Are you ready for San Diego Yoga Bliss? There are so many reasons to attend the San Diego Yoga Festival January 27 – 31st. Besides soaking up the warm nirvana of the Pacific Ocean, the festival has planned what promises to be a life-changing array of opportunities with master teachers from all over the world. The festival offers over 100 glittering jewels of activities and course offerings reflecting the full spectrum of yoga life. I was blessed to interview Dr. Madan Bali, PhD, who at 93 years young, shines like a clear light of wisdom. His unique Bali Method drips with the sweet nectar of life, squeezed from his lifelong passion for connecting people with the healing machinery constantly at work inside their own bodies. When he is not teaching at his Yoga Bliss studio in Montreal, Canada, he can be found travelling the world spreading the nourishing light of yoga to a thirsty world. After learning that Dr. Bali’s daughter affectionately refers to her father as “half Sean Connery and half yogi”, I wasted no time in registering for his course at the festival on Saturday, January 28th entitled “Living in Infinity to Create Health, Happiness, Healing, and Abundance”. (Just between us, I think that Sean Connery has some work to do to if he’s going to keep up with Dr. Bali.) Here is my interview with Dr. Bali, and I hope to see you there!
DL: Dr. Bali, you never seem to get sick! You’ve taught yoga every day for over 40 years consistently. How have you lived a long and healthy life?
Dr. B: The key to human wellness is stilling the mind and connecting to breath. Breath is the most precious source of nourishment. We have a complete pharmacological system within our bodies comprised of trillions of intelligent cells hard-wired for life. Our bodies are orchestrated with mathematical precision towards connection and renewal. Through regular yoga, pranayama, and meditation, we can allow the body to do what it is designed to do: orchestrate peace and healing. It is understood by science that humans utilize only 10% of their brain. Yoga seeks to activate every cell in our body to participate in the dance of life! I like the story of Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist who herself suffered a stroke. She sums it up this way: “The powerful reality that I am not the body, I am not the mind, I have a body, I have a mind, who I am is the source of both.”
DL: What is the role of modern medicine in a yogi’s life today? You have done glowing work with breast cancer patients and others facing chronic debilitating conditions using The Bali Method Your website has testimonials from women all over the world. Tell us more.
Dr. B: Medicinalities of the finest quality reside within our cells. Millions of people are suffering through overstimulation, disconnected from infinite loving consciousness. Regular Yoga as a complementary therapy establishes connections to an unending wealth of purpose and deep healing. Many of the solutions that we turn to again and again are merely Band-Aids. Yoga, meditation and breathing techniques can mobilize the mind and body to access its own power, alleviating the suffering we experience from stress, anxiety, depression, hypertension, migraines, fatigue, asthma, chronic pain, and helping us to manage serious illnesses like cancer. Like a cell phone or electronic device, our bodies need to recharge by quieting the mind. The Bali Method focuses on
the subtle body, which corresponds to the autonomic nervous system from which stress and emotions emanate. Comfort and joy is medicine. Visualize yourself being fulfilled, being perfected, completed. That image in your consciousness will be actualized. This is the moment to treasure.
DL: What do you think about the way Yoga is taught in the West today and how can we yoga teachers make yoga more meaningful in a lasting way to others? Dr. B: My book called Taming the Mind, is a prescription for total wellness, which “teaches your mind to heal your body, and your body to heal your mind” and goes beyond the Western notion of asana (postures) as mere exercise. Mechanism, neuroplasticity, and quantum physics firmly support this expansive approach. In the West, there is an unnatural emphasis on learning perfect poses or having a certain kind of body. It’s much more nourishing, healing, and natural to shift from a state of “always doing” to being. Yoga is holographic, ageless, timeless, connecting us to trillions of cells in the body across life – that’s the magic we can live.
DL: Because of your lifelong dedication as a yoga teacher and Vedic scholar, I’m very curious to ask you: what is your favorite poem, song, or chant?
Dr. B: I have two for you.
1. “So Hum” – That I am – Simply inhale “So” and exhale “Hum”. This simple mantra returns us to a state of being that is beyond just “doing”.
2. My favorite mantra is the mother of all mantras: The Gayatri Mantra. Gayatri is a complete prayer for protection, nourishment and finally, liberation. Through this mantra, we ask the higher source to help us to make better choices to shape our destiny.
Om Bhur Bhuvaḥ Swaḥ Tat-savitur Vareñyaṃ Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi Dhiyo Yonaḥ Prachodayāt
DL: Dr. Bali, how do you want to be remembered?
Dr. B: (laughter) I don’t have any say in that. I guess it’s up to you!
Well, if it’s up to me, I’d say I agree with his daughter. Half Sean Connery, half yogi might be a good way to think about Dr. Bali. But, by sewing golden seeds of yoga bliss to heal the world, he means so much more!
By Dana L. Lee