Yoga Healed Heart Murmur

Patty has a family history of Heart Murmur and because of this does an annual check-up of the condition. After a year of doing yoga she found that the condition has healed! She now say that yoga has tremendous “healing wisdom” that you can tap into. You never know how amazingly things fall back into shape as blockages are removed, alignments restored, and stress is relieved!

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The Saint Of Baylovo

The Saint Of Baylovo

The Saint Of Baylovo

This is a story of 99 year old Dobri Dobrev who lost most of his hearing in World War II. He travels 25 Kilometers every day from his village to the city of Sofia where he spends the day begging for money.

Though well recognized fixture around several of the city’s churches, it was only recently discovered that he has donated every penny he has collected – over 40,000 euros- towards the restoration of decaying Bulgarian monasteries and churches and the utility bills of orphanages, living entirely off his monthly state pension of 80 euros.

He has now become a beloved figure in Bulgaria, known as the “Saint of Baylovo”.

If a peniless old man can do so much for his community, what can we do?

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Menstrual Man

Menstrual Man, Arunachalam Muruganantham

Arunachalam Muruganantham

In 1998 Arunachalam Muruganantham’s was just married and his life revolved around his wife and widowed mother. One day he discovered that his wife, Shanthi, was hiding something from him. He was shocked to discover that it was rags, “nasty cloths”, which she used during menstruation. “I would not even use these to clean my two wheeler,” Muruganantham said later in a TED talk.

Muruganantham immediately ran to the store to buy sanitary pads to impress his wife. To his shock he found that these were quite unaffordable. He nevertheless bought them to find out what they were made of. When he tore the pad open he found it contained a white cotton like substance. Wondering why a few pennies worth of cotton was being sold as a “pad” at such expensive price, he resolved to make the pad himself.

He fashioned one home made pad out of cotton and proudly handed it to his wife for testing. To his shock he learnt that he had to wait till her period occurred. It was then he understood for the first time that periods happened on a monthly cycle! He then realized that if he had to wait for a month for each round of testing, his pad would take decades to perfect. He needed more volunteers and would have to approach other women.

It was then the enormity of the problem slowly came to light. He found that very few women in the surrounding villages used sanitary pads. Just like his wife did, women used old rags and were too embarrassed to dry them in the sun, which meant that they never got disinfected. Approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Muruganantham now realized that this was much bigger than him trying to impress his newly married wife. Women were literally dying because of this and he was determined to put an end to this. His life was forever changed.

When Muruganantham could not find suitable volunteers to test his pads, he had no option but to test them himself. “I became the man who wore a sanitary pad,” he says. He created a “uterus” from a football bladder and filled it with goat’s blood. A former classmate, a butcher, would ring his bicycle bell outside the house whenever he was about to slaughter a goat. Muruganantham would rush out and collect the blood and mix an additive he got from another friend at a blood bank to prevent it from clotting too quickly. But that did not stop the smell. He then walked around the village with the football bladder under his clothes, constantly pumping blood to test the pad’s absorption rate. Not surprisingly people around him thought he had gone mad.

When people saw him washing his bloodied clothes at the public well word went around that he had some kind of sexual disease. His friends deserted him and soon his wife got fed up and left. “So you see God’s sense of humor,” he said. “I’d started the research for my wife and after 18 months she left me!”

But Muruganantham was not to be dissuaded. He could not give up on countless dying women just because his wife left him. So he soldiered on. But his problems were not over. In fact they were about to multiply. One day he had another brainwave- he would study used sanitary pads. This was no easy undertaking in such a superstitious community. “Even if I ask for a hair from a lady, she would suspect I am doing black magic on her to mesmerize her,” he says.

Somehow he convinced a group of college girls that he would supply them with free sanitary pads with the deal that they would return him the used ones. One day he laid out his haul out in the back yard for study, only to find his mother stumble across the grisly scene. This was the final straw. His mother packed up and left too!

This was not the end of his troubles. Local villagers were convinced that he was possessed and had arranged to have him chained upside down to a tree to be “healed” by a local exorcist. He escaped this fate by agreeing to leave the village.

