Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies Yoga Teacher Training : Teacher Nita Spiel’s Holistic Approach Graces Program by Ellen Kershner
For Nita Spiel, yoga is more than just mindful exercise; it is one of the main ingredients of a holistic approach to life. Growing up in an Indian family, she learned that yoga could help her connect to her family, culture and career. Spiel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has been a pediatric nurse for 40 years. She is also a dedicated yoga practitioner, and now trains yoga teachers at the Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies.
Established in 1993, this yoga teacher training program is the longest-running one in this area. It blends Eastern and Western approaches to health, offering students high-level technical and teaching methods. Spiel is drawn to its blending of preventative health practices and healing arts, and is especially interested in applying the principles of anatomy and physiology to yoga practice.
Teachers and Students
The institute is part of Lourdes Medical Center, and after she became a certified yoga teacher she was asked to become co-leader of the yoga teacher training program. Two programs are offered, including a 200-hour and a 300- to 500-hour course. These include supervised practicums and teaching experiences plus support for personalized physical and spiritual growth.
The loving faculty team has more than 2,000 total hours of teaching experience, with backgrounds in special needs education, nursing and physical therapy. Many focus their yoga teachings on health issues like cancer, back pain, heart problems, osteoporosis, pregnancy, depression, anxiety, trauma and pelvic floor health.
The faculty and alumnae are as diverse as the communities they serve. In order to attract the widest range of students, the institute strives to keep costs down while helping students connect with communities. The program supports students that want to serve others facing economic and health challenges, and those that seek any type of faith-based yoga teaching.
“Our teacher training program and our dedicated faculty is committed to teaching our students the importance of stewardship and service, professionalism, integrity, humility and ethical practice,” Spiel explains. “We focus on instructing our students in how to help their future students be safe, grounded and inspired.”
Yoga for All
According to Spiel, yoga has been called “the science of religion,” and is practiced by not only Buddhists and Hindus, but by Christians, Jewish, Islamic and other faith-based communities that believe in universal truths. It is also open to people not affiliated with any religion, but interested in exploring its benefits. “Yoga is a lifestyle that balances physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength, as well as flexibility and stamina,” she says. It helps us find the quiet and clarity that nourishes our true natures, and in turn helps us nourish each other and our communities with compassion and service.
Yoga is unique in addressing the unity of body, mind and spirit. Its benefits are now evidence-based, impacting respiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, mental health and pain management. It cultivates in-drawn attention through breath, movement and meditation. At the Lourdes Institute, the faculty works with students to bring yoga into diverse communities and reaches out to underserved populations to educate and encourage them. Students are motivated to find ways to serve communities in need with the gifts of movement, meditation and compassion inherent in yoga practice and teaching.
The True Meaning of Yoga
Teaching people mindful movement, breath work and meditation encourages them to move more, eat well and be more connected and compassionate with others. It also helps them become better able to cope with stress; this all translates into improved health and a better quality of life. Spiel cherishes the relationships that she develops with her students and clients as she teaches them ways to improve their lives. It is very rewarding for her to hear student comments like, “I remembered my breathing and it gave me clarity to make decisions the rest of my day,” or “I feel so much better and calmer!”
Spiel and the other instructors understand the true meaning of yoga, and it’s not just about moving. It’s all about finding ways to balance the body to stay healthy during activity or rest, lowering anxiety and realizing the importance of connection and giving to others. It combines anatomical knowledge and philosophical background and, like she says, it is a holistic approach to life: “Our program strives to teach yoga training as a lifestyle of physical, mental and spiritual health they can model for their students and the students they will later teach.”
The Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies, that is hosting an open house event from 5 to 7 p.m. on August 1, also has a massage certification program and other courses and programs in addition to yoga teacher training. It began offering community programs in 1979, and its wholistic approach emphasizes spirituality, anatomy and physiology throughout the curriculum.
Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies Yoga Teacher Training is headquartered at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, 1600 Haddon Ave., Camden. For more information, call 856-580-6444 or visit LIWS.org.