The bureaucrat yogi
Life Positive|September 2020
The bureaucrat yogi
Mr Madhavan Nambiar tells Rishi Rathod that the world needs to become aware that yoga is beyond physical movement; it is a wisdom tradition and a master class in conscious living
Mr Madhavan Nambiar

Mr Madhavan Nambiar, a former IAS officer, who has also been a Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, joined Life Positive’s advisory board in the year 2005. Ever since, he has been effusive in his praise of Life Positive’s content and has been taking keen interest in the spiritual programmes organised by us. His passion for yoga, spirituality and truth-seeking, made Life Positive decide to interview him.

After a few attempts, I finally got the opportunity to speak to him. His adherence to punctuality, his articulation of ideas, and his uncommon insights into the multifaceted tradition of yoga left an imprint on my mind. His reverberating metallic voice, robust due to his commitment to Vedic chanting over the years, added to the pleasure of hearing him speak with an unruffled poise that brought to mind the ease of a yogi slipping into a seemingly difficult asana. During our conversation, I got to know of many of his sterling achievements and noteworthy contributions to society.

He taught public policy for several years at the School of International Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia University. He is on the boards of several global companies as well as a fellow at Judge Business School, Cambridge University. Furthermore, Mr Nambiar has undergone several years of intensive training in yoga during the 70s from the renowned Swami Rama of the Himalayas and has been closely associated with Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (an internationally renowned school for the therapeutic uses of yoga) as a trustee. Based on his years of experience with yoga, Mr Nambiar has customised several training routines to cope with everyday pressures. These techniques include physical exercises (asanas), breathing (pranayama), relaxation, and meditation. His experience with yoga is based on the stresses and strains of real life. Below is the conversation.

Nambiarji, can you please tell us about your journey into yoga and spirituality?

Regarding yoga, I was very fortunate to be associated with Swami Rama of the Himalayas from 1970 till his passing away in 1996. At a fairly young age, I had an opportunity to work with him. During those days, he was in Rishikesh and then regularly in the Himalayas, where he did intense meditations, spiritual practices, and yoga, and I was blessed to have a very close association with him. I learned asanas, pranayamas, and meditations, as well as had glimpses of spiritual connections.

Later, when I came to the legendary Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, TKV Desikacharya, son of T Krishnamacharya, took me into his fold, and I am still involved as a trustee on the Board of Studies of Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. So that was essentially my spiritual and yoga journey with the great masters.

These were the two schools which greatly influenced me in my work as a civil servant as well as in health, healing and my personal growth. I have also done some sessions at the Bihar School of Yoga, one of the oldest yoga schools in Bihar. These things helped me shape my spiritual life immensely.

What are the benefits and insights that you have gained by practising yoga over the years?

I was a civil servant for 36 years with the state of Tamil Nadu as well as the Government of India. I held high-profile jobs that came with high level of stress, which would manifest in my physical body and affect my mental and emotional health. But I’m thankful for the kind of yoga that Swami Rama taught me— the stress management techniques. For this, he had devised fabulous packages of asanas, pranayamas, relaxation, and meditation techniques that helped me handle exceedingly difficult and stressful situations very well.

Can you name a few pranayama and meditation techniques that helped you navigate the stressful times? Are they relevant during the current pandemic times too?

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September 2020