800 hrs. Yoga Therapy Teacher Training – thank you Niroga !

Reminiscing after the 2& 1/2 modules made up last weekend … Can I finally say that I have completed my certification requirements for 800 hours in training ?  I really hope so – seriously – as I had spend hours glued to the study videos (at the cost of great strain to one’s back – thus, Back Care Immersion with Judith & Lizzie Lasater and Mary Richards – highly recommended for yoga teachers and anatomy geeks interested in more holistic approach.), hours of reading, hours attending therapeutic classes (so good !) as if to counter all that sitting and studying. Pray for me that I have fulfilled the requirement at last. I know just 200 hrs. or 500 hrs. RYT is enough to teach any yoga – flow especially but yoga’s role in my fitness plan has always been therapeutic for me – nothing less.  That’s why when Yoga Alliance announced banning the use of that word, “therapy” for any of the yoga we teach, I was like …what?  WHAT?!  If yoga isn’t therapeutic, what is it then?  Just another fancy exercise – then why yoga – why not stick to soccer or zumba or dance or tennis or … stick to exercise, right ? Or is it a form of callisthenics and stretching ? Or is it acrobatics and refined human contortions?

Thus my search for yoga as I know it** to arrive at this Yoga Therapist learning. Sure, of course it’s exercise, a fitness program but it’s more – there are layers, sheaths, koshas that unfolds, getting us to the very core of our being … that intention and impact gets lost sometimes caught up in the ever accelerated pace of events unfolding all around us. I am happy I rediscovered that yoga, the kind of yoga we can savior and be sustained by.  It’s a sustainable practice of self-care, integrating the mind-body and maybe even the spirit unfolds and evolves to take you to the unexpected place.

Baxter Bell, MD, c-IAYT (find his classes and recently published book “Yoga for Healthy Aging”), on violin, and Perry (find his classes – Veterans Yoga Project !) on guitar  – here performing at our graduation, as we all broke out singing together in chorus, late-Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” ! (we OM too:)

Niroga Institute is winding down their yoga programs (200 hrs. basic, 500 hrs. advance study & 800 hrs. yoga therapeutics) this year to focus their energies to teaching Dynamic Mindfulness & Transformative Life Skills to school-aged students on-site by training the classroom teachers, counselors, and recruiting yoga teachers to serve on yoga-corps (like ‘peace corps’ but * yoga – “warriors of peace”:) to teach in the learning environment for K-12th.

With their latest shift in their offering, feeling especially blessed and lucky that I had the privilege to learn from these respective expert in the particular field.  It’s their last year offering this comprehensive a program…  Their wealth of knowledge as it relates to yoga and healing was … nothing short of inspiring.  We learned how to better distill the yogic techniques and methods holistically for that unique whole person who stands before us.

As you can tell by the course syllabus (see last post), each of the subject in our curriculum, we could spend a lifetime studying on BUT, we learned each of the subjects as it relates to the scope of our work in “yoga therapy”.  Yoga therapist is never in the business of diagnosing, that’s as we know the role of the medical establishment, but there to work for the client’s need to organically find wholeness & wellness, mindful of other health professionals if need be (MD, PT, OT, DC, etc.), a bit similar to a role of a say, acupuncturist in the Eastern modality,  to provide support through the application of this beautiful practice called YOGA.  The greatest difference being it’s self-administered and self-empowering as the practitioner is not relying on a treatment to be administered from others – it’s self-driven. We were taught to first and foremost, do no harm by acting out of ego but provide true understanding, be knowledgeable, have empathy, and finally, apply yogic tools and techniques so that the client finds the strength to discover the healer, the innate wisdom, within.  In order to do that we need to understand better our own makeup not just about the poses and the techniques.  We need to better understand and love ourselves from top to bottom, from inside and out.

Earthing !

Best way to get out of your own way – living yoga (title of Judith Lasater’s lovely book) – rather than doing yoga.

Teacher Devi (40+ years yoga teacher who started CalStar Yoga at UC Berkeley, yoga for people with disabilities) and here, lovely Winter Brown (teacher at Stanford Healthcare & @ Winter Brown Yoga), and a beautiful artist/dancer/yogi soul who wishes to remain anonymous:)

Labyrinth of a yoga circle – this year requiring 2+? circles to contain all the students. We all showed up! Niroga is a beautiful container for those wanting an advance study to further the practice with a sense of Seva – service at the core.


* yoga as in mindfulness and meditation for “peace”.

** Yoga to me is not about pushing your body beyond limits and see if it breaks.  Yoga is not about an “exhibit”, “contest” or “showcase” – yoga is not about what you can do or what you used to be able to do – it’s about overcoming ego and let’s face it – transcending many fears, especially of aging and loss – it’s really about living fully now – yoga is about healing if need be, self-care for preventative medicine or recovery, it’s about finding balance and your own center.  Check this out.  Love it – what a sage.

***I was once at Washington Park in Manhattan and performance artists showed up to exhibit “yoga” as people ogled at their Gumby Bendy poses – it was practically a freak show at a circus as I prayed that those so called yogis not have hip replacement and knees, or wrists surgeries in few years or deal with chronic pain.) Rather than bringing more people to try yoga, the show probably turned off many from even trying yoga – it did not appear inviting nor accessible.  Most of us do not start yoga practice from pre-teen age nor practice 5+ hours a day as BKS Iyengar had. (Actually when asked how many hours he practiced a day he joked? by answering – 24 hours:)  Some of us started the practice already into adulthood so … bear that in mind and be kind to yourself.  The practice can be both challenging but still relaxing.

