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Profile of an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist

by Jonathan Ambar

In her 20 years as a yoga teacher, Jolie Parcher, a graduate of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda (KSA), has seen yoga in the West evolve from an obscure Eastern ritual to a physical-fitness routine to a mainstream practice that incorporates body, mind, and spirit. And she has evolved right along with it.

In 1990, when Jolie returned to the United States from Nepal, where she participated in her first monthlong yoga training, the yoga world was much different than it is today. Teaching venues and opportunities were scarce; sometimes she even taught in her mother’s living room—moving the furniture aside to create a makeshift space for her students.

Things started to change in the ensuing years, however, as yoga steadily grew in popularity—so much so that in 2000 Jolie opened her own studio, Mandala, in Amagansett, New York.

But as yoga became prevalent in the general public’s consciousness, it went through, in Jolie’s words, “a weird phase.” She felt the practice was becoming competitive and ego-driven, and as a result people were getting injured. In response, mindful styles became popular, and an emphasis on self-care and self-inquiry developed. People were discovering that yoga could be more than just a purely physical practice; rather, a lot of it is internal, holistic, and inquiry-based.

It was the pull of delving inward, of examining the whole person, that drew Jolie to broaden her understanding of yoga through Ayurveda, an ancient human health science developed in India that offers resources on living in harmony with one’s personal and external nature. She first encountered Ayurveda in Nepal, and when she returned home she continued to engage in studies with teachers who were incorporating Ayurvedic philosophy into their yoga teaching.

So when Jolie received a promotional e-mail from Kripalu almost five years ago announcing its recently formed School of Ayurveda, she knew instinctively that it was something she had to pursue as part of her path, and she eventually graduated from both the Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant and Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist certification programs in 2007. At Kripalu, she fully immersed herself in exploring the three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha), the psychophysical constitutions that affect one’s quality of life, and discovered new ways to seamlessly incorporate yoga, meditation, pranayama, and nutrition to balance the doshas and promote health and well-being.

Jolie’s experience in the KSA was profoundly life-altering. One of the things that has resonated with her the most, and what she has since brought to her teaching, is the importance of deeply listening with unconditional love. “Ayurveda is not about ‘fixing’ a problem. It’s about listening and being fully present with yourself and others,” she says. She also learned about and practiced dinacharya, daily self-nurturing routines. “The KSA training taught me how to move through my day in a more conscious manner. It reinforced the importance of setting time for a meditation and yoga practice, drinking hot water with lemon in the morning, blessing my food—the basics that lead to openness and connection with life.”

Jolie returned home with a broader perspective and a new resolve about the path she wanted to pursue. Since becoming an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist and Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant, she has renamed her studio Mandala Yoga and Ayurveda Center, and has made it her mission to grow Mandala into a community-based wellness space. Along with yoga classes taught by an eclectic staff, Mandala also offers Ayurvedic consultations, Ayurvedic massage, and seasonal cleanses.

Jolie incorporates Ayurvedic principles into her thrice-weekly group classes, empowering her students with a new awareness of how they embody their experiences both on and off the mat. She likes to offer what she calls “little therapeutic lessons,” challenging her students to ask themselves, “How is my yoga practice serving me?” To guide them in exploring this query, she weaves into the flow of her classes Ayurvedic tips on what foods to eat and suggestions on how to combat imbalances such as dry skin and constipation.

Also borrowing from Ayurvedic philosophy, Jolie puts a lot of thought into crafting her classes according to the overall climate and season, and how they affect the doshas. For example, fall is the highest pitta time, when the earth still emanates heat, but it also ushers in the coolness that anticipates winter (a vata time) as both the external and internal landscapes prepare for transition. To remain present during this change, Jolie suggests keeping the body steady, stabilized, and grounded. She sequences her classes with plenty of squats, hip openers, longer posture holds, and slow ujjayi breathing. These Ayurvedic-infused yoga techniques calm pitta, creating an opening that prepares for the coming of the vata season.

Having watched the perception of yoga go from a mostly physical to a more individualized, internal practice, Jolie is excited about the growing role Ayurveda is playing in how yoga is being taught, and she’s committed to spreading the message. The feedback she has received from her students has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, Jolie recently started organizing small study groups for a handful of her students who, inspired by her in-class teachings, want to delve deeper into Ayurveda. Her ultimate goal is to provide everyone who walks into Mandala with powerful tools they can easily take home, tools that will ultimately help them live fuller, more conscious lives.


Note Visit Jolie Parcher online at www.mandalayoga.com.

Jonathan Ambar is a wordsmith and OM-certified yoga teacher who currently serves as an editor at Kripalu.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail editor@kripalu.org.