Please meet Athena Pollina. She is Mind Body Flow Yoga’s featured student for this month’s newsletter. She has a strong yoga practice and was generous in sharing it with us, as she demonstrates Plank Pose (Phalakasana).
Athena Shares Her Yoga Journey
Marina messaged me and asked me if I read the newsletter, I thought to myself, “Why is she asking? What did I miss? I hope she ‘s not going to ask me to write for the newsletter?”
I feared that was what it was, so I cowardly chose not to answer and attempted to sneak into class the next day, but there is no sneaking by Marina! She asked me just what I had feared and I attempted to decline. She then said, “we would talk about it after class!!”
How do I say no to Marina? She opens up everyday in class, shares everything, and I take so much from it. She said this could be part of my work, so I thought I would give it a try break out of my comfort zone.
When I joined Mind Body Flow Yoga two years ago, my thought was to add yoga to my workout routine; I needed to work on my flexibility and balance, but surprisingly ended up finding the ‘Mind’ portion the most helpful.
When I started practicing at Mind Body Flow Yoga, I was at a point in my life where my youngest child was in her senior year of high school. So many ‘lasts’ to experience, last first day of high school, last field hockey game, last Charity Ball, last theater performance… so many lasts.
I was preparing for an empty nest and not quite sure about it. I was anxious with all the changes that were ahead of us. At times it would become overwhelming. I enjoyed my practice and the readings would put things into perspective. I would be able to stop making lists in my head of what needed to be done and just be in the moment.
Backward Bending and Standing Balancing Workshop
Saturday, November 17
A week before my daughter’s graduation, in June 2017, my mom called to tell me after several days of my dad not feeling well, that he went to the doctor and they found a spot on his pancreas. A few days later a biopsy was done and he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer! My heart sank.
Our hope was the Whipple procedure, but first he would have to start chemo to reduce the tumor then he could have the surgery. This was a big surgery and it would take him a while to recover, so he began to prepare my mom to take over the banking, he made a list of all the passwords, showed her how to take care of things around the house that would need to be addressed, he hung the “fairy lights” up in the big tree in the yard that my mom had mentioned months before, he built a bench around that same tree and finished the landscaping wall. They had just moved into this new ranch home 3 years earlier to make their lives easier for when they got older.
In July, I flew to NC to visit them and stayed for a week. I was relieved to see him looking well and doing his thing while on chemo. I watched my dad build the landscaping wall; he would start early and peter out after a few hours then go inside for lunch and take a nap. He was handling the chemo pretty well. He didn’t look sick and I was pretty sure he was going to be ok, he had to be because mom wasn’t changing her routine and she was reluctant to learn the on line banking.
We celebrated mom’s 71st birthday together.
I went home, got my kids off to school, took a trip with my husband and returned in September, Dad was plugging along. Mom was still going about her regular routine, but anxious about the upcoming surgery. I was grateful that I had the time to be with my parents and my brother who thankfully lived nearby.
When I was home, I would come back to Mind, Body, Flow and it was a relief to get on my mat and clear my head.
Live Music Vinyasa
With Violinist Lauren Eastlack
Saturday, November 17
In November, my kids flew in from their schools so we could all be together in North Carolina. We celebrated my birthday.
Unfortunately, the tumor didn’t shrink; it also didn’t grow, so now radiation and chemo would be the next step. I was able to be there when he had his first radiation appointment.
My visits to my parents went from every 6 weeks to 3 weeks at 7-10 days at a time. It was at this time when Marina reached out to me to see where I was. I filled her in and after that we were in regular contact. I was grateful for her kindness.
In January, both my sister and I visited. My sister insisted we go to the beach. My dad drove his 3 kids. We took some great pictures and had a lot of laughs. We walked back to truck and dad handed the keys to my brother, he was too tired to drive home. We celebrated his 76th birthday and my sister and I returned home the next day.
The following day, dad was admitted to the hospital with a raging infection from his port and needing a blood transfusion. He remained in the hospital for several days.
