SYTAR 2017 in Cali

Put a bunch of yoga therapy enthusiasts from all sorts of traditions together for four days and here’s what you get: interesting workshops way outside the boundaries of your own personal yogaverse, lots of synergistic ideas, inspiring lectures, gluteal-loads of research, many, many women, yummy Ayurvedic tea samples, books, yoga bling, and generous helpings of śavāsana.

It was a great four days in Newport Beach and I feel really inspired by the direction that so many people are collectively moving this profession. Sometimes I talk about my big vision for the profession of yoga therapy at conferences and workshops, and sometimes I don’t – so I thought I’d share here.

These are two of the main reasons I’m interested in the yoga therapy profession:

  1. Yoga therapy is a cost effective, person-centered, holistic, biopsychosocial puzzle piece of the solution to the health care crisis.
  2. I train yoga professionals and behavioral health professionals and therefore, I feel dedicated and obliged to create opportunities for these amazing therapists to find employment… easily. But we are not there yet. Conferences like SYTAR make me see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.


Hanging out with my buddy and guru goddess of business coaching Dr Lisa Holland at SYTAR 

Conference highlight

Keeping the above in mind – the highlight of the conference for me was listening to John Weeks speak on Thursday night. This guy has been around for decades promoting the integration of integrative medicine into healthcare. If you don’t know him, I recommend subscribing to his blog. The site is a little 1990s, but if you can get over the lack of slickness, it’s full of great info. 

John talked about the potential of yoga therapy to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic diseases. We have a fair bit of research, especially in chronic pain, that demonstrates the efficacy of yoga therapy. The future is bright – there is tremendous potential for a broader service delivery of these practices. Here’s an article he wrote about yoga therapy. And here’s one of his slides which I found particularly inspiring.

Actually, a lot of his slides were similar to the ones I present at health care conferences and his ideas are similar to some of the articles I’ve published over the past few years. So I was particularly honored when the president of IAYT, John Kepner, asked me if I’d like him to introduce us. I was too starstruck to remember to take a pic with him, but here’s one with Matthew Taylor and Larry Payne. 

My goal is to somehow assist this shift toward health care being centered around more holistic, evidence-based mind-body practices like yoga.

I don’t know what the integration of yoga therapy is actually going to look like, but I do know that yoga can help lots of people who are currently not utilizing its tools. And that’s where collaboration with people like John Weeks is so vital.

BTW, I met someone who had read and enjoyed my recent (almost virally shared) blog post on why I don’t take my yoga hot and sweaty, and she commented on how much she enjoyed it and agreed with me. “Our motto,” she told me about her studio, “is ‘We don’t do hot yoga, we’re cool.'” Ha! I love that!

Other highlights:

The next three days were full of inspiring presentations – including Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed who has researched and instituted a wonderful program for breast cancer survivors in Canada called Yoga Thrive. She’s a researcher at the University of Calgary. Here’s a video you can watch about her program if you want more info.

Yoga Thrive works great in a single payer system like the one in Canada – would be trickier here for sure, but that’s another blog.

Aadil Palkhivala was another keynote presenter – and he wowed everyone with his inspirational stories about the discovery of the actual existence of the mythic Ramayana bridge between India and Sri Lanka and a wild ride full of musings about quantum physics. Here’s a gem I took away from his talk: Yoga is NOT the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, but it REQUIRES the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. Nice.

Here’s Aadil with Dilip Sarkar, the captivating master of ceremonies at SYTAR.

Amy Wheeler gave an inspiring talk – she’s developed a color coded yoga therapy assessment tools – (super simple stuff) based on the tattvas and the gunas. So students can talk about where they are before class and where they are after very easily. Really cool.

Nikki Myers was insightful and authentic offering a presentation comparing yoga philosophy to the 12 steps. Sat Bir Khalsa presented yoga research, always informative and cutting edge. And Julie Carmen talked about her work with yoga therapy mental health clinic for the homeless in L.A.  

There were tons of great breakout sessions brimming with info and practices, presented by yoga therapists from all over the country and from several other countries – it is an International association after all. Here’s a link to the handouts – they are available to the public on the IAYT website.

I got to present on Thursday at the Common Interest Community “Careers with Meaning” about Yoga in Population Health. Here’s a video of a longer version of that talk. 

Next year the conference will be in Reston Virginia (outside of DC) – I hope you can make it. I’m hoping to organize a caravan from the South East, so let me know if you want to come!

California was awesome! My son got to hang with his cool LA cousin.


But it’s nice to be back home in the shire that is Asheville. ;-


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