Pressing Through My Feet While Losing the Ground Underneath

Hello, curvy lovelies,

I’m writing to you today in more of a letter format because I want to update you on what’s been going on with me the past couple weeks and explain my absence from the blog.  As you may know from my most recent blog post (and a couple of others), my dad had Multiple Myeloma, a blood/bone cancer.  Sadly, he passed away from it on Mon, Sept. 5.  Although he had been sick with this for almost five years (and sicker recently), his death was still unexpected as he took a very dramatic turn for the worse a few days before his death.



The past couple weeks have been spent making incredibly difficult decisions, celebrating my dad’s life and grieving with family.  I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this process here, but I think the best way is how I try to approach all the other issues we discuss: with honesty and an open heart.

Pic at right: Dad and I hanging out; we were both such wee babes.

Yoga Off the Mat

This time has illuminated my off-the-mat yoga practice.  Until the first terrible week was over, I couldn’t even consider getting on my mat for a physical practice.  It was the most I could do to meet my most basic of needs.  But somehow, even though I hardly slept and sometimes barely felt functional, my practice became more vivid to me than ever before.

The night that my dad became incredibly ill, he was transferred to the ICU.  I believe the term hot mess was invented for just these situations, because that’s exactly how I felt.  I had no clue how I could possibly handle the situation at all, much less with any semblance of sanity or grace.  I felt panicky and distraught.  And I allowed those feelings in as they came; after all, it was an incredibly difficult situation.  But after a few hours, I had a very clear thought: “it doesn’t have to be this way.”  I thought to myself, “I can choose how I want to respond in this situation and how I want my final time with my dad to be.”  This was an incredibly liberating moment for me, as I remembered the yoga sutra my teacher, Cora, always reminds me of — YS 1.1, Atha Yoganushasanam, “Now the practice of yoga begins.”

Yoga = Union

Anna.Dad
Despite this thought, of course, there were still many times that I found myself checked out.  I would be sitting beside him, holding his hand, but I would be a million miles away.  And then I would notice that and consciously draw myself back, reminding myself that, despite the intense pain of the situation, I wanted to remember what it felt like to be able to share my dad’s last days with him.  That what I wanted more than anything was to feel love and connection with my dad, and for him to feel that back, even though I didn’t know for certain what he could or couldn’t hear.

It wasn’t unlike drawing my attention to my breath in meditation or noticing that my back pinky toe isn’t pressing down in Warrior 2.  Goodness knows that when I first started my practice, I could have never described how my pinky toe felt in a pose, or even my foot (or probably my leg).  Similarly, several years ago, I could have never articulated my needs or feelings much beyond “good” or “bad,” and I would often think I was “over” a hard situation despite the fact that I was grinding my teeth at night, getting migraines, starting the next crazy diet or any other number of red flags that said I was anything but.

Pic at left: Dad and I at the rehearsal dinner before my wedding.

Breath and Connection

On the day that my dad passed away, I’d been matching my breath to his to connect with him even more, an idea I got from a book I recently re-read (that I very highly recommend) called Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Face of Death by Roshi Joan Halifax.  I found this practice grounding and very helpful.  I’ve been fascinated by the similarities between yoga, breath practice and the cycle of life ever since one of my yoga teachers told me something that one of his teachers taught him while she was dying — that pranayama and meditation teach us to observe the pause after our exhale without gripping or anxiety, and this awareness helps prepare us for that time when the inhale doesn’t come.

My dad breathed his last breath in my presence, at a time when my mom and sister had stepped out of the room momentarily.  I took his hand, told him it was okay to go (I was the last of us to do this for whatever reason), and then he was quickly, gently gone.  There was nothing dramatic to mark the moment; the way that I knew was that his inhale didn’t come.  In that moment, while I certainly felt sadness, I also felt a peace like none other.  I really haven’t found words to describe that experience, and I’m not sure I ever will.

Embodiment and the Way Forward

The reason that I believe so strongly in the work our curvy community does is because it helps ground us in our bodies, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to many of us, especially those of us with histories of body image, dieting or any other number of related issues.  What I’ve found is that, when I’m standing firmly on my own two feet, I’m better able to feel rooted enough to allow my heart to open to my lived experience — whether in embracing more intentional decisions about my health, being present in conversations with friends, or facing the hardest moments squarely.

My dad was truly proud of Curvy Yoga, and I’ve seen firsthand, now more than ever, the wide and deep benefits of the work we’re doing together.  May we all continue to live into our lives as fully as we’re able at any given moment and embrace the curves of life.

Namaste.

Share The Love
  • http://svasti.wordpress.com/ Svasti

    Dearest Anna,

    I send you my heart-felt wishes of love and offer my sympathies to you and your family at this time. I think that witnessing the acts of both life and death can be very life affirming and grounding if we choose to allow it.

