Health | Wellness | Yoga | Chicago

Thanks, Yoga: A Series (Two)

Now that you’ve heard my journey and passion for yoga (if you haven’t, click here), I thought that I would give you all a break from listening (reading?) to me talk and let you hear from my fellow yogi friends for the next couple of weeks. I asked a few yogi’s that I truly look up to and admire to answer the question:

What has yoga done for you?


Yoga Lessons, Michelle R

The other day, my 10-year-old daughter lamented the fact that she is unable to do the splits. “All my friends can do them,” she pouted. I told her how I was never able to do them either and, how, as a runner in high school, I often lamented the athletes around me who could do full forward bends before a race. Like the bends were nuthin. To me they were everything! And I couldn’t do them.


Until yoga.


In my late 20s, around the time I first moved to Chicago in the Spring of 2002, I started a regular yoga practice. Over time, I was not only able to touch my toes—I could do so much more. Yoga became a chance for me to melt into my mat, to find deeper connection with my strength, my core, myself. I’d practice yoga in the bedroom of my 3rd floor walkup. While my roommate was busy eating more than his fair share of our groceries, I was lost in the lessons of Rodney Yee. I appreciated his slow and thoughtful manner. (Rodney’s. Not my roomie’s.)


Around that same time in my life, I met my future husband, Jonny. He introduced me to amazing music; I introduced him to yoga. We shared both and, together, we practiced and grew in our love for one another. We were bound by our connection to try and be “more” in this world. From mat to matrimony we were living Namaste.


When I found out I was pregnant with our daughter, Ruby, I transitioned to prenatal yoga. I enjoyed the experience so much. I was amazed by pregnancy, and felt appreciative that I was able to continue yoga into the final days before Ruby was born. It was a magical time. And I loved continuing to practice after she was born when she would watch us bend and twist and, eventually, join us on the floor.


During my second pregnancy, my efforts to practice slowed down considerably. Time was harder than ever to come by and my regular yoga sessions took a back seat to my increasingly busy life.


In time I realized, though, that the yogic lessons I’d learned over the years—the lessons my body had learned—would stay with me for a lifetime.


When our son, little Jonny, was barely 7 months old, my healthy, strong, capable, daring, loving, supportive husband was quite unexpectedly diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. At the time, he was given just 2 months to 2 years to live. We were devastated.


Our lives changed immediately. And so did yoga’s meaning for us.


In my new and varied roles as cancer caregiver, breadwinner, mother, and wife, I felt the added strains of time, and my regular yoga practice faded. Jonny’s grew,however, as he found yoga a source of strength and peace in helping him fight his cancer.


Jonny managed to stay with us not 2 years, but nearly 3. I credit yoga, in part, for his extended time with us. And I am grateful.


Now, as the kids and I continue to forge our path forward since Jonny’s death, I find I’m still not fully able to return to a regular yoga practice. Not because Jonny died, but because time still eludes me on a daily basis.


But what I’ve found is that yoga hasn’t left my side. My relationship with it has shifted and changed and feels quite different than when I was first starting out, but it feels no less important or present in my life.


Today, yoga for me is:

  • Sitting tall while I write this
  • Breathing into life’s pain
  • Bending deeply into mundane activities such as putting dishes in the dishwasher or tying my shoes
  • Rising in the morning with a grateful heart
  • Doing push-ups, then concluding by lifting my body into cobra pose
  • Releasing into downward dog at random times, then moving my hands back, inch by inch, until I’m hanging, releasing, into a forward bend
  • Following the sudden urge to move a picture frame out of the way so I can rest my feet against the wall in a headstand


It seems, for me, as time and life have marched on, that yoga is no longer just something I do; it’s in everything I do. Including teaching my kids that doing the splits isn’t the goal. Keeping a flexible, open heart is.




Michelle is a writer and poet living in Chicago. She has 2 beautiful kids, one tiny little house, and her first-ever yoga mat, old and worn though it is. You can find her work at and or connect with her via LinkedIn or through this site.

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