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November 7th, 2013

No One Smiles In Chair Pose

By Manduka Ambassador, Patti Cocciolo

No one, except my 85-year old mother, that is.

My Mom, Dolly, started doing yoga only two years ago. She had just lost her beloved husband, Jack, and was in need. Of something. When your heart breaks, it creates a space, an opening. Fortunately, into that space came yoga, by way of her amazing teacher, Cathy Yonaitis.

When Cathy and my Mom first started their work together, my mother was very weak – both physically and emotionally. She was unsteady in every sense of the word. By starting with restorative poses, Cathy helped Mom find the space in her body and the permission in her heart to work through her grief. From the start, the focus was on the breath, allowing her to literally breathe through her feelings of loneliness and loss.
As my mother’s heart started to get stronger, she and Cathy added core and back strengthening poses to support in her body what was happening in her spirit. And now, after almost two years together, Mom is working with balance poses, both against the wall and in the middle of the room. She is a fierce warrior and a steady tree. And yes, she even smiles in chair pose.

Cathy put it best. She told me, “During our sessions, your mother and I breathe, we laugh, and sometimes cry at the situations that life deals us. We honor each other’s feelings, and we connect with each other’s light, the divine presence within. Yoga teaches us that no matter what the circumstance, happy, sad, strong, or weak, yoga is here to serve us. By honoring where we are each day, we can begin our practice new each day, and choose a practice that serves us.”

My Mom’s life has changed dramatically. She has the ability to maneuver every day life so much better than before. She can walk steadily without her walker, and she sometimes gets across the room before she realizes her cane is way back where she started. My mother has found her voice again. She is as warm, as funny, as sharp, as involved, and as interesting as ever. And her heart has opened again. That, as anyone who knows her will tell you, is a beautiful thing - for everyone she comes in contact with.

When Cathy mentioned the first yoga sutra, "Now the exposition of yoga is being made", she translates it as, "We begin here.” She said, “This means that each day, each moment is an opportunity for growth, transformation, for healing, for love.”

I can’t imagine anything better at any age. Maybe that’s why Mom’s smiling.

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