My hope is to help others level up their practice, deepen the mind body connection, take the helm of their own ship, and learn to flip the switch on the internal voice.

My yoga journey began when I was four years old after I was assigned to cardiologist, Dr. Raja Singham. He was born in Sri Lanka, a region with a strong yogic tradition. And as he grew, he pursued medicine. But shortly after he began to practice, civil war broke out in his country, so he immigrated to the US. Having been diagnosed with a serious case of proximal atrial tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), I’d been placed in his care. Dr. Raja used his skills as a medical practitioner, as well as his understanding of yoga, to save my life. In addition to the regiment of medications, he taught me meditation and breathing techniques. Eventually, with practice, I learned to control my heart rate. He never called it yoga, and being a child, I didn’t know that he’d blended his knowledge of Western medicine with his understanding of Eastern philosophy in order to create a treatment for me. What I do know is that what he’d taught me worked. And that whenever I was successful with the techniques, I could avoid a trip to the emergency room. Under his teaching and oversight, I eventually grew to be a healthy young man. Against all odds, I went on to become a world champion juggler and sword swallower. Then traveled the world as a performer, eventually visiting 80+ countries.
More than three decades later, while attending a class at Bella Prana Yoga in Tampa Florida, I was attempting sidecrow, a difficult pose. Seeing my struggle, the teacher encouraged me to use “Ujjayi breath.” I had no idea what, “Ujjayi breath” was, but I knew the breathing techniques Dr. Raja had taught me so many years before. These were the same breathing techniques I’d used to teach myself to swallow swords, so I figured why not try it on the yoga mat. Taking in a deep breath I squeezed it within myself, then leaning into the sidecrow posture my feet suddenly floated off the floor. Moments before I’d felt as if I was bolted to the floor, but with one focused breath my body suddenly felt weightless, it was miraculous. I didn’t fully understand why it had made such a difference, but I had to find out. Soon after I enrolled in the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) course at Bella Prana, and as part of our study we learned about the eight limbs of yoga and the bandhas. Those principles aligned perfectly with what Dr. Raja had taught me, and I saw how those same techniques applied while learning to swallow swords. The realization that I’d been in training since childhood became clear. Dr. Raja didn’t just teach me how to control my rapid heart condition, what he’d done was teach me to take control of the body and mind.
Recognizing this gift that medical adversity had given me, and having deepened my understanding of yoga in teacher training. Another breakthrough was soon delivered. I was taking another class at Bella Prana, and near the end of class the teacher led us through a deep meditation. I’d long before given up on ever being able to quiet the mind, my mind is the type that will happily and busily supply an unending string of chatter. That, and an experience I’d had in high school had me convinced that such a thing simply wasn’t possible. But here I was on my mat listening as the teacher invited us to, “quiet our minds,” so I decided to try. Without much hope of success I focused, but my brain just responded with internal noise, “Haha, yeah yeah, sure, quiet me, ha, no way, never, you can never quiet me, blurrrrrrrpwahhahaha, eppp, eppp, hiyahhh, yip yip yip, neeeeoooowwwwwww!” My failure was so complete it was almost comical. But the teacher persisted, calmly inviting us to bring it back into to focus. So I tried again, and again, but I grew no closer to the quiet we were striving for. Then a thought came to me, “Who’d driving this ship? Who’s at the wheel? Who’s captaining this body? Me or my brain?” Me of course was my answer, I’m in control, but no sooner had I thought it the internal dialog started up again, like an unruly, undisciplined, selfish, teenager. A wash of anger flowed over me, and in the halls of my own head I screamed as if trying to reach the ears of 10,000 solidiers spread far and wide across a battlefield. The words were silent, but they echoed in the halls of my mind, “SHUUUUUT UUUPPPPPP!!!” In shock, the internal dialog stopped. The voices imaginary hand went straight to its imaginary cheek, nursing the slap my words had laid across its’ person. I’d struck it silent. For a moment I heard nothing but a sweet, beautiful, piercing silence. I’d never experienced anything like it, and I lay in wonder for a few moments. Quickly recovering it’s poise, the voice inside sheepishly began to mutter it’s displeasure, but hearing it I silently intonated a second time, “NO! Silence!” Fearing a repeat of my wrath the voice obeyed, and for the remainder of class I lay in a sweet blanket of silence. Samadhi, the peace that passes understanding. A total state of presence in the now.
In the coming weeks I experimented with this state and slowly developed a healthier relationship with the internal voice. I’ve come to know it as an advisor, a giver of options, that which envisions possibilities as we navigate life. But now, it dwells in its proper role, the position of first officer. And it recognizes me as captain, captain of this ship we call a body. And now that I’ve experienced it, I can turn it on and off like a light switch. I can take the helm when needed, or hand things over to the first officer if I want things to run on autopilot for a while. Having an autopilot feature is an incredible gift, but it’s no way to spend a lifetime.
My journey wasn’t always the pretty peaceful yogic one I’d imagined it would be. It was often challenging and very little of it came easily. But now that I stand on the other side of these breakthroughs, that peaceful side of the journey has begun to reveal itself. For me the work had to come first, and the peaceful part came later. Maybe it’s different for others, maybe some of us can start from the calm peaceful place and go deeper from there, I don’t know. What I do know is that we each have a map to follow, and no two of those maps are the same. So the more we exchange notes and help each other along on those individual journeys, the faster we can all arrive. It’s to this end that I have created this workshop.
My hope is to help others level up their practice, deepen the mind body connection, take the helm of their own ship, and learn to flip the switch on the internal voice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *