Sprint Interview – Yoga helped save Brian Landers’ life

_IGP5189AWriten by: Julie Devoe

Subhead:  Nearly three years ago, Brian collapsed on a morning run due to a genetic heart condition. In a medically-induced coma for 48 hours followed by angioplasty and two stints in his heart, Brian is alive and well today, doctors say, because of his disciplined yoga practice and overall physical condition. 

Only 20 percent of people who have the experience Brian Landers did live to tell about it. Of that 20 percent, only one percent survives without long-term physiological and cognitive problems. Brian represents the one percent.

Nearly three years ago, the Sprint Human Engineering Manager (also a well-respected Kansas City-area yoga instructor) was attending a Sprint Application Developers Conference in California when he collapsed on a morning run. Without oxygen for more than five minutes, Brian was placed in a medically-induced coma for 48 hours to allow his brain to heal before doctors performed angioplasty and put two stints in his heart. The ordeal was triggered by a genetic heart condition Brian didn’t know he had. He’s alive and well today, doctors say, because of his disciplined yoga practice and overall physical condition.

“I got very lucky because I am one of a small percentage of people who use the third ventricle artery well, so I ended up with no tissue damage to the heart,” Brian says. “This artery likely developed in me due to physical conditioning. Today, nothing is holding me back, nor will it ever.”

In keeping with the July Well-Being Wednesday theme “Health for the Whole You,” Brian shares his well-being philosophy, both from the perspective of a yoga instructor and a Sprint employee who believes in being the best you can be, breathing through life stressors, and never letting set-backs hold you back.

Here’s Brian’s story:

How often do you practice/teach yoga and what other activities do you participate in? Paint a picture of your fitness life.
“I teach three to five 1.5 hour yoga classes a week and practice on the mat four to five times a week. I also run two or three times a week and have a goal of 10K steps per day as measured by my Jawbone (a fitness tracking device). I’ve also raced cars and played rugby and softball.”

How do you find the time for it all?
“I don’t have kids, so I do have more flexibility and time than most. I also have to stay highly organized. To practice yoga as much as I want to means that I have to get up early in the morning. I hold the belief that if you are going to show up and be present in the world for others, you have to invest in yourself.”

Is yoga effective at relieving stress, depression and anxiety? If so, why?
“Yes, a big part of yoga practice is focusing on the breath. Breath focus (pranayama practices) helps to eliminate the citta vritti (scattered/chattering mind). The breath has a direct effect on the nervous system. Think of a time when you have been anxious. Do you remember your breath? It was likely short and shallow in the chest. When the breath is short and shallow it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (your fight or flight mode). When the breath full and deep, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated (balanced/calming).

“In yoga, you learn to challenge yourself physically while keeping the breath under control and the mind in the present moment. Yoga is not only called “practice” because you are practicing postures … it is also called a practice because when we encounter challenging/stressful situations on the mat, we are better prepared to handle challenging and stressful situations off the mat.”

Would you say that practicing yoga helps you achieve better focus and productivity in your work? If so, why is that true?
“Yes, for a couple of reasons. When you practice yoga, you will improve your ability to rein in your mind and thoughts, giving you the ability to focus quickly. There is also an endurance factor, as yoga classes can last anywhere from one to two hours. Also, when the body is tense, you will be more reactionary. Because of my practice, I am more mindful or calm when stressed instead of reactionary.”

What advice would you give to your Sprint colleagues who may be experiencing stress and anxiety?
“Breathe! I know, it sounds cliché, but taking time to focus on the breath will release tension and be calming. Try this:

Sit up tall in your chair.
Close your eyes.
Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your heart.
Breathe a full breath in through the nose until the hand on your abdomen pushes out and the hand on your chest rises with the breath.
Focus on the breath; visualize the breath coming in and out.
Hold the breath for a count of 3 to 5.
Exhale the breath our slowly through the mouth.
Repeat.

Practice this for two to five minutes when stressed or anxious.

Also, find a yoga class/studio that is right for you. There are several different styles of yoga from restorative to high-octane power yoga and many in between. Ask questions, give different things a try, and don’t get discouraged! Remember, it is not about achieving a pose. It is about creating a happy healthier you!”

