Alumni Profiles

Daniel Pinedo, Traditional Eastern Arts/Yoga, 2010

Daniel graduated from Naropa in the spring of 2010, with a BA in Traditional Eastern Arts, with a concentraion in Yoga Teacher Training. He is currently attending graduate school, studying clinical psychology at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California. He is a yoga therapist, teacher, and herbalist (http://echosamadhi.com). In his own words: "the yoga teacher training program, and the traditional east arts major, are the center of the mandala of contemplative education at Naropa University. Here you learn the history, philosophy, practice, and discipline of yoga presented in an integrated manner by teachers who deploy and transmit their knowledge using only the best methods of storytelling, dialog, and embodied practice."

Arthur Van Siclen,  Yoga Studies 2013

Naropa's yoga program is--true to the subject--well integrated. The various facets of yoga philosophy and practice are interwoven, deeply discussed, and experienced firsthand. The culmination is a profound capacity to facilitate and experience transformation as a student, practitioner and teacher of yoga.  
The philosophical component is far-reaching--from the Vedas and early Upanishads, through the Bhagavad-Gita, Yoga Sutras, Tantras to contemporary expressions.

Part of the success in this integrated teaching method lies in Nataraja Kallio’s approach: he portrayed the subject through story, music, and humor, leading by example, providing metaphors, and giving detailed technical instruction as well as physical adjustments.  Nataraja not only led us into a deep practice, but offered guidance and technique regarding the integration of practice into daily life. 
He was always accessible on a multitude of levels--be it intellectual, emotional, or practical; in class or out. Nataraja is super with-it. 

In the end, Naropa's yoga program was right where I was supposed to be.  I learned a lot, and even more importantly deepened the process of unlearning that is always necessary to interact with the world afresh!

Syama Masla, Yoga Studies, 2011

The Naropa Yoga program gave me faith, dedication and  the support  of community in the practice and study of yoga. I left with the tools needed to move forward with a successful yogini career in NYC! It was thorough in every sense of the word, touching on topics from the physical and energetic practice, to the history and philosophy of the tradition to ayurveda and traditional raga singing. Supported by the wisdom and love of my teachers, I was personally enriched by this program, and now am able to give so much to my own students. I am forever grateful and would do it all over again if time, place and circumstance allowed!

For more see: http://www.stantonstreetyoga.com/tribe/syama-dhyana-masla/

Jessica “Ashira” Greenbaum, Traditional Eastern Arts/Yoga, 2009

The Naropa Yoga program is amazing! I couldn’t have asked for better teachers or classes. The 1,000 hour yoga teacher training is unique; it is deeply grounded in the ancient wisdom of yoga and also tailors to the modern day practitioners of yoga. The program gives students the opportunity to transform their own lives as well as providing the skills to facilitate the transformation of other people’s lives.

Since finishing the yoga teacher training, I have taught yoga in Boulder, CO and most recently have been teaching yoga in Nepal. While living in a rural village I taught free yoga classes to people who do back breaking labor everyday and women and children who are often abused. The age range was from 2- 60 years old. This provided a beautiful challenge to create a class that met their unique needs, and because of the Naropa Yoga program, I was able to meet them. I also have been teaching yoga to children saved from trafficking and child labor and the kids absolutely loved it!

I am eternally grateful, and feel privileged to have been a part of the Naropa Yoga program, which has given me the gift and skills to offer beautiful yoga classes to people all over the world.

Lev Pasikov, Traditional Eastern Arts/Yoga, 2009

I am very fortunate to have stumbled upon the Yoga program at Naropa. I chose this program because I wanted to learn the theoretical philosophy of yoga together with its practical application in an academic environment. The program is unique because it offers you the life-enhancing ancient wisdom of yoga with an emphasis on its realistic application in the modern world. This quality of the program is probably derived through the diversity of its classes and the depth of Nataraja's balanced teaching method, since he has been trained in India for a long while in the guru-disciple paradigm and also studied Western psychology at Naropa. What I enjoyed most was Nataraja's personal anecdotes of his yoga journey in India, his light touch and humor, and his heartfelt transmission in class (often we would start class with Nataraja strumming the tampura and chanting). I think the teacher is what brings the wisdom to life and Nataraja is vibrant and authentic, you can tell the man lives and breathes what he teaches.

