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:: November 2007 Volume 6/Number 9

Teacher Profile

Bhava Ram & Laura Plumb

Oceanside Alchemists

By: Felicia M. Tomasko

Bhava Ram encourages the movement of the evening’s Deep Healing class from one stage of savasana (relaxation) to another with the vibrating resonance of his distinctively deep voice, fingers strumming the guitar. His chant echoes throughout the space, sweetly reminding people to awaken.

Like a chord running through his song, his intentions run through all his teaching: inspiring people to awaken, to find their own inner guru (teacher), to find their outlet for service and to find their connection to prana (life force).

Bhava Ram and Laura Plumb, partners in yoga teaching and life, have found that source of prana, their outlet (actually multiple outlets) for service and their inner and outer teachers. The pair shares what they affectionately call the Om Home, blocks from the beach on Coronado Island. They teach there, and at Ginseng Yoga in San Diego, where the two offer regularly-scheduled classes in Deep Yoga and Deep Healing and facilitate their signature Deep Yoga Mastery of Life yoga teacher training program.

Living on Coronado, their practice often takes shape upon the sand. Laura can do a beautiful headstand only feet from where the waves lap on the sand. The two sit on what they call their meditation rock, on a flat stone gazing down into the Pacific, where Navy SEALS share the water with harbor seals. They met at a local Siddha Yoga meditation center. With a gleam in her eye Laura comments on the wink she was sure she could see in Baba Muktananda’s eyes in the photograph, when Laura and Bhava’s name cards were stuck together, giving them an excuse to say hello. They found yoga before they found each other.

Their individual journeys to yoga had beginnings that were far from idyllic. In fact, they found yoga through suffering and personal and familial trial and tribulation. Illness and desperation, facing mortality and disaster were the impetus for Bhava and Laura to first stumble into, and then embrace, yoga practice. Sometimes challenges, difficulties or obstacles can be our greatest teacher, and I have heard a noted yoga teacher say that the first question she asks when someone says that they want to become a yoga teacher is: “Have you suffered?” Suffering can generate compassion within us and suffering also has the potential to inspire us to embark on our own transformation.

Bhava’s path included a career as a foreign news correspondent traveling the world reporting on tragedy and triumph, followed by a series of events in which Bhava injured his back, coped with failed surgery and was served with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. At one point, doctors told him he had two years to live. In some ways, he did die at the end of that time period, at least the person he had been. For at the termination of the second year, coping with painkillers, Bhava was introduced to yoga through an alternative pain treatment center. This introduction marked a rebirth.

Part of that rebirth occurred in what is now the Om Home, the mirrored practice room where the two engage in their personal sadhana (spiritual practice) as well as pass on their alchemical secrets, sharing recipes, remedies and practices with their students.

Every day, Bhava says, he would retire to his cave-like room the way the ascetics and sadhus would study and practice in their caves or on the riverbanks. Through the time spent with the inner teacher, and the practice, Bhava found a way to encourage his body, mind and spirit to heal from within.

Part of his self died, so he found his dharma (purpose) and then yoga became his path, his dharma. Many of Bhava’s insights, like those found in Om Home’s inner sanctum and gleaned from his practice and teaching, are found within a collection of essays: Deep Yoga: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times. In its pages, he shares some thoughts on the alchemy of yoga, the power of transformation. The teachings of yoga and Ayurveda, Bhava insists, “reconstruct the molecules of our being.” He goes on to speak personally, “this alchemical process played a great role in my own self-healing.”

 

The teachings of yoga and Ayurveda reconstruct the molecules of our being…this alchemical process played a great role in my own self-healing.

While each of their roadmaps had different turns, Laura too found yoga through personal obstacles; family crisis caused her to turn to yoga, to practice as refuge. Before eventually becoming a yoga teacher, her professional life was dedicated, as she describes it, to the study of ancient cultures and teachings. She worked for the Discovery Channel, as their general manager in Europe and was also a documentary filmmaker. Her interests included shamanism, Toltec wisdom and the secrets of prana, although she wouldn’t have used the word prana then.
Now the word prana flows off her tongue with ease. “It’s about prana,” she says; feeling prana (our life-force that is intertwined with nature around us) is the aim of the yoga practice. They credit their teachers, including David Frawley (Vamadeva) and Rod Stryker, for their emphasis on prana.

One avenue to feeling alive that the couple both engage in themselves and cultivate with their students is a commitment to service. Service, like the teaching of yoga can take many forms, and this idea harkens to the name of their teacher training program. Mastery of Life acknowledges that becoming a yoga teacher means examining, fully, one’s own life. And it is a reminder that being a yoga teacher can have many forms and faces. A yoga teacher can be an architect who reminds his coworkers to pay attention to their posture, a cubical resident who leads a lunchtime chair yoga practice.

The couples’ service is wide-ranging and copious. For example, Bhava serves on the advisory board of Outdoor Outreach, where he teaches yoga and is active in other endeavors to empower and transform the lives of at-risk youth and other members of the community. Laura teaches for the Foundation for Women, an organization devoted to educating women worldwide; and a seasonal series based on the archetypes of the goddesses at Shakti Rising, a unique recovery program for young women focused on transformation.

If their lives are an example of transformation, it is an example that is endlessly inspiring. Even without knowing any of the history, merely participating in Deep Yoga, the blend of asana (posture), transformational teachings of Tantra, wisdom of the seasonal cycles found in Ayurveda and the gentle encouragement to find the inner teacher, is proof enough that alchemy takes place here.

Deepyoga.com; Ginsengyoga.com

 

 

 

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LA Yoga Ayurveda & Health Magazine

 

 

 
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