When It Comes To Health || The Answer Is A Simple Yes Or No
Adventures of the Soul by Khadija Muhaisen Dajani
Her name is Nanammal Amma. She is India’s oldest yoga teacher. At 98 years old, she teaches yoga in Coimbatore, India. She has been practising for 95 years and perfected to date 50 yogasana (yoga postures). In the yogic scriptures, it is said that there were originally 8,400,000 asanas. I can’t do the math, but I believe she has barely begun to scratch the surface in this lifetime.
There is something of profound value in the wisdom that comes with age. And/or experience. It unfolds with time served and a deep, contemplative dive in the experience. Wisdom seldom has fast tracks. Ivy-league degrees, fancy job titles, and 8,400,000 circus tricks- all excellent knowledge-nourishing ingredients- rarely guarantee the path to wisdom.
I was reminded this week that knowledge comes from one side of the brain, wisdom from the other. It is that same part of the brain that is also chiefly responsible for creativity, intuition, and the subtler aspects of existence. This right side also happens to be the lunar -feminine- side of our brain. In reality, of course, there is not such a clear-cut distinction between the functions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. But to simplify their functions makes my human operation a little easier to comprehend, says the left side of my brain.
Nanammal Amma’s right hemisphere has this to impart:
“If you want to be a yogi, wealth is always secondary. Health becomes your priority, and everything is achievable.”
I have experienced a potent week of intense learning. I use “learning” as a soft prelude to the journey toward wisdom — and a stronger postlude to knowledge. The alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana) I have been consistently practising this past month must be beginning to clear some part of my brain. Nadi Shodhana changes lives. The key is to practise daily, as with every other healthy routine. It is a powerful balancing technique. Hillary Clinton speaks about it in her recent memoir What Happened. I wish I had an exciting story to share like Clinton’s. All I have is my experience this week. My focus has been the left nostril, which primarily infuses the right brain hemisphere with energy. And it has been responding- occasionally. With random creative thoughts, including artwork for my upcoming book. Note: My left hemisphere decided last week to commence a book project. The file has been dropped into the right. It is still downloading. But the artwork is done, I happily report.
Health is a priority. And life’s greatest blessing. In fact, health should be our compass- the light I speak so often about. To be healthy is to live in a state of balance, in every aspect of my life. This homeostasis is the natural order of existence. In the opening of one memorable yoga practice a couple of months ago, the teacher shared her experience of living through a couple of years of rabid forest fires that burned down large areas of British Columbia. One sunrise, she describes waking up to a scene of desolate destruction: ashes covering the earth, two ducklings she has come to befriend gone from the surface of the ash-strewn water, smog covered skylines, and her heavy heart. A year later, she describes a sunrise of lush green, 12 ducklings swimming behind their mother, and blue skies. She also speaks of a thankful, wiser heart. This is the universe manifesting balance in its most magnificent state. When health -balance- is our compass, choices are easy. They are a simple yes or a resounding no. There is no middle ground. There is no “sometimes” and “most of the time”. I don’t believe there is a grey area when it comes to our health. And when it is compromised, that is the signal we need to take a moment for self-reflection. With self-inquiry, identification becomes possible. When the imbalance is recognized, the prescription to restore is clear. I have no tolerance for compromise when it comes to health.
Health is not only physical. Health is all-encompassing. It includes relationships. The same criteria that informs my nourishment includes my relationship choices. And these are choices. Even those that do not appear to be so on the surface. It is clear for me to recognize the harmful effects animal protein has on my body- and yours. This choice is an easy left-brainer. It is more subtle to observe the health of my relationship with someone who serves me the most divine plant-based dish. My health barometer is a series of self-inquiry prompts: has my interaction enriched my life? Have I grown? Am I a better human? The answer is only a “yes” or a “no”. No grey. Left side, right side. Much simpler to operate.
Nanammal Amma can get into poses I only dream about. She is a roaring “yes” in every way. My relationships? A work in progress. The grey is gradually turning to white. This is the hardest to conquer.
P.S. 66 billion animals are slaughtered every year to feed the planet. Those same 66 billion will have consumed crops that could feed 1 billion people. They are responsible for 51% of the earth’s green house emissions. How is that in balance, asks my right brain?