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Deepening into Ayurveda: Profile of a Kripalu Grad

From the West Coast film industry to yoga and Ayurveda in Massachusetts.

As Ann Podlozny puts it, “I’m someone who doesn’t take a straight line to get to anything,” and her story is a testament to that. In 2004, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Ann left the West Coast, where she had spent years working as a visual-effects producer for the film industry, to move back east to reconnect with herself, her family, and begin the healing process. She enrolled in a yoga teacher training in Northhampton, Massachusetts, to first and foremost deepen her practice; at the time, she had no intention of becoming a yoga teacher, much less an Ayurvedic practitioner. Her primary goal was to gain strength from the treatments that ultimately beat her illness but were physically and emotionally depleting. Ann’s introduction to Ayurveda occurred when Ayurvedic doctor Robert Svoboda came to her studio during her teacher training for a talk, sparking her interest in this ancient, holistic “science of life.”

Shortly after completing her yoga training in the summer of 2008, Ann came to Kripalu for the first time to surprise her teacher trainer, who was leading a workshop. Outside the Dining Hall, Ann saw a poster for the Kripalu School of Auyrveda (KSA), which sparked something in her. Everything she had learned about Ayurveda at that point had piqued a profound curiosity in her. The moment she returned home, she applied to the KSA, and by September of that year she was enrolled in the program.

The more Ann learned about Ayurveda at Kripalu, the more it made sense to her. “Ayurveda is a huge, beautiful, comprehensive system,” she said. “It’s a natural extension of yoga, and inclusive. It really resonated with me.” The two-year training was an intensive study, with long days of experiential learning. As Ann recalls, those intensives were indeed intense. “I like to say how I was in worse shape at the end of each session than I was in the beginning,” she explains with a laugh.

Ann had a profoundly transformative experience at Kripalu, and those two years were a nourishing and fulfilling time for her. As a yoga teacher, she noticed the connection between yoga and Ayurveda, and she was constantly challenged and inspired by the faculty. “I was so fortunate to have access to all these amazing teachers,” Ann said. “I had the opportunity to study with the brightest and best minds of Ayurveda.” Ann learned the basic tenets of Ayurveda, delving into the ancient philosophy and learning Sanskrit. The breaks between sessions were just as important to her as the time spent on campus, for, as she puts it, “I had time to incorporate Ayurveda into my own life, to figure out how this system worked in my own body.” As someone recovering from cancer, she found deep comfort and strength in what Ayurveda has to offer. “Ayurvedic practices helped release the accumulated toxins from radiation and chemo. Learning which herbs to use, for example, helped me feel lighter, brighter, and less depressed. My bone density increased.”

Ann recalls the most profound moment that occurred during the training: Faculty member Vasant Lad came and did demo on how to treat trauma through hands-on work using marma points, energetic pathways to the inner body. He was looking for a volunteer, and Ann jumped in for the chance. “It’s hard for me to describe what exactly happened the moment Dr. Lad worked on me, but something changed on the cellular level. I felt as if the metabolic structure of my body changed,” she said. It was after that experience that Ann had some deeply personal realizations about what Ayurveda means to her, and what she hopes to convey through it. “I realized how important the relationship between the healer and the receiver is, as well as the importance of the practitioner letting the receiver’s own body do its thing in terms of encouraging the body’s healing process to occur naturally. And I also began to understand the importance of touch, especially a gentle touch. Touch is very powerful, very healing.”

After completing her training, Ann briefly went back to work in the visual-effects field, but she realized that her true calling lay elsewhere. She would periodically return to Kripalu to assist Ayurvedic program, getting more hands-on experience. She also knew that she wanted to incorporate her yoga-teaching background with her Ayurvedic training. This is what moved her to the next phase in her life.

In June 2010, Ann opened Valley Ayurveda, an Ayurvedic center in Northampton that offers a full-range of services, including Ayurvedic consultations and bodywork, as well as yoga classes and workshops. “Yoga and Ayurveda have been so instrumental in my own thriving and flourishing, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share them with the community.” The center has been growing since it opened and the future looks bright. Ann credits Kripalu with giving her the motivation and courage to pursue her passions and find her calling.

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