A yoga teacher goes under the knife
and uses PowerBreathing by Yonah instead of anesthesia
When a small tumor was discovered on the neck of yoga teacher
Yonah Offner, doctors advised removing the growth with surgery.
That was fine with Offner, as long as the surgeons allowed
him to use his own special version of pranayama breathing
in place of anesthesia during the operation. See the video.
"Are you crazy?" H. Michael Roark, M.D., surgeon
and director of the Alvarado Institute of Plastic and Reconstructive
Surgery in San Diego, California recalls saying. "I didn't
think it was a good idea. I wasn't comfortable with it at
Offner, already a veteran of using "PowerBreathing"
to avoid a root canal and have teeth filled without anesthesia,
chose to postpone surgery. He tried using prayer and enlightened
thinking to help shrink the tumor. But one and a half years
later, it had grown to the size of a baseball and needed to
Again, Offner asked to do PowerBreathing instead of
anesthesia. This time, Roark, who had developed his own interest
in alternative medicine, agreed -- provided that back up anesthesia
be available in case Offner's breathing couldn't control the
pain during surgery.
Last year, on April 14, a serene and smiling Offner walked
into the operation room confident that he would succeed. He
lay face down the the operating room table, his head was propped
on a special pillow that allowed him to do the breathing.
Offner centered himself by chatting for for 10 minutes with
a mentor who accompanied him, and they asked everyone in the
room to join them in a nondenominational prayer.
Offner then began PowerBreathing. A longtime yoga teacher,
he developed the technique 13 years ago and now travels through
the country leading workshops on the technique (www.powerbreathing.com).
It involves deep, slow breathing through the nose only at
three breaths per minute. The goal is to allow the diaphragm
to work properly by unblocking the three lowest chakras.
"It's a specific type of breathing that gets the abdomen
and lower abdomen to relax," says Offner. "Most
of us are very tight in those areas, so the diaphragm can't
work properly. The diaphragm is the least used muscle in the
Once Offner had the PowerBreathing under way , he raised
his hand for Roark to begin the surgery, which was filmed
by a local television station. "I laid the knife on the
back of his neck and he did not flinch or move," Roark
says. "I made the incision and went deeper and deeper."
Offner experienced a lot of tugging and pulling as Roark extracted
the tumor and scooped it out, but there was no pain. "I
felt like I was in a wrestling match of about an hour,"
said Offner. He even withstood the 1800 degreed Fahrenheit
electric cautery, which decreases bleeding by coagulating
blood vessels with the heat from an electric current. "When
I thought there was going to be some pain coming, I went back
to the PowerBreathing. It was like magic."
The operation took approximately one hour. When Roark finished
sewing up the incision, Offner sat up, drank some water and
walked out of the operating room. Although there was slightly
more bleeding during the surgery - local anesthesia is usually
mixed with drugs that reduce bleeding -- Offner's recovery
was uneventful. "The skin edges bled the whole tine during
surgery." said Roark. "He bruised a little bit more,
but he healed just fine."
Even so, Roark doesn't plan on making PowerBreathing
a part of his medical practice. "Would I recommend it?
No. But it is a super testimonial for how someone like Yonah
can walk the walk and talk the talk. It was really amazing."
As Offner said, "I didn't do the surgery to encourage
other people to do this. I did it to demonstrate that if I
could do PowerBreathing in this extreme condition, imagine
how people could use this in their daily lives." Anyone
interested in Offner's techniques can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Sally Squire
©Yoga Journal March/April 2001.