The right practice, my yoga, brings about more lightness and you feel less stuck, less stressed and … filled with uplifted energy – prana – amidst the calmness.  There’s peace within the mind and a tranquil spaciousness in the body.  That is my intention.  How about you?  What’s the intention behind your practice?


Completed !

Niroga Yoga Therapist training encompassed 2 years and was comprised as follows.  I share what the …. I was doing the last 2 years to earn my 800 hrs. Yoga Therapist certification – what a journey !  While the faculty and their teachings were absolutely brilliant, I have to say, I also learned so much from the cohort – other yoga teachers I had the honor to learn with and from.  Here’s the calendar, an excerpt from the Niroga’s archive. :


Year 1 Curriculum (2016)

According to the World Health Organization, “Chronic diseases cause increasing numbers of deaths worldwide.” Diabetes, heart disease, and strokes are among the top 10 causes of death. Yoga therapy can have a significant impact on these lifestyle related chronic conditions. During Year 1, students focus on the connections between physical systems, stress, trauma and chronic conditions.

Yoga History and Philosophy
with B.K. Bose, PhD, RYT-500 and Saraswathi Devi
Skeletal System
with Tianna Meriage-Reiter DPT, PT, PYT
Ayurveda and Yoga
with Durga Leela RYT-500
Muscular System
with Baxter Bell MD, RYT-500
Cardiovascular System
with Miriam Shipp MD, MPH, CYT and Kate Bisharat MD
Respiratory System
with Saraswathi Devi
Endocrine System
with Baxter Bell MD, RYT-500
Nervous System
with Mitch Hall PhD, RYT-500
Immune System
with Mitch Hall PhD, RYT-500
Digestive System
with Baxter Bell MD, RYT-500
Mid-Terms with Lifestyle / Ethics / Business of Yoga
with B.K. Bose, PhD, RYT-500

Year 2 Curriculum (2017)

In Year 2, students shift their focus and learn through the lens of special populations.  Unique characteristics associated with these groups are explored incorporating physical, mental and emotional states. Niroga offers programs and classes in the community for many of these special populations. Research results from these programs are here along with other important studies and papers related to yoga and health.

Aging Gracefully
with B.K. Bose, PhD, RYT-500
Trauma Informed Yoga
with Antonia Fokken LMFT, E-RYT 500
Prenatal and Pregnancy
with Saraswathi Devi
Cancer and Yoga
with Cheryl Fenner-Brown PYT, RYT 500
Youth and Education
with Danielle Ancin RYT-500, Annika Hanson CYT, and Jonathan Relucio, RYT
Addiction and Recovery
with Durga Leela RYT-500
Adaptive Yoga
with Saraswathi Devi
Reproductive Health
with Miriam Shipp MD, MPH, CYT and Baxter Bell MD RYT-500
Sports / Occupational Health
with Baxter Bell MD, RYT-500
Chronic Pain
with Neil Pearson MSc, BScPT, BA-BPHE, CYT, RYT 500
Final Presentations and Graduation
with B.K. Bose, PhD, RYT-500

Thank you Niroga and 2017/2018 graduates for the transformative experience.  Very grateful to have had this journey and to witness so much goodness in people’s hearts – there are a lot of negativity these days but when you witness those with the following intention, we can’t help but to feel their light brighten our horizons and warm our hearts.  That’s the real strength, strength of our will, our resilience – it’s not just about flexing our muscles physically:

SEVA – Seva is a Sansrit word, translates to “selfless service”.  It can also be referred to as Karma Yoga.  A person who engages in Seva, a random act of kindness, is a Karma Yogi.  It is work performed without expectation, recognition, or repayment.

I am still not there but … it’s a long journey that takes a lifetime and then some – it’s said that life is short but eternity … is not.



“It is a strange and wonderful fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you.

It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here.

Rilke said, ‘Being here is so much,’ and it is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed.

We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free.” 

– John O’Donohue

Last day at Niroga Institute and being very sentimental about it – even in a state of denial thinking – oh, I will be back – really felt the sense of my back being nudged out the door – hahaha –  GO ON & MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF ALL THAT WE’VE GIVEN YOU (YOGIC TOOLS).  NOW IT’S TIME FOR ACTION. That’s the sense I felt from the Executive Director.  Sweet warm hugs of good bye from the program manager and training manager – Rosalind and Heidi but BK?  No such sentimentality – It’s more – go on – go on – get out there and make a difference if you are really my student – a wise Karma Yogi that he is.

They have a clear vision, a purpose, an intention to what they will be exclusively doing  expressed in their mission statement.  I too will be formulating it, so that my actions are in bettter alignment with my higher Self and each action to be infused with my humble intention.  It’s all possible. In our juggling act among conflicting forces, we can still find that clarity, balance and peace.  In addition to the studies of physiology, anatomy and kinesiology – more dynamic movement based mindfulness practices, Niroga has taught me that while there are many who are hurting, suffering, is a choice.  While there are sometimes no cures, healing is a birthright, available to all.

In gratitude to the teachers and cohorts who I learned so much from.

Quoted by Rosalind Lwin, Health Program Manager @Niroga Institute, this, a quote from a poet I have always loved – what a coincidence or is it?

“Your identity is not equivalent to your biography.

There is a place in you where you have never been wounded,

Where there’s a seamlessness in you, and where there is a 

confidence and tranquility.”  – John O’Donehue

Thank you for building my confidence and for teaching me the tools to find tranquility amidst the distractions and disturbances. There’s that “seamless” grace and strength in all of us if we take a glimpse inward.  By honing our yoga skills through regular practice, we can better tap into that … source… source of joy, source of fearlessness, source of vitality.

To share the above is what gives me … joy:)  Will just have to go back to that “beginner’s mind”, each day, renewed.