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Leaving grief behind to teach yoga

I have practiced many yoga styles during the past 20 years, but none was ever as challenging and gratifying as the karma yoga I practiced as I cared for my mother, Rose Beebe, throughout her Alzheimer’s journey.

Karma means the result of a person’s actions as well as the actions themselves. Karma yoga is about selfless service to relieve the suffering of others. It is unconditional work devoid of any expectation.

I put my life on hold to take care of Mom as she had so lovingly done for me all my life. For nearly five years I fed, bathed, bought groceries and medication, taxied to doctor appointments, handled finances and made trips to the emergency room in the middle of the night.

On Saturday nights I played bingo and sang songs with Mom and her friends. Sometimes I just rubbed her head as she slept, frail and diminutive, wondering how many breaths she had left.

I relinquished having a personal and social life, stopped taking vacations, turned down writing projects and cut back my schedule as a yoga teacher to give my mother the attention she deserved in her last years of life.

Sometimes it made me sad to shift my dreams to the background, but I knew the time with her was fleeting and I was determined to see her through the darkness of Alzheimer’s with dignity and grace.

One of my dreams that I put on the back burner was to start a Hatha Yoga teacher training program through my studio, Harmony Yoga.

Hatha Yoga is a comprehensive system that seeks to integrate the mind, body and spirit with the practice of yoga postures, breathing exercises, cleansing techniques and meditation.

To establish a program is no small undertaking, as the course is 200 hours of intense study that covers topics such as philosophy, Ayurveda, anatomy and physiology, techniques and training practice, teaching methodology and ethics. A detailed curriculum accounting for every hour of study must be approved by The Yoga Alliance to become a registered school.

Determined to finally bring my dream to fruition, I spent hours creating lesson plans early last year and was excited when I received my approval.

I launched my first training in August with seven people excited to further their knowledge of the science of yoga and to learn the art of teaching. The group included a housewife, a hairdresser, single mothers and corporate executives. We immediately bonded at the first of our nine weekend trainings that would take place during eight months and parted ways looking forward to our next meeting in September.

But Mom took a turn for the worse in between our first two sessions and passed away. Exhausted and devastated, I didn’t look forward to anything and wondered where I would get the energy to carry on with this monumental project.

Consumed with grief, I picked myself up and forged ahead in a fog of misery, preparing for the upcoming 20-hour weekend.

My students were sweet and supportive during this time and it helped me persevere when I really just wanted to stay in bed and snuggle Mom’s teddy bear. Each month got a little easier for me and throughout the course changes were abound for all of us.

As I slowly unraveled from my sadness and years of intense caregiving, I began to come back into balance, feeling healthier mentally and physically than I had in years. The laughter that this lively group brought me was good medicine.

It was gratifying to watch the transformations each of my students went through as I witnessed them deepen their relationship to their body-mind and rediscover their true nature. There were many breakthroughs and a-ha moments and by the time our last weekend rolled around I was melancholy.

As they presented their final project of teaching a one-hour class, I saw seven confident and learned people who had evolved on many levels. I had so much gratitude that I was able to provide them a solid and enlightening education despite my hardships.

Graduation was set for March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. When I went into my closet to select clothes for the day, my eyes were immediately drawn to a set of beads hanging on the wall and I smiled to myself. When Mom was living at her memory care facility she was attached to these green beads that had shamrocks hanging from them. She wore them way beyond St. Patrick’s and refused to take them off for many months. I had forgotten I even had them, but knew in an instant that she was with me as I placed them around my neck.

As I presented my students with their diplomas and listened to their testimonials, we all wept. I was touched by the profound effect we had on each other’s lives and how the subtle magic of yoga had changed us all. We celebrated with a champagne toast and a vow to remain in each other’s lives on a regular basis.

After the last yogi left, I thanked God for giving me the strength to make my dream come true and I acknowledged Mom for being the wind beneath my wings. I know she would have been proud of my accomplishments.

The Law of Cause and Effect says that there is a reason for everything and I know that what I went through with Mom will make me a better teacher as I continue on this path, working with a new group of incredible trainees.

And that’s some good karma.

Editor’s note: Lisa Moore’s first column, “Generations,” dealt with her life as a caregiver for her mother with Alzheimer’s and raising her teenage daughter. Lisa recently lost her mother, Rose, to the disease and her daughter left for college. Here’s what happens next.

Lisa Moore is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at LisaMooreNC@gmail.com.
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