My trip in February went haywire when I waited for my connection. Dad wasn’t doing well and was being sent to the ER. I landed in Wilmington, NC, got into an UBER and headed to the hospital. Dad was pale and swollen. Before I arrived the ER doctor had a frank discussion with him and questioned his decision to continue the chemo and radiation. She explained Palliative care and that he could have nurses come to his home and wouldn’t need to go to doctor’s appointments or to the hospital any longer. I walked into the room and they were waiting for the Palliative care nurse to come in. She entered and explained Hospice and he agreed. I had tears in my eyes as I watched my dad wave the white flag.
He was admitted for a blood transfusion, mom stayed with him that night. I came back in the morning to bring them home. Mom was lying in the hospital bed and dad was dressed and sitting in the chair, looking pink, in good spirits, and anxious to get out of there. I drove them home-he chose to sit in the back seat and complained about my driving!
Hospice nurses and the social worker arrived later that afternoon, he was happy to greet them and very chatty.
My sister and her family arrived a few days later. Dad was up and outside early that morning excited to see everyone. I hurried to get ready, but by the time I got out there he became breathless and only made it as far as the tree with the bench he built.
I came home and was so looking forward to come to practice. Marina met me with a big smile and a warm hug. I hit my mat and fell into my practice. During savasana, I lay there completely relaxed hearing the music which brought me to tears.
A week later my dad was put on oxygen and 2 weeks after that the dreaded hospital bed was brought in. The next 2 weeks prior to his passing were really tough for all of us. I watched everything being taken away from my dad.
One night it was just he and I, he was so clear. He had noticed that afternoon while he slept that I had been at his desk and on his computer. He asked if I had a good understanding of his system and if I had any questions. We went over a few things and then he gave me a list of things to do after his “demise,” -gulp. It was so matter of fact and I felt it was important that he knew he could count on me, so I had to push my feelings aside. We talked for a little while longer and watched his favorite program, The Incredible Dr. Pol. It felt good to feel a sense of normalcy. He slept well that night and slept the whole next day and things started going downhill after that. On March 31 my dad passed away.
I had been so concerned what it would look and feel like living in the empty nest of my home and as it turned out I was hardly home long enough to notice.
I was grateful that I could spend this time with my parents. I loved the time I got to spend with my dad. I was thankful for my husband who insisted I spend as much time as possible with them. I was thankful for my friends who would call, check on us and share amusing stories. The text messages I received just to let me know they were thinking of us. My sister who insisted we go to the beach that day. My brother, who was always there and handled everything with humor, I admired the way my dad wanted to make sure my mom was prepared for life without him. I admired my mom’s strength; she took excellent care of my dad. I was blessed to be with my parents during this time.
I would have never have guessed that the ‘lasts’ I would be experiencing this past year would be with my dad.
My yoga practice was what I looked forward to most when things were getting really heavy. It gave me the time to relax and clear my mind and recharge. Off the mat I would practice being mindful and present. The unexpected happened and there was nothing I could do about it. All I could do is take the blows, breathe through them and cherish the moments in between. This yoga practice has given me access to the power of choice. I get to choose how I respond to life’s everyday challenges. I choose my breath, my happiness, and all the memories of my dad that I hold in my heart.
What is Athena's Pose About?
This is a grounding pose that stretches your arms, wrists, and spine. The resulting shape is a deep toning of the abdomen. Watch Athena enter into this asana from Mountain Pose (Tadasana).She will exit the pose and land back in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) as well.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you decide to try this pose, or if you have already started to experiment and play around with it.
- Press your thumbs and index fingers into the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back. Spread your collarbones wide.
- Press your front thighs up toward the ceiling, but resist your tailbone toward the floor as you lengthen it toward the heels. Lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and look straight down at the floor, keeping the throat and eyes soft.
- Hold this pose and stay anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Strengthens the arms, wrists, and spine
- Tones the abdomen
CautionAlways work within your own range of limits. Use caution with this pose if you have:
- Carpel tunnel syndrome.
Enlist the help of an experienced instructor with any yoga pose if it is your first time trying it and consult with your instructor on modifications.
Have you tried this pose before? What has been your experience?