from mom.  And when I came back home to my mom, I had the space again within to be present together with her in her Love and Joy.  

My dad ended up being in the hospital room with my mom when she finally did take her last breath.  It was rather poetic, as they'd just celebrated 50 years of marriage together.  My sister and I rushed back to be with him.

It was surreal to see my mom, so full of life only 2 weeks earlier at their wedding anniversary, lying still and at peace.

The months that followed were even more surreal, learning how to live life without my mom by my side as she always was.  While nothing or no one could replace the hole in my heart, getting on my mat helped me process my grief in a healthy and deeply releasing way.

There were some days I couldn't get on my mat, let alone bear to open the curtains for fear of feeling the wicked daylight illuminate my pain and emptiness.  

But I knew that my mat would always be there ready for me when I would be.