Sample from the Summer 2008 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine

An Interview with Molly Lannon Kenny, MS-CCC

Molly Lannon Kenny has developed classes, workshops and training programs in supporting illness, disease and life challenges in a holistic manner that encourages healing of the whole person. In this interview, she talks about bringing Yoga therapy to hospice care patients and about “Life after Loss,” a special Yoga class she developed for individuals experiencing grief and loss.

Integral Yoga Magazine: You have worked with people with severe injuries, even people who are paralyzed. How do you do Yoga with them?

Molly Lannon Kenny: A young marine serving in Iraq (we’ll call him John—not his real name) was shot at the C2 level and became a quadriplegic. He had no sensation or movement below neck. His family asked me to work with him. I would have been happy had that even been the end of the story! Just their asking me to do Yoga with him! Imagine what the family was thinking and the perspective they had for them to even think that I could do Yoga with him!

It challenged me. I had to really ask myself the question: What is Yoga? How do you work with someone in a body whose body doesn’t work? I began to pull things from Yoga nidra—bringing awareness to the palm of the hand, the fingers, the back of the hand. We are connected to our body even when we think we’re not. Quite often, we don’t connect with these bodies that we are in! In Yoga class, we may hear the teacher say: Breathe into your kidneys. Do we know where are they? We don’t connect with the different parts of our body. But we can, if we orient to them.

IYM: What kind of reorientation did he go through to reconnect with his body?

MLK: Imagine if you lived for 27 years in your body and then you were told you don’t have any relationship to your body anymore. This is the perspective given to people with spinal cord injuries. As yogis, we know, of course, that they still have a connection with the body. We can have energetic connections. So, John and I did a lot of work that focused on that and he enjoyed it. Then, on the sixth session of our work, he told me he was being removed from his ventilator because he didn’t want to live as a quadriplegic. This was a moment of spiritual crisis for me. I cried to God: “You directed me to do this service but then you don’t help me.” I was in crisis because, I was afraid that maybe I should be telling John to not want to die, instead of supporting his decision. Everyone was telling him, “You have to live.” They were bringing in other quads to talk to him so he might change his mind. Then, I had a breakthrough: I could be the one person who held a different perspective for him. He was not going to make a decision just based on my support or lack of it. Quality of life should not be measured only in terms of longevity.

IYM: What did you say to him?

MLK: I said, “John, trust your inner wisdom. Listen to your heart.” Then he asked me if we could practice a specific meditation that might prepare him for dying. We spent all the rest of the time doing meditations on dissolving the body—thinking of the physical body and letting it rarify and disappear, then the breath body and so on. We went through all the koshas. We identified that, if we let go of all the other koshas, all would be left was the spiritual body. I called it “a firefly,” a firefly that could fly anywhere and had no boundaries. We’d allow ourselves to be in that place. Then we’d build each kosha back up. We’d visualize the firefly in the body and then bringing the emotions back, the breath back. We would do it over and over. Sometimes his wife would ask him what he was doing and he’d say, “I became a firefly. I dissolved my body.” He was always reported feeling very good about this.

We did this process until it was time for him to go. The last time we did it, before he passed away, he shared something with me. You have to understand: Here was this military man, a very conservative Lutheran. Here I am, the complete opposite. And he said, “I don’t know why you are here in my room, but I know that it has helped me a lot to have you here.” For me, it was as if when John died, it would be okay. He was leaving, but this spark would continue. It seemed he understood that he could be this form as a marine and husband but just as much a spark and energy that would last even when they removed the ventilator.

IYM: What was that like for you to hear?…

Read the rest of this article in the Summer 2008 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.