Seva: The Service of Teaching Yoga
By Joanna Cashman, RN, LMT, E-RYT, MFA
Why are so many people finding an oasis of sanity and holistic health in the teachings of yoga? The pace of modern life has accelerated astronomically in the past 20 years challenging our ability to adapt and keep ourselves sane and healthy. Adaptation is one of our species great survival assets and now, more than ever, we are called upon to find ways to adapt to the demands of modern life. Many of us are called to seva, sanskit for service, inspired by a desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Teaching yoga provides us kinesthetic folks with a great seva opportunity as we all endeavor to adapt to the game of constant change that life is.
The nervous system of the average American is overwhelmed, over-stimulated and exhausted. No wonder stress-related diseases are on the rise. Fortunately many of these diseases are preventable if we invest in our health and commit to holistic health practices. For the past few decades, medical science has acknowledged the therapeutic effects of yoga, and in recent years the link between body, mind and spirit has also been established. Particularly with regard to managing stress, yoga has earned its place as an effective preventive health practice reminding us to slow down and "go parasympathetic".
Go what? Go Parasympathetic! Good health depends on our ability to keep the two branches of the autonomic nervous system in balance. Most of us have an overactive sympathetic nervous system, and an underactive parasympathetic nervous system. Since the immune system operates optimally only when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, and since prolonged stress triggers a long list of physiological changes that are linked to heart disease, stroke, auto-immune disorders and so forth, the need to balance this overactive sympathetic nervous system is clear. The parasympathetic response is an antidote to the "fight or flight" overdrive of our sympathetic nervous system. Here is where yoga steps in to save the day. Regular yoga practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system which explains why we feel so good after yoga class. AHHH love that parasympathetic shift. If you've left a yoga class with that floaty, blissed out feeling, you know exactly what I mean.
My interest in preventive medicine and my search to relieve my own back pain led me to yoga. As an ICU nurse I also needed a way to recover from stressful shifts without turning to overconsumption of alcohol, food or TV. I studied many yoga styles and found that some approaches seemed to increase my pain and trigger competitive feelings. My search led me to therapeutic approaches to yoga that reinforced feelings of self care and loving kindness. I gravitated to kinesiologically sound yoga practices that prevent injury. Over time I integrated basic neuro-developmental movement patterns and acupressure into my own yoga practice. This innovative synthesis of cultures, ancient and contemporary, evolved into a therapeutic approach called Radiant Health Yoga®.
The Radiant Health Yoga® teacher training program has certified over 200 teachers over the past 10 years. These teachers are versatile in that they can adapt yoga to meet the needs of frail elders to young athletes. You don't have to be a "Gumby Goddess" to teach yoga. The curriculum includes an exploration of neuroscience, the divine design of how the neuro-motor system functions. We investigate the Six Patterns of Total Body Connectivity that underlie all movement activity and enrich yoga asana practice. These patterns support optimal brain function, movement efficiency and injury prevention and give aspiring yoga teachers the tools to create this balance in themselves and others. Reinforcing these patterns has helped people with learning disabilities, ADD and brain injury. We also address the energy body by integrating acupressure self treatments that balance the circulation of chi/prana through the energy meridians. Graduates "make a difference" by sharing the philosophy, postures, breathing techniques and meditation practices that promote holistic health. They are taught a vast repertoire of practices and learn their effects on body, mind and emotions. For the first time the Radiant Health Yoga Teacher Training Program is available in Portland.
Many massage therapists, physical therapists, and counselors have taken this training and expanded the services they offer their clients by teaching them a yoga based personalized practice. Individualizing a practice plan can address each clients unique mis-alignment and repetitive stress issues. A personal yoga therapy practice supports clients in being pro-active about maintaining their health and goes a long way in reducing the negative effects of stress on body and mind.
The program includes Yoga Nidra practices which have been adopted by Veterans Administration hospitals across the country for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Our graduates have facilitated Yoga Nidra sessions to returning soldiers, to the prison population and in drug & alcohol rehab centers. Through a MYCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Account) program, spouses of enlisted military personal can receive full scholarships to this years training.
"The Radiant Health Yoga Teacher Training was extraordinary! The quality of teaching - both content and style - was professional and inspiring... I gained considerable knowledge and awareness of approaches to accommodate yoga students with physical limitations", says Beth Whitney-Teeple, a recent graduate. Teeple says she was attracted to Radiant Health Yoga® because it is a "non-denominational" style of hatha yoga that honors all spiritual wisdom traditions and is approved by the national Yoga Alliance.
Because service to others is an essential aspect of yoga, the call to teach yoga is sometimes called seva, Sanskrit for "service". For those who are so inspired, teaching yoga is an excellent means of following the path of seva. It enables us to really be of help to others in improving the quality of their lives. Teaching yoga puts us in touch with people on a deeper level and gives us the opportunity to support their holistic health goals. If the desire to serve others is blossoming in your heart, becoming a certified teacher of Radiant Health Yoga® may be in your future. As we serve others, we serve ourselves, deepening our own self awareness and supporting our own health as we walk our talk. Teaching yoga is about creating a healthier culture for today and tomorrow. By teaching yoga, you will be helping usher in a better society, weaving threads of connectivity from ancient sources to contemporary times. Teaching yoga is a privilege and a joy. Visit to learn more.
Author Joanna Cashman is the director of Radiant Health Wellness, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that provides holistic health services in yoga, massage and dance. She helps people of all ages and abilities learn to "go parasympathetic"and offers individual yoga therapy sessions, group classes, workshops and retreats. For more information about the Radiant Health
To schedule an appointment call Joanna (360) 870-6093