Long overdue from me, I am sorry. We arrived May 1st and started back in at the hospital. We brought a friend of ours from Los Angeles, a general contractor who volunteered one month time. He tackled the beginnings of the renovation project at the hospital, and it looks so much better, I will explain about hospital renovation in another blog hopefully.
Tom was doctoring away here when we got word that his 92 yr old mother fell at the beauty salon against a porceline sink and broke her sternum. The pain was unimaginable and Tom had to return to California to be with his dear mom, and to assist his family with medical decisions, and plan her care. We decided I should stay as we had begun the renovation and I needed to help with getting supplies and assisting to negotiate for prices here in India, plus my yoga classes here, and orienting our friend from LA to Dharamsala, (he had never been here before). The other factor is when I do have some time, often the electricity goes out for an hour or 4 or 5, enough to interfere with timing! Then I attended four sessions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings at his monastery here in Dharamsala. Felt like it was renewing, he is always so fresh and vital!
My husband Tom went to the Indian Consulate in San Francisco to see if the Indian government would permit him to re- enter India (India has a strange rule that once you leave India, you must wait 60 days before re-entry). Apparently it is a relatively new law for "anti -terrorism protection". Tom felt because he had a medical emergency, and because the hospital here needs doctors so badly, that he had a good shot at re-entry.
They said "no."
I am finishing up or actually getting a good head-start on the renovation project here; things move slowly in India.
"...As long as enthusiasm holds out, so will new opportunities."
Norman Vincent Peale
Will be seeing you sometime hopefully in August. I will 'try my level best' to get some more blogs out~
Thank you for your patience with me
Teaching Yoga on the Tuberculosis Ward
Tibetan Delek Hospital
There are all ages of yoga students on the TB ward: Some young women and men in their teens and early twenties, and some older students from 45 to 70 years of age. It is difficult to be isolated on the ward with very little space, and very few activities.
Isolation is just that - to keep infected people away from others, until the sputum count is low enough to be discharged and to continue treatment at home. They are willing to do anything that breaks the monotony. Since they have read and heard that yoga is helpful for dealing with illness, particularly respiratory illness, they approach it with a 'give it a go', or 'give it a whirl attitude' Very few have ever done yoga before.
These patients have to wear a mask 24/7 which is tedious and hot, and often feels stifling to the breath. The type of mask, an "N-95", filters out 95% of airborne particles. Naturally while teaching, I must wear a mask as well, which poses challenges not only as far as breath, but in giving clear instructions.
One student or two will translate instructions from English to Tibetan for me. Although I can now say: "aug ya- leh" (inhale), and "aug ma tang"(exhale)!
Aside from being infected with mycobacterium tuberculosis, and the havoc it wreaks on the lungs, these students also suffer from anxiety, stress (tight muscles), insomnia, fatigue, weight loss and depression. All of these issues begin to improve slowly with on going yoga practice. As I explain: it is not a cure" but it will assist your body's ability to metabolize the medication more efficiently, and increase your stamina and sense of well being. This in turn contributes to your ability to fight the tuberculosis and finally to be released from isolation on the TB ward.
Skepticism seemed to disappear after the first two classes. Now when I arrive on the ward, the students immediately get their yoga mats ( I was able to obtain a large number of mats), and they ask to repeat certain asanas (postures). A favorite pose is a standing version of Paschimottanasana (a spine and leg stretch, opening the chest firstly). It is done with the porch rail for support. The porch looks out onto the street below. One leg up on the rail, as we inhale ("aug ya-leh") we raise our arms skyward; and then exhale ("aug ma tang") bringing the arms and hands down to the extended leg on the rail. This is a balance posture as well as an opener for the chest, which is so essential in the treatment of any lung disease. However, the fun part of this pose is when exhaling the students like to shout: "woo - hoo!" Folks on the street below look up, and then watch this 'yoga performance'...
There is such liveliness within the group. Often, they say one hour is not enough. Bravo!
I am cautious about over exertion, because an immune system that is trying to deal with TB does not need to be exhausted. On the other hand I need to balance the class with enough movement to assist with stress and fatigue.
We practice limited amounts of what is called 'pranayama.' This is the process by which 'prana' (Hindi word) for life force, or breath (Qi or "chi" in Chinese), is controlled by regulation of external breath. Increasing lung capacity is a goal, along with releasing stress, and waste, (carbon dioxide) through the exhalation.
Ventilation is key also, and as the classes are taught on an open porch, it is certainly well ventilated, and provides an adequate space for the class. There are usually 7- 10 students in the class.
All of this has been well received! The patients report feeling better. Though I have not undertaken any type of organized study on the effects of yoga in treating tuberculosis, reportedly there have been some, with good outcomes. The students all feel resolved to continue a practice when they are discharged. I jokingly tell them that their yoga mat is their "magic carpet ride."
In summary, it has been a privilege for me to teach this class beginning last Fall/Winter, and continue again in May and June. I am humbled to the extreme by their gratitude.
In guiding the breath of these extraordinary Tibetans with their extraordinary lives, they have become 'my Guide'. They impress on me more than any other group of students that to "re-spire" (respirate), and to "in-spire" (bring in the spirit), has much more to do with LIVING than lung function.
Their "spiritus" (spirit, or breath) carries me forward, and they will be with me until I "ex-pire." Latin = expirare = breathe one's last, die.
Thug je che -
(Tibetan for "thank you")