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Review of "Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life" by Bhava Ram

by Patricia Gale

Which is more frightening—being blinded and smuggled into Afghanistan by mujahedeen with AK-47s during the Soviet invasion, or being told by your doctor that you’re crippled for life, have inoperable cancer, and won’t survive to your next birthday?

In his new memoir, Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life, Brad Willis, a.k.a. Bhava Ram, leads us into some of the globe’s edgiest places—pre-Apartheid South Africa, Iraq during the Persian Gulf War, and Bolivian coca labs, for example—as only a former NBC war correspondent can do.

While these gripping adventures are unfolding, though, there’s a far darker, scarier story taking shape. At the peak of his career, Ram fell off a 12-foot ledge, shattering his back. Fearing that he’d lose his career, he began popping pills on the sly—antidepressants, painkillers, muscle relaxers, Ritalin—anything to get through his physical agony. He washed these down with copious amounts of alcohol. Ram was falling into an abyss, clinging to a career that was doomed.

On assignment in Asia, Ram’s vertebra finally snapped completely, cutting into his spinal cord. Failed surgery back in the States condemned him to life in a stiff body brace, and then he got more bad news. Ram was diagnosed with terminal stage IV throat cancer from exposure to spent uranium in the Gulf War.

For anyone else, this would have spelled the end. His friends and family said goodbye. But not his two-year-old son, who begged him, "Get up, Daddy."

That simple plea from his son became a motivational mantra for Ram. With the same intensity and focus he used when throwing himself into danger zones for a story, Ram launched into a complete reshaping of his life.

The part of Warrior Pose that covers Ram’s remarkable journey back to health by adopting ancient Yoga practices, purifying his body, and meditating is actually more shocking than his war stories. His rigorous 14-hour-a-day regimen, described in detail, became, as he called it, his "organic chemotherapy."

A few years later, doctors declared Ram cancer-free and said it was a miracle. There are photos of Bhava Ram balancing on one hand, with one leg wrapped behind his neck in an advanced Yoga pose.

This wasn’t merely recovery. It was reinvention.

Warrior Pose is for anyone who has a serious illness or injury and feels hopeless and helpless. Adversity can be our greatest friend, as it was for Bhava Ram, who now speaks on and teaches yoga and Ayurveda throughout the US and in India. This memoir is not for the faint of heart, nor is his prescription for self-healing.

But his core message is one that can be universally applied, even if yoga isn’t one’s healing modality of choice. Everyone has the power deep within them to realize their fullest potential, and to become whole and well again despite the scariest imaginable conditions of the body and soul.

Patricia Gale is a freelance business writer and a book reviewer for www.blogcritics.org.

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