Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Dad, My Hero

"My dad is not a superhero. He cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound. He does not have super strength. He cannot see through walls. He cannot run faster than a speeding bullet. But there are lots of things he CAN do. My dad is super. My dad is my hero."
There are superheroes all around us. We don't need to look up in the sky or to the side of a building. We need to only look right in our own homes. There is no greater hero than a dad. Joseph Campbell once said that a hero is someone who has given his life and his heart to something bigger than himself. That is a dad - a dad who would do anything for his family, a dad who would be there to pick you up when you fall, a dad who would show you the way, a dad who would always back you up, a dad who would celebrate your accomplishments, a dad who would protect you from your fears, a dad who would believe in you before you ever even believed in yourself. This is a hero. This is my dad.
My dad collapsed on a hot summer day almost 4 years ago while helping a friend build a ramp and just like that our lives would change. He was rushed to the hospital where they found his white blood cell count was through the roof. I remember hearing the word Leukemia, but I don't think it sunk in immediately. It couldn't be true. My dad never appeared sick. My dad never complained. My dad took care of me and my brother and my mom every day. My dad went to work in the same hospital for 36 years, handling each one of the patients he x-rayed with care. My dad wasn't sick. But he was. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. The cancer was in his blood and in his bone marrow. Then his lymph nodes and eventually, his spinal cord and brain. The past 6 months have been spent in and out of hospitals with blood infections, clots, pneumonia...and finally he is home. Hospice.
I read the description...Haven Hospice provides medical, emotional, psychological and spiritual support for patients and families who are experiencing life threatening illness. Among the most comprehensive hospice programs in New Jersey, Haven provides services to patients in the comfort of their own home. The interdisciplinary hospice team is comprised of physicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, counselors, volunteers and clergy. The team manages the patient's physical and spiritual pain, and offers instruction, guidance, and support to family members, significant others, and caregivers. 
My heart has never felt so heavy. The choice to do hospice is never an easy one, but the doctors all agreed it was time. His body just couldn't take anymore. He is happy to be home with family and visitors. He is comfortable and we are grateful for every day we have together. My dad is super. While he may not be able to leap tall buildings, I am happy when I can help him stand up. While he has lost almost all his muscle and about 60 pounds, his strength is still astounding. And while he may wear a hospital gown instead of a cape, he is still a superhero to me. I love you, Poppy-seed. Happy Father's Day. This year, I am grateful.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Boys Yoga: Ashtanga

The energy that comes out of a boys yoga class is amazing! Boys yoga can be loud! Boys yoga can be wild! Props can become weapons if you turn your back and when you see the smallest yogi in the class being dangled by his feet, "I was just helping him with his handstand!" is not an acceptable answer. Boys can also harness that energy and find focus when given the opportunity in a safe, nurturing, non-competitive environment. 
Introducing Ashtanga...introducing control without force...introducing discipline without yelling...introducing challenge without threat...introducing self-reflection without judgement. The boys in yesterday's class took to the Ashtanga practice like I've never seen before. Ashtanga, founded by K. Pattabhi Jois, is a set of 26 poses based on "99% practice and 1% theory." Improvement is shown in the body and the mind as you move through the same series week after week. It even becomes very meditative once the body's muscle memory kicks in and you know where to go. We started by watching a demo video of Ashtanga master David Swenson, doing some pretty extreme poses. The boys mouths were all agape and eyes were wide. We talked about how yes, some people are naturally flexible and can throw themselves into a pose with ease. But while they're there, their minds may start to lose focus and their minds may start to wander...what's for dinner? They need to stay centered and keep working to go even further. Then we talked about how the majority of the yoga world has to work towards achieving these poses, even David Swenson! They have to practice week after week to gain flexibility and strength. They have to remain focused in the pose to check in with their bodies to see if they can go further or if they need to ease up. They remain engaged in what they are doing to stay in the present moment. This is the practice of yoga.
After a couple rounds of Sun Salutations and a modified Ashtanga practice, the boys settled into a deep Savasana (final rest). No squirming, no giggling, no poking their neighbors. Just rest. I was so proud of them. They all stayed so focus, figuring out how to get into each pose, following breath instruction, not getting frustrated, but accepting where they were and challenging themselves to go further. This yoga is a practice. We don't know unless we try and we'll never get there unless we keep trying. Way to go, boys!!! Best class ever!!!

BONUS!: For the rest of the month, I will be covering the adult Ashtanga class. 
Come practice with me Tuesdays from 6-7:15pm!