Sree-devi Bringi is also an incredible asset to the program, bringing the culture of India into the classroom. She is always buzzing around excited to fill young receptive brains with the abundance of knowledge that is flowing forth at sometimes torrential rates. The program itself allows you to approach and understand Yoga and its evolution in from all angles, but the real gift is the magical touch of the teachers and the intimacy of the community that is created by not only learning but living Yoga day in and out. In terms of preparation for the future, I was able to travel to India and fulfill an internship teaching yoga in Pondicherry, and having returned from my sojourn in India am preparing to teach classes in Wisconsin, even as I miss the inspiring atmosphere of the yoga community at Naropa.

Christopher Edwards, Traditional Eastern Arts, 2008 

What returns to me over and over again from my time at Naropa are the questions, the first being "why teach?" I now find myself in the position of teaching regularly.  Again and again I ask myself this question, and the answer is just another question-"Why practice?" After all if I aim to teach something then how can I help anyone without understanding why I practice the very thing that I instruct?  I had a hunch before Naropa that my mind and my body were more intertwined than either would ever readily admit. I was correct in my hunch, but had no idea how vast and subtle a subject I was about to get into. Oftentimes today I feel that I still don't have a clue how big the space of Yoga is, and this brings me to a third question that pleasantly persists-"what is Yoga?" I learned at Naropa to match questions with practice and practice with questions and feel myself as the process that happens throughout. I am happy to say that this keeps going on today. I currently teach Yoga for the City of Thornton, CO.

Otto Dittmer, Traditional Eastern Arts/ Tai Chi and Yoga, 2007

My time spent at Naropa and within the Yoga program was and still is the most important period in my life. It set a foundation for living that oriented me in a direction that is leading me not only to success in my career as a Yoga Teacher, Wellness Guide and Personal Trainer, but it also embedded in me the qualities of compassion, reflection, kindness, honesty, discipline, humor, vigilance, and more, that continue to grow and help me create the type of life that is aligned with the highest ideals of human existence. My experience at Naropa fuels my choices and desires, and balances my psyche when life becomes turbulent. The Yoga program in particular was so incredibly thorough and prioritized so intelligently that I was able to enter and thrive in the competitive teaching field of the Bay Area within months of graduation. Thorough Asana instruction accompanied by excellent Meditation, Theory, and Philosophy, along with ample opportunity for practice teaching experienced over the course of multiple years make Naropa's Yoga program unique and effective. Nataraja's leadership and presence is one that will never fail to guide those lucky students who stumble into his field towards their personal best. His depth of training and experience and his embodiment adds an indefinable authenticity and lineage to the program that lies at the heart of my personal success and confidence as a teacher. I would recommend the Naropa Yoga program with the highest possible certainty to anyone looking to become an instructor or simply to dive deeper to the essential wisdom of the tradition and art of Yoga.

Emily Seymour, Traditional Eastern Arts/Yoga, 2006

When people ask about my experience at Naropa, I say how amazing it was—that it was exactly what I needed at that time in my life. I am ever grateful to have tapped into the synchronistic quality of education that Naropa provides. The Yoga Teacher Training Concentration was very much in alignment with my path. My first class with Nataraja was memorable for me. His class impressed me so much that I changed majors that same week. Nataraja inspires his students with his dedication and love for Yoga. He truly "walks his talk," and his unique synthesis of Tantra-based Hatha Yoga is both thorough and open for personalization. His skillful transmission of ancient teachings into modern-day application offers invaluable tools for the path of attaining one's highest potential. I also have a heartfelt appreciation for the community that formed through this program.

Since graduating, I have taught extensively in Boulder and around the country. I have worked as an administrator and a consultant, and designed the yoga program at Movement Climbing + Fitness. I am currently launching a business of teaching workshops, retreats and intensives, and aspire to lead my own teacher trainings one day. For more information, please visit mindbodymandala.com.

