On what’s worth holding onto
Here, in his final few months with me, my service dog is quite alert to my moods. He sidles up and leans in, part support, part an it’s-okay hug. I get angry, tearful, crabby about his diagnosis and it reminds me of an incident when anger and tears arose after the first few months of my diagnosis. It was during my yoga teacher training more than a decade ago.
In class one day, the instructor parsed the word, dis-ease, emphasis on dis. Ease is what the body does naturally, she said. Our ease is stunted by stress that builds up in the body and interferes with it. Do your yoga and you won’t be subject to dis-ease she concluded.
Objection. My neurologist had just confirmed I had Parkinson’s and I’d been practicing yoga for years. Parse that, I wanted to shout. It’s true that job pressures and relationship mishaps were rampant for me around that time, but they morphed into neck pain and lower back spasms. They didn’t grow into Parkinson’s — the medical world is still studying the causes of that. Stress may bring the issues to light sooner, but studies show that actual onset ranges from the unknown to environmental toxins (Rotenone, a common pesticide, for example) to viruses to leaky gut to heredity. There are so many bi-ways into the brain that can trigger the breakdown of dopamine. I found it dis-turbing having this complex, degenerative, neurological condition with no cure oversimplified into do your yoga. It was also dis-tracting from what yoga can do. It doesn’t block the body’s bi-ways that diseases travel on. Yoga does help carve a path through the wake of a disease’s symptoms that can cause such discomfort, disability.
Here, Bryce leans in closer, as if to say, emphasis on comfort and ability. He gazes up at me. He’s not growling or crying and I wonder if that comfort and ability will come after I let go of the dis– discussion, the anger, the tears. It would make room for what he so naturally has a hold on: dignity.