But Muruganantham was not to be deterred. He had to solve the mystery: what was the substance inside the sanitary pad? It looked like cotton. Lab analysis he had got done on the pads indicated that it was cotton, but his own creations using cotton did not work. At the end of his wits, he decided that his only option was to ask the manufacturers of the pads themselves. But how was he going to do this? Multinational companies are not going to be persuaded to spill the beans so easily! Finally he persuaded a college professor, whom he repaid by doing domestic work, to draft letters to manufacturing companies. Then he spent a small fortune following up the letters with phone calls. Finally he convinced an employee at one of the manufacturer that he was a textile mill owner who wanted to move into this business. This employee sent him a sample and the mystery got resolved. The raw material was not cotton but cellulose boards made from the bark of a tree!

It took another four years to perfect a low cost method to produce sanitary towels. The process used four simple steps. A machine similar to a kitchen grinder breaks down the hard cellulose into fluffy material. This is then packed into rectangular cakes using another machine. These are then wrapped in non-woven cloth and disinfected in an ultraviolet treatment unit.

Muruganantham’s vision was not personal profit. Instead he wanted women to use his low cost machines to make the pads and then sell them to other women at low cost. His machines are deliberately skeletal so women themselves can maintain them. His first machine was made entirely of wood. He took it to show it to scientists in IIT Madras to get suggestions on how it could be improved. Unknown to him the scientists entered his machine in a national competition for national innovation award. Out of the 900+ entries he came first! Instant fame followed! He got an award from the President of the country and had reporters following him. Soon funds followed. As word of his success spread, his wife returned back.

It took Muruganantham 18 months to build the first batch of 250 machines. He was determined to take these machines to the most underdeveloped and challenging areas of the country. If he could succeed there, he would succeed anywhere in the country!

In these rural areas, it was difficult to even speak to women directly. To broach the subject of menstruation was next to impossible. Then there was superstitious belief that the use of pad could render you blind. But slowly, village by village he gained cautious acceptance and over time the machines spread to 1300 villages in 23 states. In each case, it’s women who produce the sanitary pads who then sell them directly to customers. Shops are not used as these are run by men and women are reluctant to approach them. But when they get it from women they know they also get important information on how to use them. In some cases no money is used. Instead they are bartered for things like onions and potatoes. Each group of ladies producing pads caters to surrounding villages and uses its own brand name. More than 3 million ladies are now using these low cost pads.

When Muruganantham learnt that 23% of girls drop out of schools once they start menstruating, he began working with schools. Now schools make their own pads. “Why wait till they are women? Why not empower girls?” He says.

Muruganantham now lives in a modest apartment with his wife and daughter. He owns a jeep so it can be taken into the most interior areas of the country. His vision is to create employment for 1 million women throughout the country, and 10 million women throughout the developing world. He hopes to solve the critical issue of giving access to poor women throughout the world to a low cost pad. This access translates to education, empowerment, and health.

While speaking in conferences he challenges his listeners, “If an uneducated man like me can do so much, what can the educated do?”

Related:
Muruganantham’s TED Talk
BBC: The Indian Sanitary Pad Revolution
Menstrual Man: The Movie

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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The Life Of An Yogini

Alice Herz-Sommer

Alice Herz-Sommer


Who is a Yogi or Yogini? There are many ways to answer this question, but a key defining characteristics of somebody who is on the path to yoga is the steady reduction of recrimination and regret in life coupled with a steady increase in love and forgiveness. This usually results in a life full of happiness where living is viewed as an extraordinary privilege and a joy. But make no mistake, just by doing an hour of yoga on the mat a few times a week does not necessarily mean that you are on the path of yoga. This may get you started but it may take more effort than that. On the other hand there are lives that have been lived where the person never touched the yoga mat, but nevertheless lived in an entirely yogic manner. The story of Alice Herz-Sommer illustrates. She recently passed away at the age of 110.

Alice Herze was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on Nov 25 1903. She was one of five children of a German-speaking, secular Jewish family. Her father was a wealthy businessman and her parents mingled with artistic circles. Kafka and Mahler were among the friends of the family.