This month’s Well-Being Wednesday theme is “Health for the Whole You.” What does that mean to you personally?
“To me, ‘Health for the Whole You” is wellness of body, mind and spirit. If you choose to put anything in your body, mind or environment that does not serve you, you need to ask yourself ‘why?’ Yoga on and off the mat is a great practice for giving you the tools to be a whole, healthy you.”

Editor’s Note: Brian teaches yoga in the Kansas City area at Darling Yoga, 11711 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kan. 66210, (913) 498-1144; and at Yoga Gallery, 7941 Santa Fe Dr., Overland Park, Kan. 66204, (913) 432-5568.

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Lululemon Interview – How I got Started

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Meet our ambassador Brian Landers, yogi, adrenaline junkie, lover of life…

What brought me to the mat???… to be honest… it was truly about trying to find a way I could to go faster in a race car… that and three years of my wife bugging me to come take class with her. To her surprise, I woke up one Sunday morning and said let’s go. I will never forget my first class and that first F’ing Parivrtta Trikonasana. I was a pool of sweaty goo, and my life was forever changed.

I have always been a student of 1) Design, in particular the geometry of design, golden triangle, ‪Fibonacci sequencing and how all natural objects (I am particularly fond of beetles – yes, the insects) are as beautifully mathematic as they are aesthetic and functional 2) Indian and Asian Art & Culture. From an early age, I remember school field trips to the Nelson. I was captivated by the styling, the imagery and stories in the art, so much so, that I studied it even more in college. After that 1st yoga practice… It all made sense… The geometry of the body creating connection & energy with the natural world to bring into focus the spiritual and mystical life. Now what to do with it… I was hungry for more. I signed up for my first teacher training with Gretchen Robinson. I never intended to teach, but I am just too naturally curious for my own good sometimes. The first time I was put in front of a room to teach… Again, it just clicked as I saw what I knew from the inside occurring to others. I realized the privilege to watch and help others transform was a beautiful gift from the universe.

Shortly after I started teaching regularly, I took a slight detour. We will just refer to it here as a real life savasana. I mention this not because it is anything that I want to be defined by, but because it changed my practice and me. It brought to light what words like attachment and fear really mean. Fear is not a handstand in the middle of the room. I am quite certain that many reading this have lived wonderful and full lives without having done one, and they will continue to do so if they never achieve it. Does that mean you should not work at it?… NO! Fear is about letting go…fear really is savasana.

Well, this event only fueled my fire. I used to travel back and forth to the west coast for business frequently; matter of fact, it was so frequent that I started to take early morning surf lessons before I would go into the office. I had not surfed in several years, but after my “savasana” I felt the urge to get back to the ocean.  That year I surfed in Saulita Mexico, Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles (so many Dolphins playing in the water around me), Cowell’s Beach in Santa Cruz and Wickersham Beach in Uclulete, British Columbia (with the eagles and trading waves with sea otters). I mention this because it led me to Eoin Finn and another step on my yoga journey – an advanced teacher training with Eoin in the Vancouver Islands. Eoin brought playfulness to the mat, continued to fuel my love of the ocean and nature, sparked my interest in a deeper understanding of movement and anatomy and introduced me to the writings of Joseph Campbell.

My mythology? Continue to learn and grow… Next stop was a 200 YA Teacher Training with Emily Darling and Christy Burnett to find softness in both my personal practice and my teaching… Don’t get me wrong… my classes are intense and challenging but mindfully so. They are also very accessible. As my BIO states, This combination of intensity and sensitivity is why Brian has been described as the “perfect dichotomy.”  I believe that if you are not going to challenge yourself on the mat, you are less likely to challenge yourself off the mat. There is enough evidence now to show the relationship between physical ailments and emotional stress. For me, freedom, connection and cleansing/releasing of ALL comes through physical intensity first. That is the approach I consciously and mindfully bring to the mat on my teaching journey.

