A Body of Beliefs
I sat alone in an exam room at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida buried under the diagnosis – Muscular Dystrophy.
I had come to the hospital for a routine health check up and had mentioned in passing that I had occasional neck and shoulder pain and I had noticed that my posture wasn’t ideal — my shoulders were slumped forward — I didn’t expect to hear that I had been carrying around a genetic disorder for the last 30+ years of my life.
It was harder still to digest because I am someone who thrives on pushing my body to the limits. I am a 34 year old man who has tied his identity to his ability to go beyond limits – to entertain an audience for three hours straight without a drop of water or an ounce of rest. For the last decade, I have performed stand up comedy on stages all around the world — from convention centers in Hong Kong and Mumbai to clubs in LA, London and Toronto. My style is very physical since comedy is like communication — 55% of its messages are expressed through the body, 38% through style of delivery and 7% through the words themselves.
So, when I heard the words “limited physical movement” and “limited range”, I was shocked! I had some of the finest allopathic doctors in the world telling me that there was no “cure” for this disease and that all I could do was manage the pain and try and make the best use of my limited capacity. I was faced with carrying the albatross of knowing that I was not only limited, but also weak. What did that mean? That when I had the blessing of having kids that I wouldn’t be able to play with them? That I would gradually lose my ability to express myself to the people I love? As much as it hurt inside, the thought of not being able hold my future son or daughter without feeling intense pain made me desperate to find an answer.
I continued to see the best doctors, I consulted top physiotherapists around the world, I tried learning yoga, but nothing worked. It was now obvious to me, family and friends that something was very wrong. Doctors said, “I had to live with it,” and physios gave me exercises but my shoulders kept rotating forward and my pain kept increasing. I went to yoga classes, but had to consistently leave half way through because I was humiliated knowing that I couldn’t keep up with the class or do basic moves like Cobra without feeling pain. As I went from class to class, expert-to-expert, I noticed I was losing more than muscle. I was losing hope. I didn’t see a way out. As much as I resisted this diagnosis, I couldn’t provide myself with empirical evidence that I was anything other than the label.
And that’s when I received one of the greatest gifts of my life. That’s when I met Mark Lamm. In a flash, I remember all the times he was mentioned to me as a health and wellness expert. I first heard about Mark’s work, BioSync®, from a friend of mine. He told me that Mark practiced a form of healing that was a type of internal martial arts that was influenced by Chi Gong. He said that BioSync combines Eastern and Western methods of healing to free the body and mind of limitations and dysfunction. A few months later, I was taking a Kundalini yoga class taught by Guru Singh, a renowned yoga expert and again Mark was suggested as a healing resource. After doing some research, I found that Mark had used his “chi” (“prana”) method to help many famous professional athletes and Olympic champions. I had been intrigued but not enough to contact Mark directly. Now, I was at one of Tony Robbins’ seminars and again I heard Mark’s name. Tony mentioned that he had worked with Mark for over 23 years and considered him to be a genius and his mentor and role model in healthy living. For some reason, the universe was calling me to meet this man. But, don’t get me wrong – I was still skeptical. After all, I had been to some of the top medical institutions expecting answers and results and came away frustrated. Why would Mark be different? Well, I was about to find out — Tony introduced me to Mark.
Expecting the same empty promises, I gave him my well-practiced five-minute speech on my condition. He simply smiled and said “ok, let’s get to work.” He didn’t even react. When I challenged him on not taking my condition seriously, he just said he had heard me, but didn’t want to limit his ability to help me based on my speech. The first session that we had was challenging. Mark used the power of “chi” to open up my chest and get my shoulders to rotate back and under. As much as I wanted it to work, my body resisted. But, what struck me was that Mark didn’t give up. He had a sense of faith in my body that I hadn’t seen or experienced before. And it wasn’t just me – he had apparently recently helped a 19-year-old extreme athlete with cervical and lumbar breaks, who was told by doctors that he should get used to living in a wheel chair. Within 5 days, Mark had the young man walking again. I now know that Mark believes that if there is a will in the spirit of the person to want more, that his or her body would respond. And so he worked on me for two hours, constantly looking for new ways to affect my physiology. Finally, I felt a shift. I stood up and could see and feel a small change in the width of my chest. I could breathe easier and felt more relaxed and had access to more energy.
