Independent Again

Lokesh Dani, USA

My name is Lokesh Dani. I am working as an IT engineer in Stamford, USA. This is a story of my journey from an independent person who was reduced to a dependent person (on the eve of the US Independence Day) and has come back to being independent again with the blessings of God, my Guruji Swami Atmaswarupa, my wife, family and friends.

Injury

On the bright sunny day of 4th July 2013, I decided to go skydiving with my friends. There was a feeling of fear in my mind, however never did I think that there could be such a severe injury.

Everything seemed to go fine from the moment I was in the plane to the moment of jumping in a tandem skydive, where you are attached to somebody who is controlling your life.

I was enjoying my jump and the descent to the ground, however, all of a sudden, I found myself on the ground with no parachute. I landed on my hips and was detached from my trainer. Having landed on my hips, resulted in a compression fracture of my L1 and resulted in a complete spinal cord injury.

Surgery

In a nearby hospital I was advised to wear a plastic brace to heal my injury without undergoing surgery. I found myself in acute pain and was told that I would not be able to urinate and go for bowel movements. I was trained in the hospital how to use a catheter and suppository to empty my bladder and rectum. On discharge from the hospital, I continued my research and came across a doctor who advised surgery to relocate my vertebra and put the spinal cord in its original place. Hence, I underwent surgery on 17 September 2013. My injured vertebra was removed and a metal stand was placed. My spinal cord which got pinched as a result of my injured vertebra returned to its original form. At that time, doctors found that the nerves responsible for bowel and bladder movement were not dead and were carrying signals. My surgery was very intense but very successful.

Post-surgery

After six to eight months of post-surgery, I was able to walk again with the help of a walker and there was less pain in my legs compared to pre-surgery. The sensation in the bladder also increased, however, I still had to use a catheter and suppository. I continued to find different treatments for my bladder, yet nothing was working out until I was introduced to the world of yoga by Guruji Swami Atmaswarupa.

Yoga

My wife never gave up and would ask everyone if anyone had come across any doctor or treatment for my case. Ultimately, one of her friends through a relative introduced us to Swami Atmaswarupa and his yoga centre in Jamui.

Initially, we were very apprehensive and were not very sure if I should take the risk to go Bihar and practise yoga for my treatment. Upon further discussion, my friend cited examples of people with different disorders, including spinal injuries, who received good improvement at the ashram. We decided to go for it and prayed to God for improvement.

Journey of yoga

It was a roller coasterride which at the end gave me happy news and improvement of my core issues. Let's take a ride!

Day 1

We landed in Jamui, full of confidence and at the same time with a lot of queries and anxiety. We were greeted by Swamiji and everyone at the ashram. Since we reached late at night, Swamiji advised us good rest and asked us to meet him in the morning.

On the morning of the first day, it was good to see nature very close in the ashram with many trees, cows and gardens. I met Swamiji, and after the initial discussion I mentioned my injury and all the details of the surgery and post-treatment.

My first lesson or say treatment started with the theory on the basics of yoga which I must admit clarified a lot of my queries: yoga is not an exercise; yoga is a natural process to attain a healthy life. Yoga is to be done only as long as there is a pleasant sensation. This removed the fear from my mind that I would be asked to do a tough exercise which would hurt my spine further.

Like everyone, I would keep asking what is the yoga for my case. Swamiji politely answered that yoga would not just focus on one issue but on the overall balance of ida and pingala to achieve a healthy life. He gave a good example: in an office there is a smell of a dead mouse; many agencies were called to get rid of it, but each agency focused on a specific section and if they didn't find the mouse there, they would give up. One agency, following the principle of yoga, first removed all sections, found the dead mouse and then rearranged everything. Similarly, my treatment was divided into three sections:

  1. Overall body flexibility and positivity of mind;
  2. Restore bowel and bladder movement;
  3. Rearrange and tune up the whole body, and the bladder and bowel to perfection.

Based on this, my treatment started with: yoga class in the morning, theory class, yoga nidra, chanting, food at correct times and full of protein to support yoga.

Day 2 to 5

Morning: Practice of basic yoga to relax my joints – pawanmuktasana 1. Each day Swamiji would appreciate that there was an improvement as compared to the previous day which kept my morale high. With proper breathing techniques, I did not feel that there was something that a person with such an injury could not do.

Afternoon: As usual, I would have my queries as when I would see the difference. He pleasantly answered all those queries with his real-life examples, analogies which kept my faith alive.

Yoga nidra: I was introduced to this amazing practice, which was deep relaxation and at the same time it was fun as in the process I would go for a deep sleep. I was sometimes scared that since I slept I would miss it, but Swamiji told me that it is all part of the practice. He used to quote that 'Don't reject or accept any thought. Let anything come to mind, the more you try to reject or accept the more it would appear.' And it did work miraculously.

Chanting of mantras: I would practise every morning Mahamrityunjaya mantra, Gayatri mantra and the Durga mantra. It helped me to at least connect me to that unseen power/ God/Cosmic Force for some time and made me feel as if I was in a temple. I did not feel like a patient, which had a deep, positive impact on my mind.

Day 6 to 14

Gradually, Swamiji took me deep into different yogasana without any feeling that this was a yoga which could be difficult for me. I was walking my life on two sticks: suppository and catheter.

  1. So, Swamiji took away my one stick and made my finger that stick to support my life and I started to do moola shodhana. I initially felt uneasy doing it, but when I had a good bowel movement, I would feel that at least a day had passed without suppository.
  2. Yoga nidra, chanting and different fibrous food continued. Every day I would see progress in yoga nidra and share my thoughts with Swamiji.
  3. Once, I got used to moola shodhana, Swamiji asked me to reduce the frequency of catherization and applied moola shodhana for relieving urine. This would gradually or at least for some time make me pee a little on my own without catheter.

Day 15 to 25 (life changing)

  1. Gradually, I could do those asanas which the previous day seemed impossible.
  2. I could do triyak bhujangasana, majariasana, a modified form of udarakarshanasana, all thanks to Swamiji.
  3. Once Swamiji saw that the required angle had been achieved, he asked me to practise to pee on my own with the help of vajroli and ashwini mudra.

I still remember that I felt my bladder being full and that the pee would not happen and I was ready to use the catheter, but then some drops poured on their own and I could squeeze something very little on my own. Finally, the day came when I did not use catheter for a whole day and use it only at night.

Now, Swamiji introduced me to this amazing kriya of shatkarma, kunjal and neti. He felt I had enough flexibility to do TTK (tadasana, triyak tadasana, kati chakrasana). I must admit that the whole process of gulping water and performing TTK after every two glasses was a bit overwhelming but at the same time a ray of hope shone forth when bowel movement would occur. The whole process of hatha yoga finally paid off and I was able to relieve myself one day without moola shodhana.

With continued effort of yoga, I started to squeeze my bladder, although I needed to practise it quite often. The bladder which was left to rest for three years started to function again.

Gradually, Swamiji advised me not to use the catheter at night and to go frequently for urination by practising vajroli. Finally, I counted my days when I regained my bladder and could squeeze on my own.

Summary

With the blessing of God (mantras), Swami Satyananda, Swami Niranjanananda and under the guidance of Swami Atmaswarupa, I came a long way to have my body function again. I still have a long way to go to achieve perfection but I definitely have a path laid out for it by Swamiji. Step by step under his guidance I will climb the mountain.

I and my family have deep regards for the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger and the yoga centre in Jamui for teaching us and showing the light on our way to life.