by Janna Leyde
“You have a car?” That is generally the gasp of a response I get when people find out that I’ve recently come into possession of a teal 1999 Honda Accord. “Why do you need a car?”
This past March, my grandpa unexpectedly passed away. Turns out, he left me—the kid in Brooklyn—a car. It made little sense to me at the time, but I was close to my grandpa, so I accepted his car, complete with the Little Tree air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror and the working fire extinguisher rolling around in the back seat.
Suddenly, I could get back home in a day—no hassle, just enough cash for gas. I have lived at least one flight away from my parents for the last seven years, so keeping up with my dad’s brain injury has meant replacing proximity with frequent communication.
I was home for a week over the holidays when I first started my dad on his practice; however, living in New York, I had no choice but to become his remote yoga teacher. I gave him long explanations over the phone and constantly asked my mother to print out pages of broken down sequences and pictures of yoga postures, which he would inevitably lose, misplace, or give to someone else.
Keeping up his practice required a daily phone call:
Are you going to do yoga?
Yes, I have to walk the dog first. / Yes, I already have. / Oh, yes. I need to remember the yoga.
Okay, that’s good. All poses, every time, okay?
Okay, but sometimes I just do the first couple.
Dad, the WHOLE THING. You’ve got to do them all—it’s just 30 minutes every day.
Yes, okay, all of them.
Yes, ALL OF THEM. I gotta go. Love you!
Love you, too.
Three weeks later and he was doing almost all of them. A month later, all of them. Two months later, my mother was noticing the changes.
In June I flew home for a week of family time, country air, writing outside, and lots of yoga with my dad. I drove my “new” car back. This quickly became a pattern, because having the car made it easy to go home, and going home meant I could check up on the yoga. Being physically present to assist my dad became my one and only goal for the summer. What would happen if I turned my head?
I tend to obsessively monitor—weather, plane movement across states, page views, my jump backs. My dad’s progression from tadasana to downward-facing dog had become my new thing to monitor. I had to be there to watch it, and if it meant driving six hours, I was happy to.
But life got far too busy to drive home on a whim. I had weddings. I had yoga to teach. I had book stuff. Hell, I had my friends and my life here. My dad was back to doing yoga on his own, and I couldn’t keep constant tabs.
“Dude, Uncle John’s done a 180.” my cousin texted me a few weeks ago. “He’s so normal! Wish you were here with us!”
Then, on the phone with my mom a few days later, she said, “Well, your father has been acting pretty normal.”
Normal? I thought we’d taken that word out of the Leyde family vocabulary.
How was this improvement possible? I hadn’t been calling him every morning. I hadn’t been on the mat beside him, to check on his Warriors, his breath, his dedication to the practice every weekend. I hadn’t seen my parents in more than two months. Yet nothing I’d set in place was failing. Not his progression. Not his practice.
Turns out, all I had to do was set a foundation and trust it.
Janna Leyde is a yogi and writer living in Brooklyn. When she’s not on her mat or at the front of the room teaching, she is working on publishing her first novel, He Never Liked Cake, a coming of age memoir that tells the story of growing up with her father’s traumatic brain injury. Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain offers her perspective on the practice through the lens of the complex human brain.