Yoga And The Toughest Lady I Ever Met: My Grandma


Last night I dreamt my Grandma could talk to me again.

I’ve often had such dreams during the nearly three years since she suffered a massive stroke and lost the ability to communicate in any way other than an incomprehensible stammer.

She spends about 20 hours a day in bed, the window curtains drawn shut.

It’s a fate worse than death. Especially for a farm girl from Missouri who learned how to drive a tractor before a car. She’s the toughest lady I’ve ever met.

She once cut her thumb to the bone on the back porch shucking corn. When I found a black widow in a stack of lumber she – without hesitation – squashed it with her fist. When she was viciously bit by a neighbor’s Rottweiler on the knee, she walked, bleeding profusely, back to the house to wake my napping grandfather for a trip to the emergency room.

As a pimply and plush teenager, I watched nightly the sweat drip off her nose as she uprooted carrots, de-caterpillared the tomatoes and chopped rhubarb. Never complained once.

Now the bed is her prison.

The last conversation I ever had with her I rushed her off the phone because I was busy. I can’t remember the last time I saw her tend to her roses. She’s depressed, has almost no appetite and has no reason to wake up each day.

There was a time when I too was depressed and had few reasons to wake up and trudge to work. Physical fitness was joke. I poured booze into my liver and fast food in my stomach. I was miserable.

Now each Monday, Wednesday and Friday I wake up at 5:20 a.m. to make my 6 a.m. yoga class. On January 1, I made the No Barriers Pledge to do 100 days of yoga in a row. It’s been 61 days. I’ve also been Paleo and sober during these 61 days. So far I’ve lost about 30 pounds.

Some of my yoga sessions have been regrettable. Others make me feel truly alive. I’ve had to fall on my face more than a few times before mastering crow pose. I’ve thrown out my back pushing myself too hard. I’ve used savasana in the wrong way: to regret the past and fear the future.

I’ve had days where my ego prevented me from growth. I’ve had days where I tried to convince myself to quit – that no one would know if I just skipped one day. Just one day, right?

But then I remember my Grandma.

And then I pull the covers off and get back on the mat.

The biggest thing my 61 days of yoga has taught me so far is that I always have a choice. I can choose how I feel. I can choose to stay in bed if I want, or I can choose growth.

Unfortunately, there are people – far too many people – who don’t have a choice, such as my Grandma. And a far larger number are the people who think they don’t have a choice, but they do. I used to be one of them.

The stammer my Grandma has developed is a string of “go’s.” That is to say every answer, every request, every conversation is, “go, go, go, go.”

I was there in the hospital room when it first came out of her mouth. I never thought it’d be the only word she’d ever say again. At first I thought it strange; then it was comical; then horrifying.

Now I use it in a different way.

When I want to give up — go.

When my shoulders won’t allow another vinyāsa — go.

When I’m hesitant, cautious or afraid — go.

I go because she can’t anymore.


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