Kripalu Guest Stories: Mike Elliff
In 1996, a local yoga teacher taught a class at the metaphysical bookstore I managed. In that first class, I had a moment during a spinal twist that changed the entire course of my life. I thought, “Wherever this woman has been, I need to go.” She had recently returned from being a resident at Kripalu, attaining her yoga teacher certification. Two years later, I planned on going to Kripalu to further my studies as a massage therapist. In the process of planning the trip, I was diagnosed with cancer.
I put off treatment so I could attend the monthlong massage training. At Kripalu, the symptoms worsened and spread, necessitating a visit to the hospital. Back in class, I felt sad and frightened, resulting in a meltdown during an afternoon program session. Our program director, Peggy Schjeldahl, invited the group to surround me, holding the space for my emotions. She asked, “Mike, what do you need?” I responded that I needed a cure.
Two days later, Peggy came to class with a New York Times article about a new therapy just approved for my condition. After I returned home, I began this treatment—and it worked!
Five years later, I was diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After six months of intensive chemotherapy, I was depleted and weak. I decided to return to the place that had held the space for my healing process. Having been off work for six months, I decided to pursue this goal by registering for the monthlong Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training. An extended stay at Kripalu would offer fresh mountain air, a nutritious diet to rebuild my body, and daily yoga to regain my strength. I was granted a scholarship, which I vowed to repay, packed my mat, and off I went.
Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training was the highlight of my life. The methodology at Kripalu truly makes you a teacher!
A year ago, I offered a yoga nidra experience at the university where I teach, and ended the session with a quote from Richard C. Miller: “Whenever we are serving another, we are serving our Selves, and whenever we are serving our Self, we are serving all others.” This became my practice, and inspired me to apply to the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.
Thinking about the scholarship given to me several years ago, and having since repayed the funds allotted to me so someone else could benefit, I felt inspired to create a fundraiser for the Kripalu School of Ayurveda Scholarship Fund. I invited local and national yoga teachers, vendors, and retailers to donate presents. The response was humbling. Instead of a raffle, everyone would get a gift for their donations.
I challenged my fellow students to match my $1,000 donation by donating $20 in exchange for one of the donated items. If the goal was met, another thousand would be included. One student was inspired to donate $1,000, sending the total to $4,000. Then we challenged the Board of Directors to match the funds for a total of $8,000. This grass roots effort raised enough money to offer four scholarships to those whom might not otherwise be able to attend the Foundations of Ayurveda program.
Now, my health is great! I’m at the nine-year anniversary mark, and cancer-free. Kripalu is my medicine. I continue to be inspired by the faculty, curriculum, and my fellow students.
—Mike Elliff, yoga teacher and student, Kripalu School of Ayurveda, St. Louis, Missouri