Once upon a time, I was not a regular practice. Then a door opened and entered a study of steaming sweat soaked almost daily during my two years of graduate school at the University of New York. The writer in me was craving something other than writing, and I thought yoga was physical. And so it was.
He had abs and arms tone, lose weight, hips to stretch. But there was more. All bending and moving and concentrating on my body was unearthed years of buried emotions. At two years, and my practice was calming me, heal me. I found myself craving yoga instead of food or drink, instead of closing and explanation. Yoga had become my medicine.
Was he so sick? No, not really. I was lost and a little sad, hating a job that had to love, and kept the frustration of life events that have gone wrong.
When I was 14, my father suffered a traumatic brain injury. A car accident happened and I was with a whole new life journey full of challenge, sadness, anger, growth and acceptance. Nobody could have seen any come.
To my father, his personality took the biggest hit, and its largest deficit remains a serious loss of executive function. To look at him he’s fine, but everything in life requires a notice, a list, a plea. My mom, my family, our friends and I are constantly reminding him to be more patient, more compassionate, more aware, less compulsive, less demanding, less angry.
We are always wading through the muck of the challenges that come with not being able to drive, work, balancing a bank account. And sometimes, you really missed “the old John.” That’s just what happens to unfair brain injury.
It took years of patience and practice, but yoga started helping me to let go of some injustice. It was not until he could twist and bend and breathe on my own space I was able to understand, accept and move on with a lot of feelings that revolved around an unexplained incident. I could stop being angry and stop asking Why? Why him? Why us? all the time.
In 2011, I quit my job to become a yoga teacher and write my first book. It was the year of Me. In July 2011, 15 joules after the accident of my father, I started teaching yoga. We did simple things, super basic, which is what I promised my mother and therapists -the parties had to convince that yoga would be “good for him” and “safe”.
Trauma is divided in two. Mind and body separately. The mind and the body of my father were no longer in sync. His identity was lodged somewhere decades ago, thinking he was still the man who lives in a brain and agile body, employee, playing racquet ball with friends and waterskiing with this guy. Even his occupational therapy, talk therapy, pneumonic reminders, journaling and cocktail twice a day of big drug had not successfully enabled to recognize and accept their present although brain injury-yo. I had an idea that yoga would. Yoga is the great connector, the union of mind and body.
And he did. Basic Asana was like WD-40 for your body and your brain. In the fall, we saw changes-a renewed sense of purpose, a little more boost control, discipline and compassion toward others. My dad was a growing acceptance of their mental and physical challenges and begun to embrace a more positive less antagonistic attitude about brain injury. Yoga had opened more doors for my father to me.
Today, I’m a vinyasa teacher. I teach my father and all types and levels and ages of other students, studies, in gyms, in my apartment Pittsburgh. I also teach those living with brain injury, which never fails to remember how in the fear that the practice of yoga I am. I see this practice open doors for people. I see a veteran of 20-plus years, struggling with a traumatic brain injury from an IED, begin to sleep without benzodiazepines. I see a man with a lesion in the frontal lobe of high standing, close your eyes and do not face the ground as before. I see a woman stops chasing the breath.
I see all the time to live with the trauma, brain injury, PTSD, extreme sadness, unexpected circumstances, and do not plan anything is tedious and complicated, but I also see what yoga can do. I see this path of mine must be right on course.