Remembering Dad through Yoga

A little over three years ago my Dad passed away from a long battle with prostate cancer. He lived most of his life in relatively good health, but struggled in his last years as his cancer progressed. Gradually, he found himself surrendering many of his activities and abilities to the care of others. At the suggestion of my good friend, Robert Skaff I brought him and my Mom to a “yoga and cancer” class at Prasada Yoga in Hampton, New Hampshire. As an experienced yogi of many years I immediately recognized the high level of teaching and care brought by the instructor, Michelle Couture. As cancer patients and recovering cancer patients have various physical limitations, the style of yoga for them must be specifically contoured, and modifications to traditional poses are necessary. Some, including my dad were instructed to do most of the class seated in a chair, downward dogs and other poses modified to be done using blocks, or standing against the wall. My Dad took well to the class, and by the end of it, he was fast asleep in what would become his favorite pose, Shavasana.

This introductory class took place during one of my trips home before he passed, and for the next 2 1/2 years Dad and Mom became regulars, often going twice a week. I talked on the phone with Dad every week during that time and he was always bringing up the yoga class and how much he looked forward to it. I was fortunate enough to attend a couple of more classes with him on trips home. During my last trip home shortly before he passed, he told me that there were two places in his mind he would go when the pain or anxiety got really bad. The first place he described was shortly after he and mom married when they hiked to the top of Mount Chocora. Shortly after reaching the summit, a formation of F-14’s came out of nowhere and flew low across Lake Chocora towards them, ascending into the heavens as they reached the base of the mountain right before them! The memory of this special moment brought him peace. Then he said “the other place I go is yoga”. I don’t think I realized just how much the yoga was helping him through this difficult phase until that very moment.

The yoga and cancer program that my Dad went to (and mom still participates in) is a part of the nonprofit organization “Yoga in Action”, which works to provide free and accessible yoga to anyone who needs it in the New England area. On Sunday, February 20th at River Mill landing in Dover New Hampshire, they held their 16th annual Yoga Mala fundraiser, in which I participated virtually, helping to raise awareness and fund many yoga programs throughout New England.

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