On Memorial Day our hearts are full of gratitude for America's diverse men and women who made this country strong, and for the many who have died in its service and for those who are healing. Today, we we salute the many men and women who serve and also those who nurture their spiritual needs.
During VidyaSeva, our theme for the month of May, we pay tribute to the great gurus and teachers who promoted service through education and knowledge. They all taught us to serve with devotion and honor. This year as we pay tribute to the many men and women who serve through teaching, we are inspired by those who are also healing through yoga and other therapies.
Today we honor one such unsung hero who supports our soldiers -- Dr. Dilip Sirkar.
Dr. Sirkar, Executive Advisory Council member to Hindu American Seva Communities, has begun teaching Yoga Therapy at the Pentagon. One of the foremost experts in Yoga Therapy he combines his 45-year experience in Conventional Medicine with his extensive knowledge of Integrative Medicine, including Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy. A recipient of the medal for spiritual fitness, below is his story of VidyaSeva through Yoga.
A few months ago, a Department of Defense ("DOD") employee, who had attended one of my Yoga Therapy workshops in the Washington D. C. area, invited me to teach Yoga Therapy at the Pentagon. He connected me with the Office of the Pentagon Chaplain, established after 9-11 to provide multi-faith support for all branches of military in the DOD at the Pentagon. I was asked to share my experiences, due to my background as a retired physician and my personal, transformative experiences through Yoga Therapy.
I arrived on the day of the program and observed a beautiful mural outside of the Deputy Chaplain's office, displaying images of the Chaplains of various faiths providing support at events. The top of the mural stated the Office's mission to provide "spiritual fitness for the Pentagon family." I took a tour of the building with the Deputy Chaplain and observed several informational posters about my upcoming presentation throughout the building. Employees approached me and asked for details about the event. It was clear to me that Yoga Therapy had arrived at the Pentagon and was already a part of the military discourse on wellness and lifestyle choices.
Once inside the presentation area, I noticed the room fill up and the organizer had to add seating to the venue because of the positive response. I began by introducing the 150 or so participants to the principles and practice of Yoga Therapy. I offered gentle relaxation chair poses and then introduced breathing techniques because they were in uniform and seated in chairs. The Deputy Chaplain had informed me beforehand that the employees were interested in meditation, so I concluded by doing a guided meditation. My primary focus was on Yoga Therapy for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and drug dependency, because I felt many DOD staff would benefit from this type of practice.
During the practice session, the attendees were deeply engaged and followed each posture and breathing technique that I offered. As I looked out at the audience, I was struck by the fact that even though the participants were uniformed and from the outside looked so alike, each person's expression of the poses was truly individual and varied from one person to the next. I felt grateful for such a connection and positive response to what I was offering. The attendees were all comfortable with the practice and appeared very relaxed at the end. The stillness in the room during the meditation was palpable and significant, given the hustle and bustle of the more than 30,000 employees working in the Pentagon every day.
Immediately after the presentation, people began asking questions about their individual health problems, ranging from neuropsychiatric disorders to musculoskeletal and cardiovascular issues. The Office of the Chaplain had arranged for lunch for the event, and we continued the Q&A into lunch. The attendees gave immediate feedback and spoke about how wonderful they felt after the practice session. Many connected to the breathing techniques to help treat PTSD and other psychiatric conditions. An employee who is also a certified yoga teacher said he enjoyed the chakra-awakening meditation. I learned more about each participant's background. They shared some of the stresses of their daily life with me and explained how much physical and mental strength is needed to get through their day. I was reminded of the similar stresses I felt in my career as a vascular surgeon, spending long hours in the operating room with a full roster of surgeries daily, and how that led to a significant heart attack when I was 52. I shared how beneficial Yoga Therapy has been in activating the relaxed, parasympathetic part in my body's nervous system, instead of constantly being in a fight or flight state of being.
Many employees asked when I would return to do a longer session. I also received several emails inquiring about another event, and the wheels are already in motion to make that happen. I look forward to going deeper into Yoga Therapy philosophy and practice with employees and their friends and family in a larger setting. The DOD staff are a vibrant, welcoming community who have truly adopted Yoga Therapy into their lifestyle.
Before I left Pentagon Chaplain's office the Deputy Chaplain gave me a medal for spiritual fitness excellence.
It is wonderful to see our Dharmic traditional tools and resources augmenting the spiritual well being. HASC honors Dr. Sirkar for his Dharmic seva/service to our brave men and women and pray for everyone's well being.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi
"May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.