As I am sure the Universe had in its plan… I found myself once again frequenting the West Coast for business. It was on one of those trips that I found Annie Carpenter. I knew from my first 5 minutes of practice with her that I HAD to study with her. Her knowledge of anatomy, movement and physical discernment has brought so much to my practice and my teaching. So… I set a goal… Start my 500 HR Teacher Training in 2013 with her… I am happy to report that it looks as though I will crush that goal and finish the 500 HR training only 10 months later with a greater understanding of commitment and discipline to the practice.

I was recently given an amazing opportunity by Lululemon to attend the Ambassador Summit. Imagine if you can, 110 truly inspired yogis and fitness professionals all in one place, The Four Seasons Hotel at the base of Whistler Mountain in Vancouver… Oh… I should mention we had the entire hotel to ourselves and a set up to make us feel at home… game room, kitchen, library, hot tubs etc… To say it was inspirational would be an understatement… Here are my top 6 take aways…

1. Define Your vision
2. Set goals to achieve Your vision
3. Identify self imposed barriers to achieving Your vision
4. Build on strengths to knock those barriers down
5. Be You. The inspired You. The Authentic Real You. The You – You were meant to be.
6. And be that You… really fucking loud!

And do it all with a sense of gratitude and humility with no expectation.

While writing this I have been on a plane returning to the USA from Shanghai, China. My 3rd trip to Asia in as many years… Yes Universe… I am a bit slow but starting to get it.  Yoga Retreat? Maybe…

May it be said again… Meet our ambassador Brian Landers: A Yogi. A coach. A strategic designer of his life vision. A goal setter. A strength finder. A follower of bliss by being his inspired real self. And doing it… pretty fucking loud… there is still room on the volume knob…

Brian teaches yoga in the Kansas City area at Darling Yoga, 11711 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kan. 66210, (913) 498-1144; and at Yoga Gallery, 7941 Santa Fe Dr., Overland Park, Kan. 66204, (913) 432-5568.

For more information on his teaching schedule please visit:
http://www.brianlandersyoga.com

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To know others is wisdom… Soul Food for Thought February Edition

I decided this year I would find a mantra, writing or quote to focus on and explore each month. The intent is to get down into the mud and do some work in these areas. This month I chose a portion of Chapter 33 of the Toa-te Ching:

To know others is wisdom;
To know yourself is enlightenment
To master others requires force;
To master yourself requires strength.

-Lao-tzu, Tao-te Ching, Chapter 33

Let’s start with the first line. To know others is wisdom;
The definition of the word wisdom varies slightly from culture to culture, but Wikipedia provides the following, “ Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action.” If I put this definition in the context of my life, I can also extract a meaning of connectedness with all other beings. As I give the first line some real thought… how many others do I really know? Do I give enough of myself to really get to know others in a way that makes me wise? In my daily life am I mindful of the interconnectedness of everything? Maybe we should all make it a point this month to reconnect with someone, a friend or spouse or relative, in a way that makes us wise.
To know yourself is enlightenment
“Know: Be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information. Have knowledge or information concerning, to recognize the nature of.” How many of us take time each day to reflect on who we are, what our purpose is? For that matter, why do we exist? Taking a look inside can be scary stuff but is absolutely essential to health and balance of our soul. How many of us take time to just sit and be aware? I can tell you from personal experiences it can lead to something amazing. When people learn of my near death experience, the first thing they are inclined to ask is… Is it true? Was there a bright light? It is always asked in a somewhat joking manner, but you can see in their eyes that the question is real but they are unsure if they want to hear the answer. Given that, I typically do not start my reply with an answer to their question. Instead, I start my reply with a comment about being fully aware and present in a particular moment in time. During the process of the event, I had an honest realization that I was dying. What was strange was I knew in order to carry the knowledge of this experience on to my next life, or on to the next stage my soul would enter, I needed to experience the end of this life fully. In other words, be completely aware of absolutely everything, but at the same time let go of absolutely everything. Be completely present and open to anything that was going to occur. I wish I could put into words how that felt, but to be honest, it is impossible to wrap human language around a completely nonhuman experience. We simply do not have the communication skills. But to try and explain – it was contentment, unconditional love by an energy that is just crazy warm, peaceful and intense. This was enlightenment, and I will likely spend a good portion of the rest of my life trying to replicate the experience in this human form. Notice I have not talked any bright lights… that will have to work its way into future blogs ;-) Spend some time in meditation (whatever that means to you) this month. Learn to observe your mind, learn to quiet your monkey mind and really start to “know” you…

