Namaste!, my friends. My name is Jeff Yalden. I’m a suicide prevention expert, youth motivational speaker speaking at high schools around the country, and do a lot of work with teen mental health and teen suicide. I’m not a Hindu and I don’t subscribe to any specific form of religion, but I live with faith, respect and follow my own moral compass. For this reason I can only discuss what the meaning of Namaste is from my own perspective, which may drastically differ from other interpretations. I believe saying the word and practicing the meaning of the word shows a great respect for the ancient roots of our yoga practice. Thousands of years ago yoga was much more than just the physical act of yoga asana (postures), it was developed as a physical, mental and spiritual practice, a method for people to live with ethics, self-discipline and aid them in accessing their divine self. Nowadays, as we know, yoga asana is primarily practiced in the Western world as a form of exercise, but it doesn’t hurt to recognise these incredible roots and respect yoga’s place as an ancient practice. Every time I say it, I’m reminded of how much I still have to learn about yoga, and myself. Secondly, I respect it’s meaning. Namaste may mean something different to everybody, and if you ask me in three years time I may give you an entirely different response. But today these are my thoughts and I standby them wholeheartedly. So, this is my faith if I have one. This is how I live personally. This is how I feed my heart and my heart gives communities and teens hope. To finish I’ll end with one lovely little word (three guesses!), a word that at first seems so small but actually turns out to be pretty big… Namaste.It seems that every time a community is interested in bringing me in after they’ve experienced a teen suicide or multiple suicides over a period of time they immediately want to know my religious beliefs. The want to know if there is a tone of religion to my work with teens, schools, and communities. In 23 years of youth motivational speaking, high school assemblies, student leadership conferences, and helping communities heal after the loss of a student by suicide, you can bet that none of my clients would ever say, “Jeff Yalden brought religion to a religious tone to any school. So, I’d like to clarify a few things about who I am and my faith. First, I suffer from major depression and PTSD. This is known. I talk about this and my journey of mental health. I am a mental health speaker and proud to be a mental health advocate for teens and parents. I believe in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and monitored medication prescribed from a professional practicing doctor presiding over your care. I’ve been in therapy myself for many years and am currently in therapy. I practice yoga, mindfulness training, meditation, and breathing. This is a daily practice for me and a place I like to be where I can center myself and continue to own my day. Have you ever done yoga? You might have heard the instructor end the class by placing his or her hands in prayer position, either in front of their chest or forehead, bow their head and share the words ‘Namaste’. As you probably looked around you noticed everyone else reciprocating, either saying the words or doing the motions. You nervously do the same but have no real understanding of what you are saying or why you are saying it. This was me when I first started out my journey in yoga. This is normal practice by most yoga teachers. Remove the language and the spirituality associated with yoga and make it more approachable to fitness-minded and health-minded individuals. I recently had spinal cord fusion and am suffering from lower back – herniated disk and degenerative “whatevers” down in my lower back causing incredible pain shooting down my legs into the heels of my feet. Doctors, referrals, x-rays, MRI’s, physical therapy, pain medication, and more. Nothing helps when I follow the system. Frustration! What does help is stretching and practicing yoga daily. My mind is clear. I am patient. I am kind and loving. I have improved mobility. I am confident and relaxed. My pain has diminished. I’m not frustrated. So, when I say, “Namaste”, I mean it when I say it. What does it mean though? In the most simple terms, Namaste is a Sanskrit word and means this: Nama = Bow As = I Te = You So the literal translation is ‘bow I you’ or ‘I bow to you’. It’s origins lie in the Hindu religion as a form of greeting or departing and is a gesture of mutual respect and acknowledgement to recognise the divine in each other. If you Google the word Namaste on the internet you’ll find a million descriptions citing the meaning of the word, it’s significance and it’s relevance in a yoga class.
A Change Is in Order Nothing changes until you change. While the difficult takes time, the seemingly impossible just takes a little longer. Today marks one year since the day that my dad knocked on my door about midnight in early August and told me to get up. He and my mom were worried about me. He called 911, and I was rushed off to the emergency room. I spent the next couple days pondering my life when the endocrinologist looked at me and said that I had been moments from something catastrophic happening. He didn’t say days; the doctor said I had only been moments from losing my life. I have diabetes type 2. My weight was 344 pounds. My blood pressure was high. My A1C blood test was 14.9 where a normal range is 4.5 to 6 percent. I was in really bad shape. A high triglycerides level is 200 to 499 mg/dL, but my triglycerides were beyond high at 2,784. A year later, I look back on that day and ask myself what has changed, and the answer is simple—nothing has changed. And I’ve thought about it day and night. I think about being self-disciplined, I think about routine, I think about structure, and if I’m going to be honest with myself, I think about all I’ve made is one excuse after another. I said, “Tomorrow I’ll change. I’ll do it tomorrow.” And then I said, “How about on Monday? Monday I’ll start.” But when you talk about a specific starting date or you talk about starting tomorrow, that only says one thing—it says that you’re not really committed to making the change. My weight is down to 337 pounds, and because of medications, all of my blood sugars and my blood work are okay; my health is in check, I’m feeling good. Actually, I’m feeling great! But that is nothing more than a Band-Aid on the real problem. As I talked today with my personal trainer and another emergency room doctor at the Crossfit Center, we decided to get real with each other. Well, they’ve actually been real with me for a while; I just haven’t been real with myself. They’ve designed thirty-one workouts of the day. I’ve completed only ten of them. I need to be honest with them and with myself. I do travel. I am on the road a lot, but they have also devised workouts in that plan that I can do while I’m traveling. So the bottom line is this: In one year, I haven’t changed, but I’ve continued to make a lot of excuses. I am going to commit to three simple things right now.
- I’m going to wake up each day with a commitment: a commitment to myself and a commitment to my health.
- I am going to keep a written account. Every single day, I am going to write down where I am and where I’m going, what I did for a workout, and what my diet consisted of.
- I am going to set a goal that is specific, attainable, and measureable.