I was stopped in my tracks by an interview I heard recently on NPR. In it, Bruce Kramer spoke openly of his struggle, according to him, to “live while dying from ALS”. He died on March 23, 2015. His story touched my heart and inspired me.
I was moved by his courage – first, to share so honestly. And further, by the strength he exhibited in his response to the disease. He chose to be vulnerable and discuss feelings that we all experience but are rarely able and willing to face.
I sometimes wonder how effective I can be when working with clients who are facing difficult disease conditions that are not expected to improve. Bruce reminded me of the great good we can do through yoga – to help people be fully present with themselves wherever they are and in whatever situation they face. By bringing people together in community, safety, and acceptance, we can create a space where internal healing of mind and spirit can occur.
Bruce spoke of such a place during yoga class even while in his wheelchair and needing others to bring movement to his uncooperative limbs. He was able to connect deeply with the music of his soul, heart and spirit. He said that he experienced joy. He spoke of ALS being his greatest teacher, without which he might never have embraced the life lessons he encountered.
Most of us don’t have a terminal illness prompting us to grow, but nevertheless, the lessons lay before us for the taking. Many of us experience other, ongoing chronic health conditions like diabetes and autoimmune disease. Yoga affords us the opportunity to heal on many levels. For some, physical healing will happen. Others will find acceptance. As we become observers of ourselves in action, we begin to hear the body and soul speak. With this gentle practice of self-awareness, we too, can experience deeper understanding and personal transformation. We can start to notice when our life feels out of balance and learn tools to bring things back to center.
At some point in the progression of the disease, he realized the need to forgive his body. How many of us need to do the same? To have courage, and look deeply within? He spoke of the shift that took place after he forgave his body for failing him. I related this to the concept that in yoga, we stop struggling, get still, and relax enough for a little space to develop. Life asks much of us. We try so hard. Yoga asks only that we surrender, let body and breath find one another, and once reunited, let the music within each of us come forth. The Yoga Sutras teach that in this space, true healing and transformation erupt – spontaneous, slow, and steady. It is our choice to come, practice, listen, and allow healing.
Bruce’s example encourages me to keep teaching – and practicing. Breath and movement is accessible to anyone, regardless of your health status. To learn more, visit the classes and workshops page.
To listen to the whole interview visit: