After more than six weeks of back pain, I insisted that my doctor order me an MRI. Even though the pain has been steadily diminishing in the past week, I wanted to see with my own eyes the bulge that has rocked my world so intensely.

For anyone who hasn’t had an MRI, it’s a trip. I’m just so glad I know how to meditate. I showed up at the office yesterday morning with no idea what to expect. Before I knew it, I was on my back being fed head-first into a tube that was only slightly larger than my body. You have to wear ear plugs because the noise inside the machine is so intense. I kept my eyes closed so that I wouldn’t have to see the ceiling four inches above my nose. Every ounce of my attention was focused on my mantra, and I didn’t let it go for thirty minutes.

I wasn’t supposed to hear the results for 3 days, so I was quite shocked when I received and email from my doctor at 6 PM last night. “Amazingly,” he wrote, “your back is structurally perfect. There is no herniation. Apparently, all you’ve been experiencing is an inflamed sciatic nerve. It will go away soon.” I was overjoyed–ecstatic even. For the past six weeks I’ve lived with the fear that my back is royally screwed up, and If I don’t heal it properly, I’ll be limited for the rest of my life. I stopped doing yoga for fear of hurting it more. I curtailed all my regular activities to let my back rest. I haven’t lifted anything. I haven’t twisted. I haven’t bent forward. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on different types of therapies. And in the end, nothing was structurally wrong with me.

When I got the news, I felt like I had just been let out of jail. I felt like I could take the straight jacket off. I felt liberated and free. This morning I woke up, and I felt great. I didn’t just do my physical therapy exercises, I did yoga. I did sciatic nerve stretches. I started to open this poor body that has become atrophied and stiff as a board. It felt amazing! As I practiced, I just kept telling myself, “There is nothing wrong with me. I can’t hurt myself by moving my body.” I didn’t take any ibuprofen. I’m sitting at Starbucks writing, and I feel great.

Was this entire journey psychosomatic? It sure feels that way now. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t an irritation to the nerve, but did it have to snowball into such a disaster? Clearly it did, because there is a definite lesson for me here. I feel like I’m gaining a true understanding of the power of words; the power of suggestion; the power of thought. A misdiagnosis from a doctor is a powerful thing, but ultimately I am responsible for the content of my mind. This experience brings into strong relief the truth that in every moment our thoughts and beliefs create our reality. Before, this was just theory. Now I feel like I’ve witnessed first-had this universal law at work.

Every Friday, as I drive home from my afternoon class, I listen to a radio show called “The Sound of Transformation,” on KPFK. It’s hosted by Michael Beckwith, the leader of the Agape church here in Los Angeles. Each week he interviews a different motivational author or healer. The conversation always revolves around how this person woke up to the truth in their own life and how they share that truth in the world. It’s so inspiring

This week was the best show I’ve had the privilege of listening to. The guest was named Shiela Mckeithen, and she was such a powerful speaker that I was practically fist pumping the air as I drove. Twenty years ago she was sick, and her doctors gave her only 6 days to live. She talked of how she used the power of her mind to reject that diagnosis and to regain her health. Out of a horrendous illness, she found the tools not only to save herself but to inspire many people, including me, along the way. Her talk today stoked a flame that has been smoldering in me since my last blog entry: namely, what is the difference between a curse and grace?

One of my favorite movies is a documentary about Ram Dass, the beloved American spiritual teacher, called “Fierce Grace.” The movie chronicles Ram Dass’ impact on the consciousness movement in the United States through the lens of his debilitating stroke and his subsequent recovery. At first, when he wakes up in the hospital to find that he’s lost the ability speak and that he’s partially paralyzed, he falls into a deep depression. He questions his life and his faith. As he embarks on the humbling journey of recovery, he comes to see the stroke not as a curse, but as a form of grace–fierce grace. The suffering he endured enabled him to go deeper into his own evolutionary process than he ever had before.

Just now, I was inspired to look up the actual definition of grace, and this one stuck with me the most: “The influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.” If you don’t like the word God, then substitute in “The Universe,” “The Divine,” or “Great Spirit.” The point is that when bad things happen to us, we don’t have to become victims. We don’t don’t have to feel cursed. If we choose to grow, if we choose to heal, then hardship becomes the source of our regeration–our evolution into greater versions of ourself. The shift is one of perspective, and it starts in our own mind.

Thank you Sheila and Michael for your light and for helping me to step further away from victimhood in relation to my back injury. As a Yoga teacher, losing the ability to move my body at will and to practice Yoga has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. But I vow to regain my full movement and to live pain-free. I will live with faith that this injury is no less than the hand of grace, nudging me ever closer to a beautiful destiny.

Please do yourself a favor and listen to the podcast linked below. The conversation starts about five minutes in, after the music finishes.

Today, I had (as Oprah would say) an aha moment. Today, the pieces of the puzzle I’ve been working on finally started to fit. Today was the day that my narrative shifted from, “I am in pain,” to “I am healing.” Today was the turning point.

I’ve never doubted that there is an emotional component to back pain; I just haven’t understood it. And while something may have gone physiologically haywire in my back on April 23rd while I was innocently eating dinner in a restaurant in Palm Springs, I now see that my fear has been the main culprit in exacerbating the situation. As soon as I got home from Palm Springs, I saw my Chiropractor. He said, “Hopefully it’s just a tweak. But the worst case scenario is that you’ve herniated a disc.” Looking back, that was all it took to start the engines of anxiety turning in mind. Of course, I instantly googled “herniated disc,” and my fear grew. Then I talked about it with people, and you’d be surprised by the number of people out there who have herniated discs. The response I got from everyone, unilaterally, is that it never goes away. You just have to learn to live with the pain. My fear grew. Students in class told me that they take muscle relaxers and pain killers before they do yoga. And my fear grew greater. My pain got worse. I saw my doctor, and without doing an MRI, he confirmed it, “You have a herniated disc.”

Long story short, I bought into all the hype. My fears grew to the point where I was debilitated with fear. At my worst moments, I imagined a life where I was crippled from pain. My career was over. I’d lost the ability to do all the fun things I love in life. I’d become a burden to loved ones. You name it, the mind can play horrible tricks on even the staunchest of Yogis. But meanwhile, grace was still flowing, and the seeker in me chose to embark on a spiritual quest. Three books came into my life. First, “Steering by Starlight,” which I’ve already mentioned numerous times. Second, “You Can Heal Your Life,” by Louise Hay, which is deeply inspiring and empowering. The third book, “Healing Back Pain,” by John Sarno, brought the picture together.

In the book, Dr. Sarno, a mind/body medical doctor, illuminates the entire range of emotional underpinnings for back pain. What interested me the most in his thesis, however, was his take on the impact of fear on mental conditioning. For instance, if you have a pain in your back when you sit down, like Pavlov’s dogs, you begin to associate sitting with pain. Soon, you avoid sitting out of fear, and every time you try, you inevitably have pain. The conditioning grows stronger. When I read this in the book, I felt as if he were speaking to me. Up until today, I hadn’t sat for almost a month–convinced that sitting was the most painful position.

Long story short, today I decided that I would recondition myself. First: Stop saying, “I am in pain.” I put up notes with my new mantra, “I am well,” all over my house. Second: Start sitting and say, “I am healing. I am so grateful I can sit again. I am grateful I can get in my car again and drive.” I am proud to report that I sat for a good 2-3 hours today, most of the time pain-free. I just kept repeating my affirmation, and I was fine. I drove all over town, and I was fine.

Tonight a friend asked me, “How could you let that happen to you? What about all your training in Yoga and Buddhism?” Truthfully, my training has never been so put to the test. But I did not give up. Who knows why we are given the unique challenges we each must face. All I know is that the lotus blossoms out of the mud, and I am so grateful that my personal flower is beginning to grow!

In my last blog entry, I mentioned a book I am currently reading, “Steering by Starlight,” by the life-coach, Martha Beck. In it, she describes two types of pain: clean and dirty. “‘Clean pain’ is the unpleasantness you feel when something bad happens to you: You catch the flu, lose a relationship, get in a car accident. “‘Dirty Pain’ is any suffering that comes not from these events themselves, but from your thoughts about the events.” (p. 54) I’ve been saying the same thing in my class in a different way. “Pain is located in the body, suffering is in the mind.”

Because the body and mind are one, separating pain from suffering is a challenge. Flare-ups of physical pain in my body set my mind aflame with worry. At other times, when I fall into a negative mental rut, I feel the pain in my leg build with intensity. Does the healing start in the mind or the body? Can a negative mind prolong or even destroy the body’s capacity to heal? These are fundamental questions I have to come to terms with during my physical recovery.

This makes me reflect on the life path I have chosen, that of a Yogi. The aim of Yoga is awareness. To be more specific, in “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” the classical text of yogic philosophy, yoga is defined as the process of quieting the thought waves of the mind. The yogi masters the art of witnessing and observing the mind. He learns to see his mind and all of its fluctuations from a place of peace and stillness. His aim is not to “react” to the pain, but to “respond” appropriately to it.

I could choose to judge myself now. I could add insult to injury and say that throughout this process I have failed as yogi. But that would only be another expression of dirty pain. Today, as I write this, I am reminded once again that I am being given an opportunity. It’s one thing to be a yogi in times of ease. It’s an entirely different story when you have to walk through the fire. If ever there were a moment to master my mind, this is it. Over the past fourteen years as a teacher, I’ve helped more people than I can count through unbelievable hardships. Now, I must summon forth the highest wisdom in myself and become my own teacher.

Last night I had a great talk with my teacher, Swami Ramananda. I was seeking some spiritual guidance about my herniated disc–which I’m happy to report is healing nicely. “Why did this happen to me? What am I supposed to learn from this? What if things get worse?” He had an interesting response.

He said, “Remember what Ram Dass always says, ‘The function of the mind is to grind.’ The mind is always looking to make a drama out of everything, when no drama need exist. Apply ‘Vairagya’–the yogic term for dispassion–to the situation. It is what it is. Take care of yourself. Use this time to read or meditate. You’ll heal. You’ll move on with your life.”

I loved his advice. When I originally learned the term Vairagya, it was translated as, “to see without any coloring.” In other words, learn to experience the situation at hand without all the mental interpretation. My grinding mind can spin out negative fantasies ad infinitum about what this injury means for my life. But are any of those fantasies based in truth? Do I really know what the future holds?

I’m reading a very inspiring book called, “Steering by Starlight,” by the life coach, Martha Beck. In it, she argues that if we reflect back on our life we’ll see that many challenging situations have been the catalyst for positive growth and change. So why should the current challenge be any different? She says that while it may seem arbitrary to believe that suffering leads to something positive, it’s just as arbitrary to believe that suffering leads to failure and demise. In other words, let go of all the negative interpretations. Keep your heart open and your mind quiet, and you just might be pleasantly surprised to see where you end up.

To find out more information about Swami Ramananda, please purchase his book, “Bliss Now,” on Or you can friend him on Facebook: Swami Ramananda Maharaj

Here’s just a quick note to say that I’ve finally found something which is healing my herniated disc–an inversion table. Yesterday morning, I woke up at 5 AM in pain and distraught. Would I ever heal? Would I be confined to another week at home on my back? Fortunately, my wonderful partner, Fred, went out and just bought an inversion table. He’d been reading about them on the internet, and he figured it was worth a try. Supposedly, as you hang upside down from your feet, your spine decompresses and the bulging disc is reabsorbed. Moreover, your spine moves back into alignment, which is really important after favoring one side for so many weeks.

So I got on the table and flipped upside down. I was there for about 5 minutes, and when I got off, I could put equal pressure down on both of my feet. I haven’t done that for weeks. Previous to inverting, every time I’d step down on my right foot with my full weight, I’d feel pain and numbness. For me, this was all the proof I needed that inversion therapy could work for me. The icing on the cake was a great night’s sleep. I wasn’t in pain. Hallelujah!

This morning, I got up and showered so my body would be warm. Then I got on my inversion table and hung upside down for 10 minutes. I felt great afterward. I was able to sit for breakfast and put weight on both sitting bones. This afternoon, I had an errand to run. I inverted before I left the house and then I got in my car. Granted, I only took a 10 minute drive, but I wasn’t in pain. I feel like this is a miracle. It’s definitely $150 well spent! I’m not out of the woods yet, but I feel really good about the advances I’ve made in just 24 hours. For anyone out there with back pain, please get yourself one of these contraptions!

Yesterday I was talking with my brother, who has recently taken up yoga in earnest. It’s always so refreshing to talk to a new yogi. He’s so enthusiastic about his practice, so attuned to the benefits he feels. In Zen Buddhism, this state of consciousness is known as “Beginner’s Mind.” Wikipedia defines Beginner’s Mind as, “…having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.”

When I read that definition, the phrase that most jumps out at me is “lack of preconception.” Over time, through experience, our mind is conditioned to believe that things are a certain way. We fall into patterns. We grow accustomed to routines. It happens in relationships. It happens at work. It even happens in yoga. At least it did for me. This is one of the realizations that my injury has brought to light. I know my practice. I know my body. I know how to teach. Or do I?

Talking with my brother, I said, “Healing this injury is going to take me back to yoga 101. I won’t be able to just jump back into the fancy, deep poses I could do three weeks ago. Navigating the classroom and teaching without the full cooperation of my body will shift my experiences a teacher.” And after 15 years, this just might be the best thing that could happen to me. This is my opportunity to recover my Beginner’s Mind. Or, as my brotherly cleverly noted, this is my chance for a “yoga reboot.”

Yoga is a technology which enables one to scale the highest peaks of enlightenment and to taste the nectar of supreme bliss. Why should I settle for anything less?

“Some diseases, like acute infections, have almost entirely physical causes. However, most diseases have psychological causes and all lasting diseases have psychological effects. Physical disease disturbs the emotions and weakens the senses, which may give rise to psychological disturbances. Psychological imbalances have physical consequences.” Ayurveda and the Mind: The Healing of Consciousness, by David Frawley pg. 7

I was struck by this passage when I read it a few days ago in a book about Ayurveda. Naturally, as Ayurveda is a part of yogic science, it views mind/body as a single entity. The physical body is the concrete expression of the mind. Change your physical posture and your mind shifts. Shift your mind, and the experience inside your body will be different. These are the principles upon which Hatha Yoga (the branch of yoga that I teach) is founded. Most eastern healing modalities are based on these same principles.

My good friend, Joshua Farahnik, is a truly gifted Reiki master, and today he came to my house and performed “psychic surgery” on me. It was a beautiful process–so calming and liberating. First, he did a bunch of techniques where he drew the stagnant, toxic energy out of the wounded part of my back. Normally, I’d be skeptical of someone who wants to “move my energy” without even touching my body. But I truly felt a sensation as if he were sucking the pain out through a drinking straw. Then he simply rested his hand upon the spot where I’m hurt, and I felt it heat up as if he had rubbed tiger balm on me.

What transpired then was truly miraculous. He began to ask me questions, and slowly I began to share some of the fears and frustrations that have been secretly weighing on me for a long time. In a manner of minutes, I was able to honestly and openly acknowledge things to him that would have taken a year of trust-building with a therapist to divulge. He not only held the space for my catharsis beautifully, he reassured me that I can trust the transition that my life is going through. I can trust that I will be supported. I can trust my heart and release my fear.

And so the journey of healing, mind and body, continues. If you feel like Joshua could be of service to you, please contact him through Facebook.

Yesterday my cleaning lady, Lucy, was working in my house. As I was home the whole day, we had some time to talk. I know that she’s been suffering from a kidney ailment recently that she’s had a hard time clearing up. She has no health insurance and doesn’t speak English well, so, of course, it is hard for her to get any kind of medical attention. (But that’s another story.) What I learned is that she’s been seeing a naturopathic doctor who has made her change her entire diet. She’s supposed to go completely gluten and sugar-free. She was complaining about how hard it is to give up all her favorite foods. “Lucy, this is great advice. It’s so important that you eat a healthy diet,” I said as I put the finishing touches on a giant toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was going to be my lunch.

Still, something in our discussion struck a chord within me. I eat healthy, for sure. But is my diet healing me? I remembered that a friend gave me the number for an Ayurvedic practitioner here in Los Angeles. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian form of medicine, is a branch of yogic science. I’m a yogi, I figured. I’m working with an injury right now. Let me hear what this Ayurvedic doctor has to say. So I take two bites of my delicious PB&J, and I call him up.

Well, it turns out he is out of town, but he asked me to be conscious of my diet until he returns in a week. No gluten. No grain. No sugar. Wait a minute, I thought. He wants me to eat Lucy’s diet!!?? I mean, it’s fine for Lucy, but I still have three-quarters of my sandwich to eat. And my refrigerator is empty!

Alas, my sandwich went in the trash, and I ate an avocado and some nuts for lunch. I have no idea if what he says will help me, but healing is an experiment, right? So I’ll give it my best shot until I can meet him in person. Maybe this pinched nerve will be the catalyst for a food revolution in my life. Only time will tell, but if I don’t try, I’ll never know.

Hi. My name is Eddie, and I am a yoga teacher in Los Angeles. For a long time, I’ve wanted to start a blog about healing–mind, body and spirit. People practice and teach yoga for a variety of reasons. I teach because of the profound healing impact yoga had on my life about 15 years ago.

In Greek mythology, Chiron represents the archetype of the wounded healer. In essence, this archetype suggests that when we consciously face and work through any wound within us, we are endowed with greater wisdom and the capacity to share that wisdom for the greater good. Without going into details about the wound that originally brought me to yoga, I can attest to the truth of the wounded healer in my own life. The healing I first experienced so many years ago through my practice has fueled a blessed teaching career, and I have had the privilege of touching many lives. Even if I could go back and rewrite my personal history, I wouldn’t change a thing. Healing, growth and the evolution of consciousness are what drive me.

I was caught off guard a few weeks ago when I was presented by the universe with a fresh wounding–a pinched nerve in my lower spine. I resisted it; I ignored it; I bemoaned it. And then last night, when I could no longer endure the pain, I began to surrender to it. The first thing that occurred to me was that this is the moment to start my blog about healing. I’ve procrastinated long enough. Surely this physical injury, just like that psychic injury so many years ago, must exist to move me to higher ground. This wound must represent the opportunity not only to bring my own body into greater alignment and health, it must also be the catalyst that moves my teaching to a new level.

My ideas for this blog are still vague. I imagine that it will evolve overtime. I want to share my many passions–from yoga to cooking to music to spiritual philosophy–in a way that will feed others and awaken their own higher consciousness. I am ready to take my own healing to the next level, and I want to inspire you on your own journey towards wholeness and health as well.

With that said, I offer my deepest gratitude to the pinched nerve in my back. And I welcome you to my new blog!