Slow down. Step back. Take a break.
The rhythmic cadence of this mantra was a mild whisper in back of my mind, until the illness and death of my parents turned it into a rally cry.
It’s been three years since my mother left our world, and just two since my father followed her into the ether.
The impact of their departure has left me spinning in circles within a vast ocean.
My yoga coach described it best when she told me, “We are not forced to truly grow up until our parents are gone.”
I was never dependent on my parents to live. Far from it. I was independent, hardworking, and married to a man who embraces life with humor. I loved my career and was successful in the ways the world expects. But, even with all my independence and bravado, I never realized just how much I depended on them and the roles they played in my life, until they were gone.
As the progression of their diseases made life more difficult, I was like a machine working with my sister to care for my parents in their final stages. I kept up with life, managed two households, held down a lucrative career, and tried my best to be a good wife and step-mom to our son.
Yoga and meditation was my lifeline.
My practice came first—even if that sometimes meant I missed a hospital appointment or an important meeting.
Yoga was the only time I could slow down to escape the madness and the sad predicament that our family faced. The slower forms of yoga especially appealed to me during those hectic days caring for the sick. I searched out restorative, gentle, slow flow, yin—any style of yoga that could help my mind and body heal.
Like water chiseling the edges of granite over time, so too could I chisel my way towards health and balance with a slower paced, mindful practice.
My yoga teacher, who leads restorative and slow flow classes, demonstrated how to enrich health through her practice. She built graceful sequences that moved me through poses at a slower, more thoughtful pace.
The benefits were rewarding as I increased strength and mental focus to deal with the stress of my situation.
Slowing down was essential, especially when the world and my circumstance were pushing me to go faster and do more. Being too physically active seemed punishing and overwhelming at the time. Even the phrases used to describe workout programs seemed overly aggressive: body attack, kicking ass, and my all-time favorite, no pain, no gain.
Before I met my yoga instructor, I raced around joining boot camps, hiring personal trainers, and binging on yoga conferences. It was a rollercoaster of ups and downs—either all in, or all out.
It was a completely foreign notion that slowing down could actually be a benefit. I worked with my yoga coach over a five-year period and her slow flow teachings changed how I perceived health and kept me consistent.
The paradigm was flipped on its head as I shifted to being kinder to my body and mental state.
My practice was focused on Ahimsa (the Sanskrit word for nonviolence to self and to others) and listening when the body is in pain. It was better to nurture the body toward healing—instead of tearing it down to build it back up. We made sure to acknowledge our limitations, taking care of injuries, and not just “pushing through”.
The foundation of my slow paced yoga practice lasted through my parents’ illnesses. My practice was my lifeline until everything shifted as the death grip squeezed.
The reality of death is brutal. There is no greater truth than witnessing the decay of those you hold dearest.
I was in shock for the first year after my dad’s passing. He died so soon after my mother left this earth that I had no time to grieve for her. So now I grieve for both.
Grief wove an invisible netting around my life, and the anxiety immobilized me.
Then, when I needed it the most, I abandoned my mat. My slow yoga practice became part of another lifetime. Mindfulness had been completely stripped away. Everything changed—my priorities, my values, what I wanted out of life.
Without a mindful practice to hold space, I lost my footing. I tried to keep pace with the corporate rat race but found myself slipping behind, unable to focus on a job I had always loved. I just didn’t care as much. The problems of the corporate life seemed so insignificant compared to what I had witnessed.
But there is now a shimmer of light, the universe, as it always does, has answered my call to slow down even if I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The answer is clear, it’s time to take a step back from my career. I’m giving myself the time and space to slow down, to regroup, and to find my way back to that mindful practice that I know is healing.
It’s my mission to finally “grow up” and to learn a new way of being on earth without my supportive parents. Now I can utilize my new position in life as an opportunity to find my way back.
My relationship to yoga might look different or maybe a different practice will reveal itself.
For now, I’ll sit with where I am and let the universe work its magic to help me find my way back toward a mindful existence.
I know it’s there, I just have to slow down and focus on healing.