I met Dr. Bali in 1993. I had just failed my first attempt to make the Canadian Rowing team. The intense pressure of competition prevented me from sleeping, and distracted me from winning races that I was strong enough to win. I needed to learn to calm my mind, and therefore thought of the traditional form of yoga. The only person I knew who might have known of a yoga teacher was my mother. She reached out to her contacts and the universal consensus was that I had to meet Dr. Bali. She hadn’t met him personally but her ‘gut feeling’ told her that Dr. Bali would be good for me. I didn’t know what she meant by ‘gut instinct’ and in fact became annoyed whenever she mentioned it because it seemed totally irrational, but I didn’t have any other options.
I went to Dr. Bali’s studio in the living room of his small apartment on St. Marc in downtown Montreal. I fired questions at him. How did yoga work? How did it calm the mind? What was the mind anyway? I believed in science, I didn’t believe in God, and I was wary of anything that smelled of quackery. After over an hour of Dr. Bali patiently and knowledgably answering my questions I remained unconvinced. Eventually Dr. Bali smiled and said, “Why don’t you try it. At the end you be the judge of whether it has benefited you.” He insisted that yoga was an empirical science where our personal experience, rather than a God or guru’s words, were the ultimate judge of whether yoga delivered on its promises.
I was still skeptical, and mildly fearful, but I wanted to win rowing races and was willing to try just about anything. Moreover he seemed nice and it was apparent by his amazing strength (he is 88 years old now and still amazingly strong) that yoga seemed to be working for him. I tried it and hadn’t ever felt so calm yet energized and alive.
Since my first meeting with Dr. Bali I’ve tried different kinds of yoga, QiGong, and a variety of other types of meditation. Most yoga emphasizes the physical benefits of strength and flexibility, which is fantastic. The Dr. Dr. Bali Method, and most traditional yoga (or other methods for meditating) as I understand them, use the body to move beyond the mind’s constant chatter, to disengage the brain from it’s worries and anxieties. The strength, flexibility, sense of youthfulness, are welcome side effects of this more traditional style.
Yoga has given me a sense of serenity when the world feels like a storm. Or when I get involved with the storm, yoga points to a way out, a method for dealing with life calmly. Yoga reminds me how abundant and special we are. To ask what we can give rather than what we would like to take and to view adversity as an opportunity. More tangibly, I made the Canadian rowing team the year after I met Dr. Bali. Recently, I was facing a difficulty at work. In a heated meeting with my boss I was almost fired. My ‘fight or flight’ response was immediately activated. I used yoga to calm down and ask, “what can I learn?” I realized I had been treating academic disagreements like a blood sport. To put it mildly, my approach upset a considerable number of people. The near encounter with unemployment became an opportunity to take the serenity I feel during yoga practice into my ‘real’ life. I love my work more than ever now.
My relationship with yoga and Dr. Bali also helped my family through a very difficult time. In 2005 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. She endured the experience with more courage and grace than I can fathom. Before her operation I introduced her to Dr. Bali. Yoga with
Dr. Bali was one of the tools Mom used to survive the emotionally and physically challenging time. Today Mom is 68, she is totally recovered and can do over ten men’s push-ups and is stronger and healthier than most women half her age. We were recently on a trip to South Africa and she climbed (almost!) to the top of Lion’s Head in Cape Town.
I started teaching yoga in 2006. My aim was to pass on the knowledge I’d gained and take my own practice to higher levels. My studio is in my living room. Last night I had a yoga class with a family of four. Yoga’s popularity has grown exponentially since I began, and people rarely arrive with the kinds of questions I asked before I started. The family’s reason for trying yoga was that two of them had sleeping problems. I explained how yoga could help (by inducing the relaxation response) answered their questions, and did a short session. At the end of the session during shavasana (relaxation), I heard at least one of them snoring. I smiled and thought of my yoga journey and Dr. Bali.