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A blog post by Mary Moscarello. Photos by Mary Moscarello.

Are you at “gotta write it down now or I’ll forget” age? Then come sit by me, I’ve been here a while. I can show you where we hide the good cookies. 
I had to come write this post just minutes before I teach class because inspiration struck and I know if I don’t get something on my blog about it, I’ll forget my point. Fittingly enough, this post is about memory loss.

We as humans value memory so much. I’m one of them. Elephants are said to have the longest memory of any mammal or something like that – I loved them before I learned that fun fact. The Hindu diety Ganesha (my fave) just had a birthday recently and I find it fitting that this “remover of obstacles” is embodied by the image of an elephant – a being that remembers well.  

Does remembering help us remove obstacles? I’d say it does, if you subscribe to the “once bitten, twice shy” philosophy of learning those sometimes painful lessons in life. Maybe that’s a debate for another time and another post.

We know that LOSING memory becomes an obstacle. Oh boy do I know this. I have a front row seat to this now. I’d seen glimpses of it before but none of my elders seemed to have memory issues. What is more likely true is that I didn’t have the front row seat I do to it now. My 95-year old mother in law has those issues. My bonus father in law (my bonus children’s grandfather) does too and family members of mine are sitting right in that front row with me. Though their cast of characters are different, the basic plot is the same.

Caring for someone with memory loss can be exhausting. In sharing our mutual experiences over the phone recently with one family member in particular, we commiserated about how difficult it can be from a caregiver’s perspective. When dealing with adult onset dementia or any mentally degenerative condition that affects memory – the amount of patience you need just to cope, multiplies exponentially. Resisting the urge to push “reality” on a person that is clearly out of touch with it takes practice. Thankfully I’ve begun to learn this lesson. The “improv” technique of “yes, and?” comes in very handy.

I’m no expert on aging, but I’ve found it helpful to (and had others in the trenches say this to me) focus on how the person is experiencing their reality. Are they happy? Then help them stay that way. Are they sad? Then distract them with something happy. I know it sounds oversimplified, and it IS. There comes a point during this journey with memory when you can’t affect the mood. The person becomes inconsolable so you then focus on physical comfort. Are they fed? Clean? Warm? Thirsty? Meet those needs and move on. Pick your battles, so to speak.

My mother in law went through a period of days where she was distraught at the notion she needed to go find a job. “Who is gonna hire this old lady?” “How am I going to help with this house?” she’d weep. So do I say, you don’t need a job or do I invent a fictitious job for which she is the ideal candidate? She’s in her reality and I’m in mine. They’re not the same but that’s okay. How do I bridge the gap?  Moving forward with compassion and understanding, I have improved odds that the tears might stop.

She also now believes that Bongo ran away. He didn’t run away, he died. Resisting the urge to correct this mental detour is very hard for me. Especially tough when she calls him ungrateful for leaving such a good home. I mean. I’m trying right now to control my quickening pulse at that thought alone. But my compassion helps me pause and see that it could be a defense mechanism as well as a mental decline that is producing this narrative. 

She loved Bongo. 

He loved her
They hung out

She walked him occasionally. Always in style, lol. Thanks to the above picture, that’s in my memory and if it has left hers, well that’s okay. His presence helped me be in hers when things were tough. My dog was her therapy dog and he was mine.

The reason why dogs are great with old people or people with memory issues is they don’t expect anything from the person. They’re just present. We need to rationalize the idea that their reality isn’t ours. But they just exist and share space. 

A lofty goal to be like my dog was. But he was happy right up until the end – so following his lead isn’t such a bad idea. 

Theresa Conlon

Theresa is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor (200-hour RYT) who has been teaching since 2013. She is skilled in various yoga styles including Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and Meditation. Theresa also brings an extensive dance background to her yoga practice, which includes teaching both modern dance and ballet. She has over 40 years of dance/theater performing experience and currently showcases her choreography as part of Bergen Dance Makers, a dance collective in northern New Jersey. Theresa’s yoga classes offer a calming mix of traditional asana postures and creative movement flows, supported by energy-moving breath. Students of all skill levels are invited to find ease and peace in their bodies/minds/spirits through the joyful bliss of yoga movement.

Carrie Parker Gastelu

Carrie Parker Gastelu, E-500 RYT, has been teaching yoga since 1993. Carrie began her journey when Yogi Raj Mani Finger initiated Carrie into the ISHTA Yoga lineage after training with Mani’s son, Yogi Raj Alan Finger. In addition, she has studied many other yoga traditions as well as anatomy, physiology, movement, and awareness practices to create an eclectic style all her own. She is known for her honest, non-dogmatic yet passionate approach.

Carrie is a regular speaker and contributor at conferences, websites, and print publications and has been featured in Fit Magazine, the Yoga Zone Book, and in the Yoga Zone Video, “Flexibility and Stress Release.”

Lisa Podesta-Coombs

When Lisa found yoga in 2008, she started to find herself again and it set her on a path of health and healing. She received her 200HR RYT certification from Raji Thron of Yoga Synthesis, and her 30HR Chakra Yoga Teacher Training certificate with Anodea Judith and holds a Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) certification. She is also a Holistic Health Coach (certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Lisa believes we’re all on a journey of learning how to trust ourselves; she helps her clients build that trust by supporting them in creating better habits for a better life through various functional movement modalities like yoga, barre, Pilates & strength training, mindset, and whole food nutrition.

Forever a student with a passion for people, holistic health, and self-actualization, Lisa is always embracing opportunities to advance her education to better serve; Ayurveda workshops & immersions have been of particular interest as she continues to deepen her knowledge of and experience with food as medicine and she recently completed Unleash Her Power Within, a transformational program of rediscovering our truest selves, powered by Tony Robbins.  

As she continues to give herself space and grace to nourish her natural self and actualize her potential, Lisa continues to share the gift of movement as medicine to inspire authenticity & health in body, mind, and spirit. You can expect mindful, accessible, dynamic, playful, and uplifting classes from Lisa.

Tanisha Sutton

Tanisha’s yoga journey began when she was an undergraduate student studying at university. Changes in her health coupled with anxiety over grades, relationships, and life in general, forced her to search for healthy lifestyle choices she could implement to help manage the stress that she was experiencing as a new adult. A friend of hers suggested that she attend some community yoga classes to help with the anxiety and increase her daily physical activity. Initially, she was reluctant and filled with all these false ideas about yoga and the people who practiced yoga. Like many others, she was concerned that her body type and lack of flexibility automatically excluded her from being a student. Curiously yet hesitantly, she journeyed on to her first class and began laying the foundation for a home and public practice that has supported her over the years.

On this journey, she has discovered that yoga has nothing to do with appearances nor is there anything, but an open mind needed to begin. She intends to provide you with a gentle yoga session that is safe, inclusive, and accessible. Her classes are an expression of self-love and are a deliberate choice to tend to ALL the parts of our being that are neglected, ignored, or disregarded during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Through meditation, deep breathing, and gentle movement we will collectively share space to observe, rest and re-set. Tanisha is honored to share her practice with you and looks forward to seeing you on the mat!