    And I think you’ve met the challenge of your father’s passing with grace and honesty. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways we can honour a life well-lived.

    I wish you all the very best as this process continues and you continue to see the connections between yoga and the most real of real-life experiences. For truly, they are one.

    Blessings to you. xxx

    • http://www.rosiemolinary.com Rosie

      Oh, sweet Anna, I am so, so sorry for your loss. Sending you so much love, so much light, and so much gratitude for what you offer. You are a gift. Love to you and your family.

  • GabriellaMoonlight

    Dearest Anna,

    I send you my deepest love and compassion at this time in your life, it is not easy to lose and to witness the loss of those we love, it asks us to grow in places that we are at best uncomfortable with and at best in love with…but we will grow. Just know that many in this world love and support you and are holding you up in this time for love, growth and support!!

    I too wish you the best as you work this through your yoga work and your breath work and your life…please know that although I have not met you YET, I am here and if you need to talk, email, share I am here.

    Love and Light
    Gabriella

  • http://suburbanyogini.com Rachel @ Suburban Yogini

    Just sending love, gorgeous lady. Lots of it. xxx

  • http://Fatgrrlrides.blogspot.com Marisa

    This is a lovely piece to write though I’m sure you’d rather not havehad to write it. I’ve had significant loss in my family over the past few years and the only thought I would have regularly is that culturally in this 2011 techno universe we live in we suck at grief and allowing people the space and time for grieving. I am terribly sorry for your loss and I am glad that you have found a way to give you and your family space, love and comfort. Love and prayers to you and yours.

    Marisa

    • http://itsallyogababy.com roseanne

      Thanks for this beautiful, heartfelt and courageous post, Anna! Sending you light and love in this difficult time. xoxo

  • http://babsbabble.com babs

    Sending you lots of love, my friend. Only you could make such an eloquent post about such a difficult time. xo

    • Jackie

      Dear Anna,

      I’ve never been through what you have been through but, I know the time will come that I will face losing a parent, too….and I also know I will remember what you’ve so beautifully and eloquently shared about your experience. Thank you for your transparency. May you continue to find peace in the pause.

      Blessings, Jackie
      xoxo

  • http://www.teachergoesbacktoschool.wordpress.com Tami (Teacher Goes Back to School)

    death of our loved ones feels like the ultimate test. can you stay present when in pain? can you connect with your loved one when all defenses have been retired? can you stay in that vulnerable place long enough to grieve in a culture that expects immediate recovery?

    my heart goes out to you and your family, anna. wishing you long, comforting, healing hugs and the time and space you need.

    xo

    • Donna Landini

      My deepest sympathies and a big hug to you. He will be with you always.

  • http://www.womenscollaborativecircle.org Carly Goldberg, MSW, LCSW

    Dear Anna,

    I know that your courage, love and light will forever keep your father’s memory alive. As we say in the Jewish tradition, “zikhronah livrakha” – may his memory be for a blessing.

    All my love and peace,
    Carly

    • http://www.yogainmyschool.com Donna Freeman

      Huge hug – my heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you for sharing and making us all want to embrace every aspect of life wholeheartedly, with presence of mind, soul and breath.

  • http://onmywayom.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/fire/, Amy M. Spencer

    Dearest Anna,

    My deepest sympathies, thoughts, and prayers are with you. I just lost my Grandmother in July and I was so grateful to have my practice to assist me during this whole process. Much love and light. Amy

  • http://www.joytanksley.com Joy Tanksley

    Oh, Anna. Thank you for writing this and sharing it with us. I’m feeling a bit wordless right now. I’m sensing warmth, light, and tender-sweet sadness. I have an openness in my chest, tears in my eyes, and deep gratitude to know you and call you friend.

  • Daynya

    I was thinking of you this morning on my way to work, wondering how you’ve been, and what you’ve been up to. Now I know.

    First, please know I’m sending you TONS of love and healing thoughts.

    Second, this is beautiful. Thank you for being so open and honest about such a vulnerable time. The pranayama stuff…just wow. Thank you.

    I will take this message into my day/week/life and not sweat the small stuff, and appreciate each inhale that comes.

    Hugs.

    • http://www.dragonflyogabarn.com Katie O’Connell

      This was so beautifully written, Anna…and more beautifully felt, I know. Your sharing is an inspiration to all of us, and I am so thankful you were open and strong enough to post it. What a gift. Much love,
      Katie

  • http://myaimistrue.com Amber

    My heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you for such a beautiful post. We love you!

