Yoga and Immortality

DSC_0457A few weeks ago, I was visiting my ninety-five year old Grandfather in the tribal village, Khaknar, in Central India.  One day, I went to a school that he had built to do a session of yoga with the children.  There are three hundred kids who attend the school, from ages 7 to 16.

While doing yoga with about forty of them, I had the fortune to see their bright, beaming faces and I could see that each of their faces carries the spirit of my Grandfather.  This brought relief and joy to my heart.

No matter how many more years my Grandfather lives, I realize that the spirit indeed is deathless, as the yogis have always said.  It is our choice how much we give in this life to shine even after the body passes.

Today is the birthday of my Grandmother, Usha, who passed in 2003.  While my Grandfather was deeply involved in his work, bringing educational radio and t.v. to India, traveling to South Africa as a teacher of the Vedas, working for the United Nations in the Middle East, my Grandmother brought up their four daughters on her own in New Delhi.

Like many women, she is an unsung hero and to me the greatest of all yogis.  Growing up spending time with her, the peace that she carried amidst all types of adversity has had a lasting impression on me.  I remember her going in for major surgery and smiling, totally relaxed, a deep sense of surrender and trust, allowing life to happen as it does.  She was always like that, no matter the situation.

My Grandmother inspired me to start the Usha Yoga Foundation in 2005.  Through this foundation, we have brought yoga to survivors of human trafficking in India, women who are healing from trauma in Rwanda, Korean-American women who have survived violence in Chicago, students who are overcoming anxiety and depression in England, amongst many others.  My Grandmother’s spirit lives on in each of these people as well as her daughters, grand-children and the many people she touched while living.

We are immortal.  The spirit is deathless. We are the ones with one thousand arms, like the images of heroes in many world mythologies.  The arms of the people my Grandparents touch are no separate from their arms.  We each are capable no matter what our circumstance.   How will your spirit live on?



To read more about the Usha Yoga Foundation, click on the foundation’s link on

The picture above is my Mom, Grandfather and me after a gentle evening yoga session in Khaknar, India.

Bedtime magic

A conversation that took place a few weeks before Mila’s fourth birthday: 

Mama: Where were you before you came into mommy’s tummy?

Mila: I don’t know.

Mama: But, how did you get into mommy’s tummy?

Mila: I found you. I picked you.  Then I came in and I ate and I grew.

Mama: ohhh…(heart melting…)  and, what about daddy?

Mila: I picked him too. that daddy.

Mama:  Why did you pick us?

Mila: Because I liked you guys.  I just liked you.

Mama:  ……wow, I’m so lucky….(hugs…………….)

A few mornings later…

Mama: How did you find mommy and daddy?

Mila: I followed your footsteps.

Mama: Where were our footsteps?

Mila: In the sand.

Mama: Oh.

Mila: You and Daddy were having a picnic.  You were eating sandwiches.

Mama: Oh.

Mila: Then I came into your tummy and told you to go to Portland.

Mila was conceived on Kauai where her dad and I had picnics in the sand.  When I was five months pregnant, I kept getting this feeling to move to Portland, OR, a place I had only spent two days in my entire life.

Family Close-ness

Yesterday I learned that we are made of our maternal Grandmothers.  When our mothers are six months gestated in the womb, they receive all the eggs they will ever have.  Our beginning of this physical life takes place there and then.  Perhaps that is why I feel close to my mother’s mother.

This got me thinking about when my daughter, Mila, grew in my womb. She is half-made of her father.  Her father’s essence grew inside of me.  I birthed what became of that essence and care for that being.  It is so intimate.  Maybe this is why it is harder for women to let go when parents separate.

Loving Mila’s father is something innate for me.  When she was in my womb, when she was born and after, loving him and wanting to be close to him is natural.  No matter what my inner and outer world looks like, the love is there.  The love is not made of mind and not even just heart.  He is an extension of her.  Loving him is something innate, physical, biological.

Is this why women often stay in relationships that may not be good for them?  Society thinks it is fear, driven by social and economic pressures.  But, perhaps the driving force is not fear, but, this very raw, physical connection women feel with the men that father their children.

“You grew inside of me,” I told Mila’s father today.  “She is made of you.  Perhaps that is why it is hard to let go.”