One of our most incredible student stories comes from Stephen Liu, who, at the age of 86, was convinced by his daughter, April, to try Bikram Yoga. Read the letter that Stephen wrote about his experience in the hot room, and see why he serves as a living testament to the statement: “Never too late, never too old, never too bad, never too sick to start from scratch once again.”
Yoga and I
An 86-year-old retired professor of English Literature, I have survived seven months of jungle warfare in North India (WWII), two strokes, one full hip replacement and numerous gout attacks. Our life span, the Bible says (Psalm 90), is 70 to 80 years. Thus, my days are numbered. I have, however, no fear of death, the ultimate oblivion, the un-awakening sleep or perhaps a trip to Heaven to see my Lord Christ. What troubles me most is the inevitable return of my infant stage, “Sans eyes, sans teeth, sans taste,” feeding from the cold hand of a stranger nurse, breathing in wires and tubes, powerless to live or die, a nagging burden for family and society, a laughing stock for Confucius: “The lingering life of an old man is that of a thief.”
While sinking deep in the hopeless abyss, Shakespeare’s voice came to my rescue: “The miserable have no other medicine but only hope.” So I hoped and waited until Hamlet uttered in his melancholic tone, “The hot yoga is the only thing in which you stand firm and tall, like a king.” After much quibbling and arguing, I finally slumped after my willful daughter into a Bikram Yoga room, attending Master Danny’s class, where I sweated cats and dogs on the floor, where I toppled and dropped, where I cursed my stiff legs and grumbled before my God, and was on the verge of quittingthe struggle for good. But then the cliché saying – “No pain, no gain!” – came to challenge me, and along came Mencius’ resolution: “If someone can practice something once, I will practice it a thousand times.” So I didn’t quit and tried to learn the art of yoga. A few months passed. Surprisingly something happened to me. It’s all new and exciting and encouraging. My days of struggling and sweating were not in vain.
After doing my yoga, I ate better, slept better and focused on things better. I also had more energy and a stronger will to fight the darkening moments of my depression. I realized that doing yoga may not bring back the “rosy cheeks and lips” of my youth, yet it will surely slow down my aging process and help me recover my lost confidence and joy of life as I chant once more Robert Browning’s song, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.”
Too often inside my private little cosmos, in the silence of night, the voice of my late father, once a follower of a Shaolin warrior monk, returns to revive my sleeping soul:
Never, never a quitter be oh my son,
Fight your battle before the day is done;
For a higher aim and stand you fight on,
Look around and hear the cries, my brave one,
You’re not alone, oh my son, you’re not alone!
Stephen S. N. Liu
Find Stephen’s story inspiring? We’ll be posting a dad-and-daughter profile about him and April closer to Father’s Day. Meantime, you can leave a comment for Stephen below (we’ll pass them on)!