For over two decades, I’ve taught yoga, sharing its myriad benefits and philosophy. However, during the poignant experience of my mom’s passing, I underwent a profound transformation. It became abundantly clear that the principles of yoga could guide us in becoming not just better practitioners, but also better human beings and caregivers. During this challenging chapter, yoga became my solace, enabling me to care for my mom until her last breath. I cherish our shared meditations and the depth of our conversations. Throughout this period, I played the role of her guardian, advocate, and primary caregiver.
Traditionally, a caregiver is defined as: “A family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.” As my mom’s final days neared, I naturally stepped into this role. And, unexpectedly, I found myself being called upon repeatedly to extend care to others thereafter. I hadn’t realized the magnitude of my impact when I assisted a dear friend with breath exercises before his brain surgery, comforted another dear client simply by holding her hand in her final moments, or when I provided silent solace to a long-standing client grappling with the weight of a significant diagnosis.
These experiences, and countless others, while deeply intense, shared a common thread: traditional yoga evolved, responding to an innate call to offer care and comfort. Sometimes, this care took the form of a heartfelt conversation. At other times, it was an introspective writing exercise or simply staying by the bedside of someone’s loved one, offering the family a brief respite. Yoga began to shift beyond just postures and breathwork, evolving into a practice deeply rooted in human connection.
My path in yoga took a turn. I moved away from elite fitness clubs and high-end clientele, choosing instead to extend my yoga services as a volunteer in homeless shelters, prisons, schools, nursing homes, and hospices. Almost organically, the emphasis began to transition from a primarily physical practice to a deeper experience of connection and care—one that was inspired by, but not strictly confined to, traditional yoga.
This journey led to an enlightening realization: I had evolved beyond the role of a yoga teacher. I had become deeply committed to caring for individuals and groups at varying stages of their lives. Essentially, I had unknowingly transformed into a yoga caregiver.
Upon consulting with ChatGPT, I learned that, as of January 2022, the term “yoga caregiver” had not gained widespread recognition within the yoga community. This sparked a desire within me to advocate for this title—defining a “yoga caregiver” as someone who channels the profound tenets of yoga within the realm of caregiving.
As I near the end of my certification journey with the American Association of Caregivers, I am filled with enthusiasm about the blending of caregiving and yoga’s foundational principles. This union, although not always apparent to our students, clients, or patients, serves as an intrinsic compass for us, illuminating a compassionate and unique path to offer care.
Imagine a future where yoga caregivers catalyze a transformation in our healthcare system, bestowing solace upon full-time aides wrestling with their demanding roles, while also providing direct care to those facing daunting life challenges.
While my journey might seem unique, I believe many will find resonance with it. I anticipate a growing connection between the realms of yoga, nursing, hospice, caregiving, and beyond. Marrying the timeless wisdom of yoga with the nurturing essence of caregiving paints a hopeful and beautiful vision for the future.
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