It has been a rough few weeks. My father-in-law has not been able to eat food without throwing it back up. At first we tried a doctor visit. “You have acid reflux, try Priolsec.” A few days later we were on our way to the ER at 2 am (I had to teach yoga class at 8 that morning.) He was admitted. Tests were done. He had IVs and tubes. I thought this was the end. I struggled to teach the morning class, but got through it.
As it turned out he had a rare esophageal disorder called achalasia where the sphincter muscle of the esophagus is so tight that food cannot go through. He lost about 15 pounds in the past month. He was discharged with a feeding tube until the hospital could schedule surgery a week or so out.
Not so easy. The feeding tube became immediately clogged when my wife tried to feed his medication through it. The medication would not pulverize in a mortar and pestle fine enough to fit through the tube. We were soon on our way back to the ER. The feeding tube was removed, and he was given the okay to eat a liquid diet (jell-o, broth, water).
All was calm for the moment. My wife took FMLA to watch him until the surgery and I worked my two jobs. I was going to go to my Wednesday night class with my mentoring teacher Ray, then I got a phone call. My father-in-law was en route to the hospital again. My wife was driving him and was at her wits end. She also was taking care of her mother who is a stroke survivor. At that point I went to meet them at the hospital. I sent her back home for respite and to better take care of her mother.
I sat with my father-in-law for a few hours while he was in the ER. I was able to help him better communicate with the doctor (he is hard of hearing and just yells at people) and was able to have my wife involved in the discussion via cell phone. In between tests, we talked about his life. He is an interesting man. Former Master Sergeant, retired labor and delivery nurse, married a Japanese woman, moved to Hawai’i and bought a boat.
That few hours drew my father-in-law closer. He was able to tell me how he wanted my wife and I to take care her mother if he passes. It was by not doing Yoga that night that allowed me to truly help my father-in-law. It was by doing Yoga all these years that helped me stay calm and supportive for him in this serious time of need. The Bhagavad Gita talks about finding liberation by doing one’s duty. My duty, my Yoga, was not to be in asana class, it was to be sitting at my father-in-law’s bedside that night.
When all was said and done, doctors did a procedure where they botox-ed his esophagus to loosen the muscle. A few days later he ate his first meal in a long time that he did not have to vomit up. He has gained a pound or two. My wife finally went back to work. And now I can continue my Yoga practice.
The yoga of life 💙 beautiful.
well said, love how you connect the time spent by the bedside to yoga practice.
Thanks CP. I didn’t mention that sometimes I want to strangle him when he is hard headed. Ahimsa can be a difficult practice sometimes 🙂
Long ago I skimmed through TKV Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga. (I have many yoga books only partly read, since I prefer to practice rather than to read about yoga!) One idea from the book always stuck with me, however: To know whether you’re progressing in yoga, look at your relationships with people.
Your story reminded me of this idea. Too often yoga practitioners assess only their asana ability or how much time they spend in class or on the mat. What about the rest of our lives, the real tests of our character?
Thank you for your kind words, Luci!
I am very honored you read by blog as I have gotten much of my inspiration from your writing.
I agree with you about doing yoga instead of reading about it as our own realizations are more profound.
I think we are doing our best yoga practice when life forces us off our mat into profound responsibilities.
This touched me deeply. I too teach yoga – for over 10 years now. My father was just diagnosed with esophageal acalhasia. I’ll look back through your blog but I found you by searching yoga for the esophagus. Would love to know how your father in law has done and if there were any asanas, pranayama or other suggestions you may offer.
Peace, light and love