  • Kimberly

    My father passed away suddenly in November of 2008. I didn’t have the chance to be with him like you did. I remember that I dove into yoga; nothing else was a higher priority. I needed to keep myself grounded, fully in my body, while my family was completely outside of themselves. I meditated, I worked through all of my feelings, fears, dashed hopes and dreams on my mat… day or night.
    My mat is very special to me because of everything that I have worked through and let go… it’s the only “being” that knows what I’ve been through… and has been through it with me, every pose of the way.
    THANK YOU for sharing your feelings and your light. This is what our Dads want for us.
    Much love to you and your family – xoxo

  • Madeleine

    Oh Anna, how beautiful and thoughtful and heartfelt. Thank you so much.

  • http://kimocean.blogspot.com/ Kimocean

    This is heartwrenchingly beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it. I hope when the day comes for me I will be able to handle it with as much grace. You have truly honored your father, your self, and your practice.

  • http://www.drannbeckerschutte.com Ann Becker-Schutte

    Anna–First, my thoughts are with you and your family. Second–thank you for sharing your own heartbreak in such a lovely, powerful illustration of yoga as life practice, not just exercise. ~Ann

    • http://www.bethsblog.typepad.com/ Beth Spencer

      I have only just now found your blog. I lost my beloved dad 6 years to pancreatic cancer. He was proud of me in every way, as I’m sure your dad was proud of you. Your strength will return and you will find your new normal. It takes time. My sympathy to you.

      I look forward to following your blog.

  • http://flyingyogini.org nancy

    So beautiful and what a tribute to who he was and even more to the wonder that YOU are! love you to bits lady!!! xoxoxox

  • http://marianne-elliott.com Marianne

    Much love to you, my friend. This is beautiful.

    • Pride Of |Barbados

      My Deepest Sympathies to you and your family.
      Thank You for writing about your journey with your father. I am happy that you were there with him during his final moments. As time goes by, the memory of you being there for him will give you some comfort.
      I was at my father’s bedside when he breathed his last and I thank God for allowing me to be there with him at that moment.
      Be kind to yourself!

  • Joanne

    Great blog- Dad knew you were there all the time, even if he could not physically show it. From working w Hospice 15 yrs, I saw many people wait until loved ones- went to get coffee, use the restroom, take a call- until the person at end of life finally left their body. What a blessing to have the time to sit w someone, make another memory by holding their hand. God bless you and your family.

    • http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/ Margarita @ Weightless

      Anna, I’m incredibly sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you. You and your family are in my thoughts & prayers. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful piece with us. I’m sending you tons of love and hugs.

  • http://dionneelizabeth.com dionne

    Sincere condolences Anna, sending much love and light to you. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece, it radiates strength and precious wisdom that i am (and many others are) grateful for. May you continue to shine bright, you are loved, supported and admired!

    • Cindi

      What a dam shame, I’m sorry for your loss. When the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever. May your Dad live in your heart forever and may you find your yoga practice an opportunity to release what is being held as we hold memories and emotions and experiences in the tissues of our body. Sending you lots of Love and thank you for your courage in posting to let us all know what was happening in your life.
      Peace, Love andd Light, Cindi

  • http://keishuathoughts.blogspot.com/ Keishua

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I’ve just found out two of my family members are sick. I’ve felt so incapable of dealing with. Thank you for this!!!Sending you and your family love and light.

    • Linda

      Hello Georgeous, You have honored Dad in such a beautiful way. You are both writers and he would be humbled. He was always proud of you and now even more. I join in that pride. Thanks for the wonderful support we are giving to each other.

      Thank you to all the dear friends that send their love and concern to you and our family. It lifts my heart. I pray for blessings back to you!

  • http://nonajordan.com Nona

    Anna, this is such a beautiful tribute to your Dad. Sending you love and light, dear one. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

    xoxo.n

    • Rommy

      Anna,
      I’m so sorry to learn of your Dad’s passing. But I am very happy you were with him.
      Hugs, hugs and more hugs to you.
      Peace IN!!

  • http://iamallthat.wordpress.com Mel

    Anna, I have been away for a few weeks and am catching up online. I am so sorry to hear of your dad’s passing. I know that there aren’t really any words, but somehow you’ve found some beautiful ones here – sending you and your family love and peace.

  • Mary Lee Thilman

    Anna: I just read your blog about your Dad. You, Julia and your Mom being there with him is what held me together as I could not travel until the doctors cleared me to fly. My brother has always been such a huge part of my world, and since Mom’s alzheimers has exacerbated, and now losing James, I have been feeling extremely fragmented. Thank you for this beautiful post. Know that your Dad was always so proud of you and Julia. The two of you and your Mom helped complete who he was and he felt so blessed. We talked a lot over the last few years about the time when he would be gone. I prayed daily for more time to allow research to catch up and save him for us all. I love you so very much and am so thankful that you have shared your feelings with others through this post. You are offering more than yoga, you have shared yourself. I love you and am always here for each of you!

  • Tracy

    I’m so very sorry for your loss, but also incredibly grateful for sharing with us.

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