To master others requires force;
I learned long ago, it is not my job on this Earth to play God… Family, friends, spouses, cats, dogs and all other living beings are going to behave and do what is right for them at any given time. You cannot control others without force, either physical or mental… and when has that ever worked? Remember that others are just acting according to their nature – you in your observation of their actions assign meaning to their actions. So, if someone does something that makes you mad, they are really not making you mad – you are making you mad. You can just as easily take a deep breath, and approach the situation differently. Just live and let live and try not to judge… we are all a work in progress on this one… Not much else I can say here other than let’s make sure we stay aware….

To master yourself requires strength.
“Strength: the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor. 2. mental power, force, or vigor. 3. moral power, firmness, or courage.” How true this is… Have you ever tried to kick a bad habit? What are the things in your life that are not serving you well? What are the things that need to change in order for us to live from a place of pure happiness? Let’s make a list of things that are not serving us well physically, mentally and emotionally. Set some realistic goals with timelines and work on changing those things one at a time and one day at time. Find a daily routine or healthy nutrition plan that works … Just do something… give it a try. Let’s see how it goes….

So this month, I have my work cut out for me. But as I said, this project is about taking the year and getting dirty in order to emerge at the end having completed what is sure to be an amazing journey physically and spiritually. Feel free to come along for the ride and post your comments on how these activities are working out for you!

No Fear! No Pressure! Let’s just shake a few things up and see what comes out the other side… In the end, I am sure we can make the world a better place!!!!

Much Love,
Brian

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Perspective…

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Courtesy of Big Basin outside of Santa Cruz CA… We are but small creatures and here for such a short time…

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I had…

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The opportunity to head back to CA about one year after my event… I am standing about the place it all went down.

Namaste!

The Story…

On October 27th 2010 I was in Santa Clara CA for the Sprint Application Developer Program conference. I decided to go for a run on a running and biking trail just outside the hotel about 7 am in the morning. I apparently collapsed at the very beginning of the run – a co-worker found me but she did not have her phone so she went back to the hotel to get it and call 911 – when she returned there was another gentleman there and I had stopped breathing and had no pulse – they called 911 and the operator talked them through giving CPR – The paramedics arrived and shocked me back into rhythm and bagged me but they were unable to get me breathing on my own…

I was taken to the ER where they tubed me and iced me putting me into a medically induced coma for 48 hours – no one was sure how long I was without oxygen so they shut my body down to let my brain heal – they really were not sure if I was even going to wake up let alone wake up with full cognitive and motor functions (but I did!!!!! ;-);-)…we figured out later I was likely without oxygen between 5 and 9 minutes) I did not start breathing on my own until they brought me out of the coma. Statistically, survival rate for what occurred with me is less than 20% and having no physiological or cognitive problems is less than 1% of the 20% that do survive.

When they brought me out of the coma they did angioplasty and put 2 stints in my heart (ventricle) – I got very lucky because I am one of 20% of people who use the 3rd ventricle artery as well – so I ended up with no tissue damage to the heart. This artery likely developed in me due to physical conditioning.

I was in ICU for another day or so and then in the cardiac unit for another 2 days – then I went to SF for a few days with the family to get some rest and do some walking to get a bit of strength back – I was told that if it were not for my yoga, my great physical shape and my nutrition habits I would not have survived.
All in all I am doing well and the prognosis is very good – Cardiologist says – give it a year and I will have a healthier heart than most mid 20 year olds… It was also determined that this was all hereditary – so nothing I was doing to cause it.
I went to cardiac rehab 3 mornings a week from November to March and was cleared to race in April after AMAZING stress test results that showed no muscle damage to the heart… Also note, I have been to Mexico surfing for week and to LA for yoga and surfing a couple of times since the indecent… nothing is holing me back… and nor will it EVER!

This is the story and where we will start this Tome!

Much Love,

Brian

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