I came back a few times and started to see incremental change. My shoulders felt more relaxed; I had more range of motion. Then, it happened — Mark found a way to open up my chest and I actually felt a sense of flexibility in my body. To further help my development, Mark taught me some yoga poses — The Cat and the Cow. These were poses that I had previously struggled to do, but could now hold for a few minutes. I had gone from someone with a collapsed chest and hunched posture to someone who felt open, confident, and strong. I remember going to a stand up gig after that session and I immediately felt a difference in my ability to command the room. I didn’t have to work as hard. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like my body was responsive and responding.
Of course, my body was so used to being held a certain way that it wanted to go back to what it knew best. It was a challenge because my body loved being where it was. I expected Mark to give up on me as the other doctors and physiotherapists had, but he didn’t. Mark told me that my body would change as soon as I let go of the image of a guy with muscular dystrophy. He told me that this self image was a limited expression of my body. He made me realize that my body had a natural blueprint, something greater than what it had experienced – and that the only way to get from my undesired limited state to the desired, natural state that my body deserved was to believe it, to lock in the feeling of it and to embrace what it felt like to have freedom.
As much as he told me this, I didn’t believe it was possible — after all this was my body. Then, he told me a story of a young Japanese-Italian boy named Sanili who fell into a pool when he was barely one year old and had been caught up in a time warp for the next seven years of his life — his limbs were compressed and as much as he aged, his body didn’t. Mark said when Sanili came to him; even though the boy couldn’t talk, there was an aliveness in his eyes. As much as the boy was socially and physically stunted, there was a desire in him to change, there was a strength within him that knew he was more. And that it was because of this faith — faith that Sanili had in himself and faith that Mark had in Sanili that the boy grew almost 5 inches after just a few sessions. I was stunned. This story blew open my expectations of what is possible. I knew Mark was right. My body was where it was because I had accepted it in a limited, painful form and spent every day since leaving the Mayo Clinic reinforcing that medically diagnosed prognosis.
As soon as that clicked, as soon as I visualized my body as having the strength and length that it deserved, incredible things happened. Now I was able to rotate my arm completely; I had greater strength in my chest. I also noticed that I was more flexible and able to do yoga moves that up until this point were painful. I had actually dropped out of many yoga classes because I was embarrassed and frustrated that I couldn’t do the simplest of poses — I could do corpse pose but never made it that far in class! Now, I was able to sit in Lotus for more than five minutes, I could do Downward Dog without any pain and I could actually get into Cobra position without hurting myself.
That confidence helped me to start doing yoga on a regular basis with yoga expert, Guru Singh, a long time friend of Mark’s who shares his belief that the body has greater potential than we can imagine. The Kundalini yoga that Guru Singh taught me was even more effective as the yoga now synergistically complemented the work that I had accomplished with Mark. The philosophy shared by Mark and Guru Singh has always been something I cognitively agree with, but with the Grace of God, I’ve actually experienced some of that potential and know with certainty that thanks to these incredible teachers, my body will unfold into it’s natural state of strength and flexibility that I have desired and deserved. I know that my body and more importantly, my beliefs about my body will not stop me from being able to connect and care about the people that I love most.
CEO & Founder of LOL World
Anand Chulani’s LOL Method is a system of education that uses play and laughter to empower the leaders of today (CEO’s) and the leaders of tomorrow (children) to become confident and compassionate leaders! The LOL Method has now been shared with over 40,000 kids from over 30 countries as well as leaders of Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Turner Broadcasting and Disney.