Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life, by Brad Willis AKA Bhava Ram

It’s hard to imagine which would be most difficult:

  • years on the ground as a war correspondent in some of the most dangerous crises in history,
  • a broken back and failed surgery, declaring you permanently disabled, confined to a body brace, and dependent on pain medications and alcohol, or
  • a diagnoses of stage IV cancer, with a prognosis of one to two years left

All three are pieces of Brad Willis’s story. He spent many years as an international journalist covering some of the globe’s most frightening moments in time: Iraq during the Persian Gulf War, Bolivian jungle coca drug labs, South Africa during Apartheid conflicts… always out of a desire to uncover the injustices around the world, exposing the voices and faces of the most victimized.

When a bad fall—ironically, while on vacation in the Bahamas—seriously injured his back, he found himself fearful of losing his career and trapped in a teeth-grinding “muscle through it” mentality. Little by little he began abusing painkillers and indulging in our culture’s drug of choice, alcohol—until the vertebrae finally broke completely, cutting into his spinal cord. After failed surgery, he was condemned to life in a stiff body brace, and then, when it seemed that things couldn’t get worse, he was diagnosed with inoperable stage IV throat cancer as a result of exposure to spent uranium in the Gulf War.

For most of us, this would be the beginning of the end, especially with no alternatives being offered and no differing world views in sight. Not long after Willis realized that his 50th birthday party had actually been much more of a goodbye party, the pleading words of his two year old son—“get up daddy”—sliced through the layers of pain, anger, and self-pity and struck his heart. These words became his personal mantra, as his TED talk here discusses. Slowly, Willis connected to the spark inside of himself which chose life. But how to live? How to heal? When his community of loved ones staged an intervention and urged him to go through rehab, that spark encouraged him—despite the other voices raging in his head—to agree to go, and his journey toward Yoga began—a journey which eventually evolved into full health and well-being.

Obviously, this was no ordinary Yoga. We’re talking about The Big Yoga, as we tend to call it in the Samarya tradition. Body awareness, meditation, gratitude, movement, breath work, nutrition, even changes all throughout the level of thoughts. Essentially, a re-programing on all of the levels of the self: physical, energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual.

Brad Willis now goes by the name Bhava Ram—which means “Living From the Heart”—as a reminder to himself to never forget his dedication to Yoga and to sharing the benefits of the many ancient practices therein. Founder of Deep Yoga in San Diego, he and his wife Laura Plumb now teach yoga classes, Ayurveda, and many other aspects of this Big Yoga.

The book is equal parts adventure, love story, and healing inspiration—chronicling through a journalist’s eyes some of the most momentous events of our era, reflecting the momentous bond between father and son, and sharing a very personal journey to self-healing, inner peace, and wholeness. It’s an awesome story for anyone struggling with illness or pain, for any student of yoga, and for anyone who wishes to be inspired by human possibility and potential. It’s a story which encourages us to continue endlessly in our exploration of the unknowns, to choose growth and love, however they end up manifesting for us.

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