Hospice Yoga

I cannot explain the calling I woke up one early January morning with.  A strong and very vivid realization that there was something much more than I needed to be doing with my Yoga practice and teaching.  I knew immediately that I needed take action on the yearning.

I made the call.  I interviewed. I completed the mandatory training for all Hospice volunteers. The idea of offering a space of stillness, breathing practice and if applicable, providing some soft stretches and awareness of the body, is so deeply seeded in my heart that at times my own breath is taken at the awe of the experience.

If you are a practitioner of Yoga, you know that Yoga has the ability to bring you into the present moment and calm the body in times of crisis.  How many times have you come to the mat when you are crumbling by life’s events and feel far more clear when you roll up your mat? We know that the practice is powerful by our own experiences and to share that actuality is truly a gift.

I have often said that if you can breathe, you can practice.  Many of my other clients are wheelchair bound or severely disabled in some form, and yet because of the disability, they easily live in the present.  They are alive in the moment as they work each physical action with intent or they experience life without an ego.  By living in this state, their practice is gloriously beautiful.  Watching a woman with a Traumatic Brain Injury yesterday struggle fiercely with simply standing I was in awe of her practice.  When we shared the breath together, her legs stabilized enough for a small smile to come to her lips.  For the softness to happen.  For the space in the moment to see that she is. She is perfect and whole.

In my recent readings about death and dying and delving more into the philosophy of Hospice, I have learned that the process of dying needs to honored in the same way a birth is.  Certainly there is sadness and loss, but the process can and should be acknowledged with grace and love and hope for peace.  Bed-side yoga is breathing with them, acknowledging them and allowing their light to shine. It is also about listening and being completely present with them.  It is providing touch and a calm presence. It is being part of their path.

After all, the word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join” or “to yoke”.

What a magnificent way to practice.

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