Alice’s love for music started early. She began her piano lessons at 5. By the time she was in her late teens, she was giving well-received concerts throughout Europe. In 1931 she married a musician-businessman named Leopold Sommer who was also an amateur violinist. The couple had a son, Stepan born in 1937.

By 1939 the situation had deteriorated and Nazi invasion was imminent. Some of her family fled to Palestine. But Alice stayed back to take care of her frail widowed mother. Her husband and child also stayed back. Soon the Nazis came and their worst fears proved true. Jews were first segregated in a Ghetto called Terezin. From here they were deported to forced-labor death camps in batches. About 140,000 Jews passed through Terezin. 90,000 were sent from here to almost certain death to labor camps. Conditions were so bad in Terezin itself that 33,000 died in Terezin itself. By 1942 Alice’s mother was deported to Terezin and from there she was sent to a death camp, where she was killed.

Alice describes the day she escorted her mother to the deportation center in Prague as “The lowest point in my life”. This was also the turning point of her life. She resolved to start practicing Chopin’s Etudes. This work of Chopin, consisting of 27 solo pieces are considered to be the most technically demanding and emotionally charged, offered Alice a way of distraction during difficult times. It eventually turned into something more meaningful. It turned into spiritual sustenance that even saved her life and the life of her son.

By 1942 Alice, her son, and her husband were dispatched to Terezin. Luckily Terezin had an orchestra. Alice played on the camp’s broken out-of-tune piano and joined the orchestra that played more than 100 concerts in Terezin. “These concerts, the people are sitting there- old people, desolated and ill- and they came to the concerts, and this music was for them our food,” she later said. “Through making music, we were kept alive.”

Her husband was deported in 1944 to Auschwitz and Alice never saw him again. He died there of Typhus in 1945, a month before liberation.

Alice and her son were spared of this fate. One night a young Nazi officer stopped her. “Do not be afraid,” he said. “I only want to thank you for your concerts. They have meant much to me.” He then added, “One more thing. You and your little son will not be on any deportation lists. You will stay here until the war ends.”

After the war Alice returned to Prague with her son, but soon emigrated to Israel. Here she taught for many years at the Academy of Music. Then in the 80s she moved to London to be with her son, who was an eminent cellist.

In 2001 her son suddenly died of an aneurysm at age 64. Her neighbors knew that she had weathered the blow when they heard her practicing once more.

By now she had become an iconic figure, a subject of biographies and documentaries. What attracted attention to her was not just her age or the fact that she was the oldest holocaust survivor, or her musical acumen or even her devotion to music, but her sage like lack of regret or recrimination. She one said, “I am looking for the nice things in life. I know about the bad things, but I look only for the good things. The world is wonderful, it’s full of beauty and full of miracles. Our brain, the memory, how does it work? Not to speak of art and music … It is a miracle.”

As advancing age immobilized one finger on each hand, she reworked her technique to play with the remaining fingers, practicing more than 3 hours per day. She continued to swim well past the age of 100 and practiced music till the very end.

On her passing, her Grandson made the following statement. “Much has been written about her, but to those of us who knew her best, she was our dear ‘Gigi’. She loved us, laughed with us, and cherished music with us. She was an inspiration and our world will be significantly poorer without her by our side.”

Her life was not just an inspiration for her immediate family members but to all of us. She showed us how to live a life joyfully inspite of all its troubles. She showed us how a yogini lives her life.

Related:
Alice Herz-Sommer: Everything Is A Present (Short You tube video)
Her Facebook Page

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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Aidan Cares

Aiden Hornaday was just 8 years old when he picked up his brother’s harmonica with no idea how to play it. The next night, waiting for his mother at a restaurant, he took off his cap and started playing, and got 80 unexpected dollars in tips “just for taking his hat off.” That night, he decided to donate the $80 to fight intestinal parasites for African orphans, and has never stopped since. Now 13, Aiden has raised and donated over $60,000.

Related:
Aidan Cares Web Site

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