A Yoga Retreat for a Full-Time Caregiver

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Valorie Patillo, an Omega scholarship recipient to Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman's workshop, shares how a weekend of yoga helped her rejuvenate before returning to her responsibilities as a caregiver for her mother.

Valorie Patillo is a caregiver to her mother, who is dealing with Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, arthritis, neuropathy, diabetes, and COPD. Her mother is in a wheelchair, wears diapers, and needs oxygen 24/7. 

Patillo is among the more than 40 million Americans providing unpaid care to an adult age 65 or older. Like so many caregivers have experienced, Patillo's daily reality of caregiving is rewarding but challenging and leads to wear and tear mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Receiving an Omega scholarship in 2018 to attend The Full Scope of Yoga workshop with Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman was just what she needed.

“Staying calm, loving, patient, and helpful, regardless of what is going on, is my full-time job,” Patillo shared. “The retreat with Rodney and Colleen was so good for me! Words cannot say how much I needed it, how much I appreciate it, and how much it helped rejuvenate me before returning to my responsibilities.”

The Realities of Caregiving

For Patillo, one of the hardest parts about taking care of her mom has been dealing with her Alzheimer’s.

“It’s like living in the Twilight Zone,” Patillo said. “She hallucinates sights, sounds, and smells. She has no control over her emotions, ranging from being sweet and gentle to being paranoid and frustrated, to outright rage. On top of all of that, she is usually in a lot of pain. Still, we are determined to keep her at home as long as possible.”

Her mom is also up and down at all hours of the night, which can be exhausting for Patillo. She suffers physically with back, neck, and shoulder pain from the demands of transferring her mother in and out of her wheelchair.

“Of course, the stress and heartache are the most challenging,” she said. “It’s so stressful to watch this happen to someone you love, and it constantly breaks my heart to watch her suffer in pain.”

In addition to her caretaking responsibilities, Patillo also takes care of the house, including cooking, cleaning, laundry, and vacuuming.

Releasing Tension on the Mat

Patillo says the content and quality of teaching at the yoga workshop was incredible.

“The retreat was so professionally managed, with such lovingkindness,” she said. “Rodney, Colleen, and their two assistants would help different students personally, when needed, in spite of it being a very large class.”

She was assisted several times, which she said helped release the built-up stress and emotional pain she had bottled up from these last four years of caring for her mother.

“A couple of times I just had a good cry that I needed desperately,” Patillo said.

Doing yoga also helped relax some of her muscles that had been contracted into painful knots from the stress and hard work of caretaking. The pranayama, along with the asanas, helped her to take more full, deep breaths.

“I didn’t even realize I wasn’t inhaling fully,” she said. “The tension I had endured actually made me unable to breathe correctly.”

Taking Her Practice Home

Since the retreat, Patillo is consciously making an effort to breathe slowly and deeply and is maintaining a regular yoga practice. She says she is sleeping better, too.

“Keeping up these practices has helped me stay healthier and more able to face the daily challenges here with my mother,” she said.

She loves that yoga is beneficial on so many levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

“It is relaxing and at the same time stimulating,” she said. “It helps release tension while simultaneously strengthening. It’s so comprehensive. The only practice I love more is to walk in nature, which I also enjoyed thoroughly at Omega between classes and meals. Nothing rejuvenates better than having those days at Omega to relax, renew, walk the beautiful grounds in nature, and eat the best food ever. It was a real healing vacation for me and I am so very grateful.”