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English: Bhagavad Gita, a 19th century manuscr...

English: Bhagavad Gita, a 19th century manuscript. North India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About my studies at SVYASA

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to complete both the 250-hour Teachers’ Training and 1,700- hour Certified Yoga Therapy residential programs at  SVYASA, India.

VYASA is an ashram, a yogic sciences university, a health rehabilitation centre (with 163 beds) and a yoga research institute which has published forty-five research papers in national and international research journals on the efficacy of various therapeutic applications of yoga. Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana has ongoing collaborative research projects in the United Kingdom and the United States. Presently VYASA is collaborating with MD Anderson Cancer Centre (U of Texas) on the effects of mind-body interventions on the health of cancer patients. The residential six-month Certified Yoga Therapy Course covers various health conditions and VYASA’s philosophy, research and teaching methods.

Areas of study include: asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), kriya (purification methods), traditional and specialized meditation practices, western and yogic anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Study at VYASA also covers ancient Indian scriptures and philosophy: the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vasistha, Yoga Pratipika, and Puranas.

VYASA is unique in that it is the only yogic sciences university which has an on-site health facility, ArogyDhama, where students, under the guidance of medical doctors, provide individualized care to patients at the facility. Students instruct private and group therapy classes and give lectures on various applications of IAYT.

Hands-on experience includes application of yoga therapy for many conditions: asthma, arthritis, anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, back pain, and gastro-intestinal disorders. Yoga therapy is also applied in prenatal care and gynecological conditions, multiple sclerosis, paralysis, cancer, epilepsy, migraine, manic-depression, schizophrenia, and developmental disabilities.

To complete the program successfully, the student must pass a final examination and complete a 400-page dissertation featuring fourteen case-studies from personal observation, teaching and interaction with patients.

I found this program challenging in many ways. As a Westerner, it was hard to understand the mind-set and reasonings for certain approaches to yoga, running an ashram, and to daily life, in general! But that was also why I chose to study in India – to learn about another way of living. Some of the younger teachers taught by rote – not with heart. However, I was fortunate to have 2 yoga teachers who were excellent (Sanohil was one of them) and to find a mentor with Sarang Patil, who taught about the body as well as many yoga approaches to life, including the ancient practice of Shivambu (Urine Therapy). I learned the Bhagavad Gita with the help of ‘Didi’, a yogini ‘nun’ who lived, simply and in gentleness, in a hut at the ashram. Professor Swami, and many other senior teachers delved into the theory, history and stories of yoga, the Vedas, Yoga Vasista, and many other ancient texts, and this was incredibly valuable for me.

I am very grateful for this authentic experience of study in India. When combined with the Western approaches I’ve studied, I think I’ve found both a stable grounding and beautiful inspiration.