May 7, 2011

Cancer graduate Lisa Ray moves ahead

Actress Lisa Ray (right) and her business partner Paris Moghtader pose near their yoga studio in Brampton.

(Photo: Andrew Wallace/Toronto Star)

Having won her battle against a rare blood cancer, actor Lisa Ray has embarked on a series of new roles.

Among them, her inaugural entrepreneurial venture with a yoga studio set to open in the ’burbs next weekend.

“This is my very first business card; I’ve never had one before in my life, because I never knew what to put on it,” enthused the Toronto resident showing off the recyclable card identifying her as co-owner/director of Moksha Yoga Brampton, located on the second floor of a commercial building at Queen St. and Dixie Rd., next to the Bramalea City Centre.

The former model and star of films such as Bollywood/Hollywood and Water credits the increasingly popular form of hot yoga which she has practised for a decade with both triggering her diagnosis of multiple myeloma and assisting her recovery from the cancer which is now in remission.

It was during a month-long Moksha teacher training stint in Kerala, India, that Ray began feeling unwell.

“It was an intensive experience, two yoga classes a day, and I was having this experience where I wasn’t able to get off the floor doing shavasana,” she recalled.

“At the end of the class I’d be lying there for an hour and I realized something was wrong. As a direct result of practising yoga and tuning in, I had to confront my health issues.”

Following treatment, which included four months of steroids and chemotherapy and culminated in a stem cell transplant, Ray said she relied on the detoxifying aspects of Moksha which is done in a heated room.

Her longtime dream of owning a Moksha studio is a chance to share a practice she has benefitted from, she said.

“I’m fascinated by entrepreneurship, I’ve always admired it, but to actually walk in those shoes, it’s a lot of work,” said Ray.

She also has several artistic projects in the works, including an acting role in a Canadian short film aimed for the next Toronto International Film Festival and an unscripted, six-part documentary style series shot in India for TLC which she describes as having “a Michael Palinesque kind of a twist” that will air later this year.

As well, Ray is writing a memoir-style book; will appear on stage for first time since drama school at Luminato in a play about the Taj Mahal; and she will hopefully play a role at the International Indian Film Academy awards here at the end of June.

The fact that she hasn’t appeared in a feature film since Cooking With Stella, shot before her sabbatical, may be a result of a new measured approach to her career.

“I came out of it with a couple of lists. As much as I enjoy going with the flow and you allow interesting opportunities to come your way, for instance, the yoga studio, at the same time, things are a bit more deliberate. There’s a focus.

“I have my list of core values and I make sure whatever I do is aligned with them. It’s a very simple recipe: I make sure whatever I do is aligned to fun, relationships are important, and enlightening or sharing in some way. In a weird way the deliberateness allows more freedom in life.”

“I’m still realigning myself. I don’t want to overextend myself and I’m very conscious of doing that. As soon as a great project lands before me and depending on whether I feel that I’ve got the capacity and the time, I’ll do it.

“I call myself a cancer graduate and I have to now start applying the lessons that I learned. It’s very easy to just slide back into your default behaviour and ways of being. So I have to be really conscious of that aspect of life which is just being, not always just doing, and finding that balance.

Ray, who recently turned 39, doesn’t allow for regrets about previous choices.“It’s banked, it’s done, there was always a logic behind it at that particular time. Now I’m moving forward.”

She’s sticks to “no comment” about her personal life but says “I’m really more eligible than I’ve ever been in my life, because I’ve experienced everything that I’ve wanted to, so there isn’t that restlessness that I had for a lot of my life. I’m glad I didn’t settle down before, but I’m very inclined to settle down now.”

In search of “more freedom and control,” Ray is looking to produce her own film and TV projects. She realizes it will take the same tenacity and patience of the yoga studio which is still a dusty construction zone ahead of its scheduled opening.

“I truly believe in the power of manifestation and positive affirmation and that’s part of what brought me through my health journey. It still is nerve-wracking. (Moksha Brampton) has been delayed once. What can you do? Go in and practice and regain your balance.”

(Source: Toronto Star / Ashante Infantry)

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