Lila Ferguson, Interdisciplinary Studies/Yoga, 2007 

What I enjoyed the most about Naropa’s Yoga Program was the community that was formed with my peers as we journeyed together on the same path for several years. The yoga program opens one’s body and psyche in new ways, bringing up challenging material for a student to look at and process. Nataraja Kallio has a strong dedication to teaching and challenges his students to continuously meet their edge, both in class as well as their personal lives. The program goes well beyond academics to provide a powerful and dynamic inner transformation. The Yoga program allowed me to open my body and mind, giving me new perspectives on how I see myself and the world around me. I doubt that any other yoga teacher training program would give such a rich and supportive container while offering students a very experiential and integral understanding of yoga’s ancient traditions and roots. Since graduating Naropa in 2006, Lila has taught yoga and life skills to teenagers and youth offenders in Colorado, California, New Mexico, New Zealand and Fiji. Lila currently leads international trips to the Fiji and New Zealand with high school and college students.

Eric Romano, Traditional Eastern Arts/Yoga, 2006 

The Yoga program at Naropa University is rooted in traditional Indian Yogic schools of practice, while preparing students to apply this wisdom in a modern western context. In my final year of the program I set my sights on becoming a teacher, four years later I am teaching Yoga as a full time job. Every day I draw on the inspiration I gathered from being immersed in the community at Naropa University, most significantly, the teachers in the Yoga program that fueled my fire for a lifelong journey. I am currently teaching in Olympia, Washington.

Danielle Mallet,  Traditional Eastern Arts/Yoga, 2006

The yoga program at Naropa was by far the most unique yoga training I've come across. Nataraja offers a diverse umbrella of information that covers many types of yoga. He pulls together the gems from each tradition and instructs us in a kind yet powerful practice that focuses mainly on deepening the breath. His attention and respect for the depth of silence in a time where most yoga instuctors are filling classes with their mental chatter and music was much appreciated. For me, silence and attention to my breath have been at the heart of my practice. The main gift I have to offer as an instructor, besides knowledge of alignment and making sure people are safe in their postures, is the power of silence/breath. Valuing silence is incredibly uncomfortable. Most of the confidence I have in teaching comes from the knowledge bestowed by Nataraja and my Naropa experience.  

Nate Gilbert, BA Interdisciplinary Studies, (Aikido, Group Dynamics and Education), 1999

Nate Gilbert practices AikidoAs an interdisciplinary student, Nate Gilbert combined classes on Group Dynamics and Education with his Traditional Eastern Arts curriculum to form a degree of his own making. Graduating in 1999, he earned a black belt in Aikido in 2002 and continues to assist Naropa's primary Aikido instructor, Jude Blitz, as a teacher's assistant.

"I find that the supportive and contemplative atmosphere provided in Naropa Aikido classes offer a safe space with an intellectually engaging dimension not found in other training," he says. "It gave me an introduction to theory and concept, without which I would not have considered beginning a martial art."

Nate grew up in New Jersey and Maryland, where he studied theatre and attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. He attended a large state school in Maryland for two years, which was just long enough to see what he "did not want from college."

"I was drawn to Naropa because of the focus on meditation and the alternative nature of the institution," he says. "I began at Naropa as an Early Childhood Education major and, to satisfy a contemplative practice requirement, decided to try Aikido. I was hooked. I took all the offered courses (Aikido I - IV) and began to train at Boulder Aikikai.

"Aikido is good for the ego--in the Buddhist sense. From the very beginning of my training at Naropa, I found Aikido practice profoundly challenging to my constricted, ego-centric tendencies. Aikido practice has a way of illuminating, in a very concrete way, how self-centered one can be, and how that gets in the way of genuine interaction with others. In my first semester, I was amazed to find how frustrated I was when I couldn't make people fall down like my teachers could--I couldn't 'get it right.' I came to see that frustration as a brilliant opportunity to notice my own experience and relax. In letting go and becoming more comfortable with myself in Aikido practice, I found myself more 'successful' outwardly."

Now enrolled as a graduate student in Contemplative Psychotherapy, Nate plans to graduate with his master's degree in May 2008. His final paper is entitled "Crisis and Center; Aikido and the Contemplative Perspective in Emergency Psychiatry," which describes how his ten plus years of Aikido training and work with Naropa greatly inform his current work with Emergency Psychiatric Service at the Mental Health Center of Boulder.

In his future work as a psychotherapist, he has no doubt that his Aikido training and contemplative practice will greatly inform the way he interacts with clients. In his current work with Emergency Psychiatric Service, he regularly evaluates persons in crisis, and the openness he gains from his practice is invaluable to him when being of service to them.

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