Going To The Mat

By Kinsee Morlan / Photo by Paul Body

Sitting in the lotus position in the yoga classroom where he teaches five days a week, Bhava Ram hits his chest surprisingly hard. He's recalling the moment in his life when he turned everything around. The gesture is his way of emphasizing just how intense that one moment really was.

"My little boy was my only connection to the world," Ram says. "He came to me and finally realized something was wrong and said, 'Get up, daddy.' And those three words hit me in a place that I didn't know I had."

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Prelude to Peace

Before Bhava Ram was perfecting yoga positions, he was zipping across the globe covering some of the day's biggest events including the Soviet War in Afghanistan. In 1986, Ram was up in the mountains with the Mujahideen freedom fighters and visiting massive refugee camps. His work along the Afghan/Pakistani border eventually earned him the prestigious Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. Ram also covered the struggle against apartheid in South Africa; the drug wars in Columbia, Bolivia and Peru; and the Persian Gulf War; and political turmoil in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Ram was formerly known as Brad Willis, an award-winning war correspondent for NBC News. He covered turmoil and political unrest across the globe, stepping into the world's most dangerous moments because he felt hard-hitting journalism was his one true calling. A broken back - an injury he suffered ironically while on vacation - eventually ended his career. Debilitating pain from his untreated spine injury, combined with the loss of his identity as a newsman, led to years of painkillers and alcohol addiction.

"I went into an abyss of darkness and despair," Ram recalls. Years wasted away until hope came with his baby son. The joy was soon overshadowed, however, by a stage-four cancer diagnosis with a grim prognosis. Doctors told Ram that, at best, he only had a few years to live. He was ready to give up, but then his son hit him with those three simple words, "Get up, daddy," and he decided he had to figure out a way to get up and keep fighting.

Thanks to a serendipitous run-in with a now-defunct, holistic healing program at Scripps, Ram's journey became a self-healing quest into yoga, meditation, breath work, affirmations, veganism and dedication, all detailed in his recently released book, Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life. As the title implies, Ram credits his yoga practice for healing his broken back, curing his inoperable cancer, baffling his doctors and ultimately changing his destiny.

"From a war correspondent to a peace correspondent," Ram says with a gentle laugh.

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