Diane Utaski Notes: For the holidays, this column will include stories from people whose lives have been changed by yoga — in their own words.
"What is yoga? To some yoga means relaxation, to some it means stretching, to some it means a time for meditation. To me it means all this and more. It's a form of medication, a blend of all these, which helps me immensely. Why? Well, I have Parkinson's Disease. Yoga seems to be that ingredient that doesn't come in a bottle.
"Parkinson's tends to make one rigid and stiff in various places. Exercise is highly recommended to keep those muscles stretched and joints flexed. Just like any other chronic disease, the person affected always wonders why they're the one struck with it and has to find a way to live with it every day. So the meditation, which is part of yoga, has given me a chance to relate my yoga experience to my disease and set some personal goals for how I'm going to use yoga to help me fight this thing.
"I've made a commitment to attend yoga class every Wednesday night, no matter how I'm feeling. After I'm there, I quickly realize it was the right place to be and spend the evening. All the components of yoga — the stretching, the exercise, the many different positions used, the relaxation and the meditation — help my body fight the disease.
"The feeling I have when leaving a yoga session is beyond explanation. I feel not only energized but as if I just took a dose of a miracle medicine. I feel as if I never had the disease at all. When I finish a class, I approach the instructor and say, "Thank you," because I feel she's helped me live a better life for another day.
Diane Utaski, co-director of Cincinnati Yoga School, told me I have a beautiful spirit and smile. Well, it's only because of what yoga and my instructors have done for me. So I asked her if that meant that I have to smile each time I come to yoga, and she said, 'Of course."
"That's not hard for me, though, since yoga has meant so much for me."