Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got. – Art Buchwald
One of my most committed yoga students died on Saturday morning. She was in her late 80’s and while this wasn’t completely unexpected, I was still quite surprised. This is the 3rd student, that I am aware of, who has died in the last year. Each one of them was in class within a week or two of their death.
Marjorie came to Chairish Yoga twice a week for the last two years. If I offered it every day, she would have been there. But the last several months had taken a hard toll on her body and spirit. She was visibly exhausted, sleepy, and just seemed to be far away somewhere. This was not the Marjorie I had met years before who boldly insisted on doing the floor based yoga class and had the strength and tenacity to prove that she was right. She was still that strong-willed, healthy, and brilliant mind, of course, but she was worn down from the stress and physical strain of the aging process. I vividly remember her telling me about how she had no idea how hard it was going to be to “get old”.
There is something about Marjorie’s death that inspires me all the more to teach and practice yoga. Yoga is obviously a great practice for your health and wellness, flexibility, and strength. It helps you sleep better and even helps you poop better – and what more could you ask for, really? As much as it helps you live well, I think it might also help you die well (and we’re all dying from this sexually transmitted disease called life, right?).
How does yoga help you die, you ask? (this is my hunch, obviously I don’t know for certain) Doing Yoga is not about having great flexibility or balance. Yoga is about being connected and PRESENT in mind, body, and spirit. Being fully alive in yourself as is; with depression, with disease, with imperfections, addictions, and all the other elements of living. I think there might be some relief and ease in actually being in and with your body, even and especially in the midst of suffering, instead of constantly convincing, challenging, and struggling against your body, willing it to be something other than it is.
One of the books on my Christmas list will be We Know How This Ends; Living While Dying, by Bruce Kramer. Kramer died last spring. He had ALS and was an active yoga student and leader at Mind Body Solutions in Minnetonka, Minnesota. He practiced yoga right “to the end”. If I understand it correctly, the book came out of a series of podcasts he did with Minnesota Public Radio. Check it out, eh?
Marjorie was a pretty incredible woman. I could list off what made her so spectacular but I don’t want you to get the idea that she is SO much more fascinating and wildly talented than you. But, she really did have one heck of a life…so, let’s you and me get on this living one heck of a life, despite and in the midst of all the aches, pains, disappointments and heartache. Let’s practice Really Big Yoga.
Peace on your gorgeous head,