Monday, August 8, 2011

Celebrating My Father

My dad.
August 8th is the day that marks my father's passing, seven years ago. He was 60 years old, and he left me with the greatest legacy: teaching yoga. I recall being in my first downward facing dog, following dad’s death. Although I had always resented that my dad pretty much left me on my own, without enough direction, attention or love, it struck me that my father had handed yoga down to me. Not only did that tie me directly to him, but also to a practice that was thousands of years old. He connected me to both the past, and the future. As I teach yoga and fitness, I am a conduit, while honoring my own relationship (often complex!) with my father.

Lloyd Ingber loved his body. A basic day in the life of my dad’s routine when I was a child went something like this:
4:30 a.m. - awaken
4:30-5:30 a.m. - morning meditation 
5:30 a.m. - walk barefooted on dewy grass outside
5:45-7:15 a.m. - yoga practices, pranayama (breathing exercises)
7:15 a.m. - breakfast
8-9:30 a.m. - 25 mile bike ride through the hills and up the California coast
9:30-10:30 a.m. - hit the gym (possible handball game), shower
11:00 a.m. - office (having ridden his bike there), work (yes, an attorney)
6:30 p.m. - bike ride home, swim 50-100 laps, eat an enormous salad, a bag of raisins, pass out in front of the t.v., reading
9:30-10 p.m. - bed…. wake up and start all over again.
Yes, that was my dad.

Such a stud as a Fairfax High student.
13 year old Lloyd.
15 years old. Watch your daughters!
His fitness regime began when he was just a boy, no older than 13, when he began lifting weights and building his body. He was born to orthodox Jewish parents who were rather hard on him, and his claim to fame was being able to beat up his own father at age 14. (My grandfather was 4’9”, incidentally, and a kosher butcher.) It seemed that power was very important to Lloyd Ingber, but moreover mastery of his physical body, which later lead to mastery over his own energetic body, and then over subtle aspects of himself.

An average morning spectacle in the Ingber household.
When I was age 7, he incurred several back injuries, and turned to vegetarianism, yoga and cycling to help him heal. It worked. His immersion in these newfound cures were surely fueled by the rebel in him, to revolt against all of the meat his parents had fed him throughout the years. He introduced us to books like Dr. Henry Bieler’s “Food Is Your Best Medicine”, and the then popular “Sugar Blues”. We were exposed to B.K.S. Iyengar’s “Light On Yoga” and Richard Hittleman’s yoga book and television series.
When I was 9 or 10, we became macrobiotic, and we began to see acupuncturist Master Ni Hua Ching instead of physicians. Our mother would diagnose us, and prepare the food according to the needs of the family. Books like “You Are All Sanpaku” and homemade Amazake in the oven were standard in our Los Angeles home.

As my father continued his search for personal self-mastery, he happened upon the Taoist yogas of Mantak Chia, and remained a practitioner of those teachings throughout his life. The subtler yogas,including 90-minute standing meditations and Chi Gong, replaced competitive sports. He also changed wives several times, but all the while staying connected to his quest for mastery.
Dad and fatherhood: Take 2. Age 54.
In fact, when my father contracted his cancer, Lymphoma, he was the one he who found his own tumor through self massage. He was able to identify and have a relationship to his internal organs, and even used meditation practices aiming to heal the anger and hurt he felt regarding his childhood.
Lloyd Ingber was such a great example. He changed my view of cancer in that he was never a victim. He would  actually say that he was the healthiest he had ever been, except for the cancer. What struck me most was his dedication to care for his body (mind and spirit), even with the limitations of his disease. For as long as he could move, he was constantly in a yoga pose. Mostly supta bada konasana (reclining butterfly), which gave his internal organs more space from the tumors. He could still do the splits in every direction, and never stopped his self-care practices. Even on his last day alive, although in a wheelchair and in and out of consciousness, what struck me was that he requested to be wheeled to the bathroom sink, where I watched him brush his teeth. To the very last day, his commitment to self care was awesome. This conveys to me an honest gratitude for the greatest gift we are given in life - The body!

Lloyd Ingber: Life Force Energy!
His efforts to control his body may have failed, but in the end, it was much more about the quality of the life he did have in the body he inhabited. And his ability to finally release the body...On the day he passed, just before I watched him brush his teeth, he demanded that "the man on his shoulder" be asked to leave. "I can't make him leave, dad." He then said these random words: "Tweet tweet tweet. Free free free."
I cannot express enough my gratitude to this man who was a legend in his own mind, and mine as well. And I celebrate him today by sharing as much of him as I can with you.

Tweet Tweet Tweet...

Free Free Free...


  1. Love your post today. Makes me think about my own father, although not a yogi, had great impact on my life.

  2. This is really special that you shared this with everyone. I enjoyed reading about you and your father and all of the wonderful pictures you shared. Thank you for sharing your journey. Keli

  3. thanks for the responses. i just have to honor him on that day. i pass him down and keep him alive...