Hospital Cleaning Person Knows Best

by Marcia Miller

The New York Times just published an article about the risks of doing yoga, that set me thinking. When I first read the article I thought well, yes, this is true, yoga can be dangerous, just as anything powerful can be dangerous. A knife can cut vegetables or your finger. Drugs that can help a patient can also kill that same patient if given in the wrong dose or at the wrong time. Any physical activity that offers benefits also offers the potential for injury—ask any runner or gymnast. And the number of people who visit the emergency room because they tripped over a leash while walking their dog is close to the number of visits for yoga injuries. Hopefully we don’t stop doing any of those things, but learn ways to be smarter and more careful.

It is true that many yoga teachers have limited training; just as there are students who go to yoga class without practicing safely. Part of safe practice is choosing a teacher wisely. There are ways to find excellent and well-trained teachers and these blogs address them.

At Yoga on High all of the teachers are certified and many have over 500 hours of formal training. We also have a range of classes so that beginning students will be in a class with other beginners and not pushed to do poses beyond their abilities. From the very first class, we teach students how to pay attention to their bodies so that THEY are empowered to be smart about what to do and not do. We teach them basic anatomy and therapeutic movement for their joints as well. For best results, students of yoga can find teachers who are skilled in understanding the potential dangers of practice AND how to maximize the well-researched benefits of yoga with the minimum amount of risk.

After reading the Times article, all these and many other ideas were rolling around in my head, but I knew I would not be able to write them down in the near future. My father, who is 84, is in the hospital with a blood clot on his lung, and I have been spending hours each day with him. A few days ago he could hardly do anything—even sit up in bed—but yesterday he was a bit more energetic and lucid. He has always been an athlete (he was playing racket ball up until 6 months ago.) But he had been sedentary for most of the last week and was eager to move around. I offered to teach him some in-bed yoga movements that are part of the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy protocol that we teach at Yohi. We started by having him move his legs back and forth like windshield wipers. Then he flapped his feet back and forth and bent his knees and stepped on the bed to mimic walking. He moved his arms up over his head and did little twists in bed. He was excited that he could move this much and was energized by the circulation that increased throughout his whole body. His color changed and he was no longer bored, he was engaged and alert in a way I hadn’t seen in days. As he was rolling his shoulders around, a lovely 30-something woman came in to empty the trash. My father proudly said that he was getting his yoga lesson but to come on in and do whatever she needed to do. She looked up at us and got excited herself. She was clearly an immigrant and in her best English she said that she loves “yo-ha.” She said she practices every day. She said it was hard in the beginning but after a month it only felt good. It helps her sleep and when she is exhausted after a long day at work she does her “yo-ha” and then has energy for her evening. For 10 minutes, she talked about how helpful it was to her—the whole time she was cleaning his room. We saw her again today and she told us she had a miscarriage a few months ago and that yoga helps. As she got ready to leave the room, she paused at the end of the bed, looked my father in the eye and said, “Sir, please keep doing “yo-ha” everyday; it’s very important.”

Of course I know all these benefits firsthand, but to hear her words that day with all that was flowing around in my mind was a gift of remembrance. This woman has never been in a class with a teacher, she has only learned from television. But she practiced with several programs until she found one that worked for her. When I offered her some free passes to Yohi, she looked amazed that such a place exists. She said she doesn’t know how to get downtown, but will make the trip in a few years when she is a citizen and more familiar with the Columbus. In the meantime, she will keep doing yoga on her own because it works for her.

The experience I had with her and my father reminded me (once again) of the power of yoga, of the beauty and blessings of our practices. I felt that it balanced the article that somehow left all that out—the article that talked all about the potential downside of yoga but left out the gifts—the reasons that 20 million people practice in the first place. I have already heard of a few people who say they will never try yoga because of that article, and I feel deep sadness at that. Most people I know who practice yoga, and I am one of them, feel that it has saved our lives, not just once but over and over again. As you practice yoga I hope that you are smart, careful and loving, and that you keep coming back to these precious, glorious practices that can nourish our bodies, our minds and our hearts. Over and over again.

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6 Responses to Hospital Cleaning Person Knows Best
  1. Bill Fanning

    Your article is wonderful. To be able to give to your father what has been gifted to you….and the images of your father practicing in the hospital bed are great.
    The Times article just raises the level of knowledge, understanding and compassion that we as teachers must maintain.

  2. Rhonda

    Beautiful Marcia!

  3. otiscomusings

    Sending healing energy to your wonderful father, Marcia.

    I feel your mother smiling at your dad doing yoga with you!

    Love, Leslie

  4. ardachandra

    Written with grace and wisdom and balance.

  5. Jennifer Gebhart

    Beautiful, I could see and feel the joy your father and you must have felt after sharing this wonderful practice with him, just your presence is yoga. I too agree and see the marvels of the practice with my students and myself. Thank you for taking time to write and share this!

  6. beth francis gupta

    Saved my life over and over daily and with every breath… with wise teachers and the teacher within over time harm is the furthest thing it calls to mind if I practice with honesty… talk to me at 25 and maybe in my ignorance, zeal and years of prior patterning and unsafe teachers… another story. but had at least 10 concussions & sprained ankles and a broken nose prior to 25 due to our great amercian sports 🙂 Had I had yoga at 12…. alas one can only wonder. 🙂 the essence is in the search to find the balance within and share it. thank you as always dear Marcia for taking the time. Long live Yo-ah! XO