Three essential life lessons my yoga guru taught me

During my ten years of studying with Swami Sivananda Radha, my guru brought order to my inner chaos. One of the most effective practices involved determining priorities for each day. Everything else could fall into place around the most important events. Balance was central to the yogi’s life. Balance, however, did not have to occur in the space of one day. It could be over a period of time. For example, on some days getting things done might be the priority. On another, relaxing and self-care might be central themes.

She was the first feminist I met. Women need a room of their own, she told me. Very few women, even those in large houses, have a room where they can close the door and leave everything untouched until they return. If you can’t have a room, at least have a part of a room which is out of bounds to others.

On energy: think of your energy like fuel in your gas tank. Never run on your reserve. Another time she told me that energy was like a bank account. Some activities and people give you energy. These are like deposits in your account. Other activities and people drain you. These are withdrawals. Try to keep as much money in the bank as possible.

On food: if you think it’s bad for you, for goodness’ sake don’t eat it.

On abortion: It is hard to find a human birth. Usually the soul does not enter the fetus until the last moment. If a fetus is aborted, the soul is not destroyed. It simply goes looking for another birth.

On an altar: Make a special place in your house for prayer and meditation, even if it’s just a place where you don’t ordinarily sit.

Today, thirty years later, many of these practices still serve to structure my life.

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