Love and Loss, On and Off the Mat

by Carol Shwidock, Orginally posted on Kripalu.org

On 9/11, I was in a yoga studio. Two days later, I gave notice after working full-time for 25 years as an occupational therapist. I didn’t know what I was going to do next, but I knew I couldn’t figure it out with a full-time job. So, in the meantime, I made a little yoga space in my house and starting doing lots of yoga. My daughters, who were little at the time, would tell me when I got irritated, “Mom, go to your yoga mat.” They knew I would be calmer and more focused afterward.

In 2003, I decided to come to Kripalu for yoga teacher training. On the way there, I remember wondering whether or not I was doing the right thing. As soon as the training started, I knew  that this was what I was meant to do with my life. I couldn’t stop smiling. I graduated on a Sunday in January of 2004, and started teaching that Tuesday.

Meanwhile, my husband, who had been diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease 15 years earlier, had been getting sicker. His first liver transplant, from a cadaver, helped for a while, and then he started getting worse again. There was a 1 percent chance that I would be a match for him—and it turned out I was. So I told him, okay, I will give you my liver if you come to Kripalu with me! That was my only caveat.

In 2011, I donated 60 percent of my liver to him, and I was so happy to be able to give him more time. Nine weeks later, I filmed Bedside Yoga, a yoga DVD for people preparing for and recovering from surgery. A few months later, my husband made good on his promise and we came to Kripalu together for a partner yoga program.

On the way there, we got a call that something was wrong with his bloodwork, but we decided to continue with the trip anyway. It was a wonderful weekend, and it was so beautiful to see my husband surrender to the experience. Nine months later, he passed.

I don’t know how I would have lived through the past 14 years without yoga. My practice is what keeps me going. I’m so grateful for yoga and for Kripalu. The minute my car is on the road to Kripalu, I know I’m going home. And I love teaching—watching people come alive and discover that there’s another way to live. It’s beautiful to see people peel open. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone did yoga?

My personal journey and teaching experience inspired me to create the Yoga for Lost and Found workshop in 2014, designed for those healing from loss. To me, the breath is more important than anything—coming back to the breath, being in the present, observing, acknowledging, and opening up to possibilities. The Kripalu practice of BRFWA is a hallmark of Kripalu teaching for me; it has sustained me and continues to sustain me on this journey of life. It’s helped me to find calm amid the chaos, and, eventually, to find acceptance. I’ve been through tragedy, but there is always joy inside—we just need to learn how to access it.

Carol Shwidock is a Kripalu Yoga teacher, yoga therapist, and Reiki master. Owner of Harmony Yoga in Stamford, Connecticut, she has 25 years’ experience as an occupational therapist in the field of rehabilitation. 

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