The healing side of yoga |

The healing side of yoga

Inside the Lotus Room at California College of Ayurveda, instructor Mary Thompson discussed digestion in a recent class with 14 Level One students who have come from across the country to study at this unassuming storefront on East Main Street in Grass Valley.

Since its founding by Dr. Marc Halpern, the small college has been quietly developing a national reputation as one of the most comprehensive Ayurvedic schools in the country.

“This is the fullest program I could find in the country,” said Level One student Josh Spence, who moved here from Brooklyn to attend classes. “People in this area are very lucky to have this resource; it’s definitely nationally recognized.”

“It looked like the most comprehensive program,” agreed fellow student Nancy Romaine Zapata, of New Orleans. “It’s not just clinical, but a full year of hands-on ” and what good is theory if you don’t have hands-on?”

Ayurveda can be described as the healing side of yoga. Ayurveda literally means “the knowledge of life” and is a natural health system that focuses on physical, mental and spiritual balance.

The difference between Western medicine and Ayurveda, said Spence, is that conventional medicine generally treats symptoms.

“Ayurveda seeks to go to the root of the problem,” he said.

Clients are seen as unique individuals who hold the keys to their own healing.

“You’re trying to help the patient see they create their own obstacles,” Spence said.

“We put the mountains in front of us that we have to walk around … It’s hard for people to understand that they are in control of their own lives.”

That is what attracted Romaine Zapata to Ayurveda.

“It is about understanding what our needs are so we feel empowered to take care of ourselves,” she said.

While looking at the individual is typical of all holistic healing modalities, Ayurveda’s focus on nutrition as part of achieving balance particularly appealed to her, Romaine Zapata said.

Students at California College of Ayurveda spend six months at Level One, earning a certificate as an Ayurvedic Health Educator. The full program, however, takes two years. The first year is spent on academics. In the second year, students at the college work as interns who see patients under supervision before moving on to a six-month residency.

Classes include coursework in anatomy and physiology, psychology, diagnostic techniques and treatments including herbalism, nutrition and aromatherapy.

Classes can be taken for continuing education credit for registered nurses and for certified massage therapists and bodywork professionals. Students can take classes online, and a series of weekend classes is starting March 28.

For more information on courses, go online at or call 274-9100.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call 477-4229.