Tag Archives: health

A New Kind of Hero for a New Kind of World, Hero #5

(This post is part of a pact I made. Click 
here for the full story.)

Move over, Jana has arrived. 

In a 5 feet 5 inches frame, and just over twenty years, this woman has already managed to pack what would take most several lifetimes to accomplish. 

For starters, Jana is more than half way through completing a self-funded medical degree (sans financial aid).  Already she has co-authored a research paper with one of the world’s top neurosurgeons (Dr. Charles Teo). She’s the VP of an executive board of a medical student organization. And she tutors other medical students.

She’s also one of the world’s youngest Bikram Yoga teachers.  And has taught yoga across Australia and around the world.

On the side, Jana plays and writes music and is currently working on a record and training for a marathon.

In her words, her career Nirvana is: ”becoming a surgeon as well as working to change our global healthcare systems.  I want to see medical care become more about education and prevention than drugs and treatment. This is where yoga comes in…”

Jana embodies a hybrid existence.  If you ever meet her, you’d agree that she comes across as ambitious and determined, yet at the same time she’s free-spirited and peaceful.  And if you look close enough, you’ll soon realize that inside her a left and a right brain co-exist in harmony. Like most left-brained doctors, Jana’s rational and factual. Whenever I’ve practiced yoga with her, she has explained, with clinical details, the medical benefits of every pose, and has been very quick to point out when someone’s pose is out of alignment.  Yet, unlike a doctor, she’ll admit that some things have happened in her life by pure chance – without any scientific explanation. Like Bikram Yoga.

She wrote to me: “I met Bikram Choudhury, (the founder of Bikram Yoga) …It was a chance meeting. He looked at me from across the dinner table, called me over and said: ‘You’ll become a yoga teacher. I know more about your life than you do and I can see your life’s path…’”

“A week later I deferred my (medical) degree, found people to take over my apartment…sat my final exams for the session, got my vaccinations and medical health all checked, and left for (Los Angeles) with $1000 in my bank (account) to study to become the youngest Bikram Yoga Teacher to date at that time.”

She goes on to say: “It wasn’t a choice. It was a path. Yogis say that everything has a ‘dharma’.  (The) wind’s dharma is to blow, fire’s dharma is to burn and humans’ dharma is “love, truth and sacrifice”. When you’re living your dharma they say all falls into place and so I think at that time and ever since, things just falling into place means that I’m on the right track, living my dharma, so to speak.”

Note to self: In a new world, unrules are the new rules of success.

More than a schedule, a day in the life of Jana sounds like a rap song where the rapper is left breathless:

“I wake at 5 most days, meditate, teach yoga, do a yoga class, go to clinic which is where I’m a student doctor, leave and teach another yoga class, then go home to study medical and yoga topics and sleep at 12am, get up and do it all again.”

She ends her line of thinking with: “There is a lot to do! I don’t watch television and I don’t think I could tell you the last time I felt like I was ‘wasting time’… Life is efficient…”

Note to self: There is no such thing as an unimportant day.

And how does she manage to lead such an efficient life?

As driven as Jana is, she lives by one mantra – and one mantra alone:

“I know the relative importance of all parts of life and know my health, mental and physical, is number one.”

As a true yogi, she wrote to me: “No matter what path you’re on – for me becoming a doctor – if you don’t have your own health, you have nothing. Like Bikram says: ‘The most important thing in your life is you  – not what you do or what or what you know or what you study or who you love – because without you, there is no your life.’ So having a complimentary practice like yoga, exercise, meditation, should be something you make time for everyday… we should praise, maintain and appreciate our health.”

And sounding like a doctor who has just finished writing a prescription, she explains: “I have so much information about how yoga and meditation lower blood pressure and benefit every system of the body. Since I started (practicing) yoga I have barely had a cold, I sleep less and feel better, I crave better foods and I feel incredible. I want everyone to have this accessible to them before they reach for medications and…fast food. It would save our healthcare system billions if people learned how to balance their lives and their health… not to mention the life years it would save.”

From what she wrote to me, it’s clear that she practices what she preaches:

“Every day that I got home from study, I would think: ‘I’m learning about health, but I have no time or outlet to be truly healthy myself. What am I doing? Even though I am learning. I’m getting fatter and unhealthier and more tired everyday.’ Then I found Bikram Yoga. It gave me the health and energy to study health at university. It was the perfect counterpart that kept me sane in an intellectual world where it is easy to go mad. There were so many times before I found yoga that my medical exams would push me nearly to the edge of a nervous breakdown; often tears and really catastrophic thinking patterns. But now I breeze through with the knowledge of how to be efficient and how to be calm and equanimous.”

Note to self: More than anything else, respect your health.  You’ll last longer. 

In spite of her achievements, Jana is far from perfect.

As she admitted in an email: “I stumbled over a few things on the way to being accepted into medical school. I missed the date of application for medical school when I was in my final year of high school because I had moved out of home, had a turbulent time and was not given guidance on the matter!”

This mishap landed her in a medical science degree for two years before she could transfer to the Bachelor’s of Medicine program. 

Note to self:  So what if at first you don’t get what you want? If you try hard enough, some day you’ll get it.  How badly you want something will determine how hard you work towards it.

True to her self-awareness, she leaves us all with:

“I would say that this multidisciplinary approach has meant I can relate to a lot of people and that I feel very satisfied but I also often feel overworked and like I am never giving enough to each part of my life individually! The solution…the balance…I’m still working on that.”