Why else I do yoga….

Ok everyone, months ago I promised to give you a little bit more of my history about why I do yoga. I revealed plenty of information about my health history and stomach issues, etc. but I also mentioned there was something else…. well here goes…

I am writing this today because it is father’s day and this path has everything to do with my dad. Let’s start out by saying I am deff. a daddy’s girl. I was born on his birthday and I look just like him too. My father was originally a hair dresser who owned his own salon for many years in Marine Park, Brooklyn. My sister is 10 years older than me and after I was born the shop itself was just not enough financially to make things work with 2 kids so he became a school bus driver for handicap children while continuing to own his salon for another 10 years. Since I was a little girl he had always worked 2 jobs but always made sure to have dinner with us as much as he could…. even when we was late it was just by an hour and I’d still sit at the table with him telling him all about my days at school. My father has the patience of a saint, he rarely gets mad (but if he does, you’d better run), and never was one to scream or lose his cool. He loved what he did and he loved being a dad to 2 girls. While he is not ever one to get all mushy/gushy you know that he cares about his family and is a very loyal humble man. He taught me to play guitar and about all the best classic rock music out there. He taught me how to draw and take beautiful photographs and how to ride horses (he used to raise horses during his younger farm days and can draw them incredibly!) and do cartwheels and pull ups and anything artistic. He never went to college but something inside him always loved science, he would always watch all these weird shows that mom never enjoyed, even I sometimes thought ughh not again but my love for science is from him and all these moments of us doing different science projects together. (don’t get me wrong mom taught me a lot too.. but different stuff). So now that you have an idea about who this man is let’s get down to the real serious stuff that happened just about 2 years ago…

While this is very difficult for me to talk about it is just as hard to write. My father has a hereditary disease known as Huntington’s. Now most people have no idea what that even is…. it is something that is rarely diagnosed because people don’t always realize they have it or what to do with it. It can be mistaken for a lot of other things like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s , and even maybe Tourette’s. The disease is neurological and has a lot to do with being able to control your physical movements. It can cause server depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, lack of balance and ability to walk, uncontrollable motions, anger, rapid weight loss, memory loss, and complete apathy. There currently is absolutely no cure. It is detected based on a DNA test (without getting too scientific) there are certain strands of our DNA that are meant to repeat several times…. when Huntington’s is present this particular DNA strand repeats over 40 times… the higher the repetition the worse the condition of the person diagnosed. While my father’s number is not very high it just means that the disease’s symptoms will not occur as rapidly… however my father is almost 70 now and for years he would not get tested. Like his mother, who also tested positive for this disease, he refused to believe anything was wrong with him. Part of that is just the Italian stubbornness in him, but the other part of the disease is denial…. most people who have this don’t realize they are twitching constantly or acting different…. emotionally they don’t notice. After being diagnosed the drs told us about the studies that have been done to help the disease…. we all constantly hear about a body in motion stays in motion…. specifically for this disease it is so important to try and keep to a calendar, a very strict schedule for yourself even if the tasks are very small ones like mop the floors every Tuesday at 11am…. it is also soooo important to keep moving…. what a lot of studies show that if the brain was focused on doing a specific motion or task or something else that required physical movement the brain and nerves had less time to twitch and have these ticks of the arms flailing or legs shaking. Some studies have also showed that doing yoga, even if it were just yin yoga…. balance was better in patients and the mind was more focused on the stretching or the pose and again less time was being put into twitching or even anxiety, etc.

When we learned about this disease not only did the drs at Columbia do basic explaining of what to expect they did about 4 or 5 sessions of family therapy and tried to help us better understand what to look for. Now luckily, my father has not become depressed or suicidal, his spirits are always pretty high… but his motions are very uncontrollable, he is terribly skinny b/c of all the movements and it is harder for him to process information. Simple tasks like doing the laundry and mopping the floors are becoming more difficult by the day. While he is not in any pain what-so-ever it is painful for us as a family to watch him go through. What used to be this strong independent man, working constantly, and raising a family is now someone who is weak and can’t always tell any sense of time or even walk without losing his balance often. Everyone who sees him in public doesn’t understand, maybe even thinks he’s mentally handicapped or just that crazy old guy… it’s most deff. rough. When you watch someone you love and admire fall apart you want to do anything you can to help them. The worst part is that my father feels guilty and has apologized to my mom, sister, and I that he has a hereditary disease that there is no cure for… I however, believe that even if he knew this 37 years ago he would have still had my sister and I maybe he just would have done a little more physically, but I can’t imagine the pain of having to tell your own family that this is how life is going to be when you reach my age… upon seeing all this and going through these many emotions of anger, sadness, and fear I knew that now was the time to become a yoga teacher….. my father is very proud that I have accomplished this, and he makes sure to tell me every time he sees me and ask about my crazy yoga poses…. he won’t ever do the yoga with me or my mom, we try to get him to… but he won’t have it…. sometimes we can get him to do a few poses, but it’s very seldom… it’s hard to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves… but I do know that for me and my future this will help. In our family it seems that the disease doesn’t truly start until the late 50s early 60s…. and from what I hear my great grandmother who also had this disease (of course they didn’t know what it was back then) had a lot milder a case because until she was 90 she was staying active, using her brain, working in drs offices, and playing bingo with the ladies at night….. I know that I am always such a go-go-go person… and yes that is just a little bit of who I am but I have most deff. become a lot more schedule based and stricter on myself to keep going so that I am not as affected as greatly. It is scary to know that there is a history of disease running in your family that barely any studies are done on, or that people don’t know about…. it’s a scary thought to think about your own future, having children, and trying to almost force yourself to live at a faster pace now because you know one day you might not be able to…. it’s not to say any of us are guaranteed anything in this world, but it puts a different feeling inside you when you know what the odds are and you see it first hand….

With all of that being said, I know that if I stay on this path, I am going in the right direction…. it may be hard to explain but internally I can feel it…. and the look in my dad’s eyes knowing that I have started now to better my future has been more than enough to keep me motivated to do any yoga pose ever…. no matter how many times I have to fall or practice… I will get there.

This is not easy to talk about and I hope some of you will do some of your own research about this disease; information is key! I hope you all had a great father’s day as I have had fun going to dad’s favorite roast beef place in Brooklyn called Brennan & Karr…. been there since 1932…. one of the best places ever! Check them out if you haven’t already and enjoy! Namaste. Xo.

 

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