Article by Sara Valfridsson, Editor-in-Chief at Yoga World Sweden
Originally published in Swedish on Yoga World Sweden at yogaworld.se in 2018
This is the thinking of Urban OM’s founders Isa and Neo, who are launching the next generation of yoga therapist training in the autumn.
We live in an age of urban congestion, where we are constantly bombarded with external stimuli demanding our attention. This causes us to become stressed and we can feel isolated and disconnected, even though we are at the same time more connected than ever. We are fed thoughts of impossible perfection: that we should look, act and be a certain way. This has caused Isa and Neo Moreton, who run the yoga and meditation center Urban OM in central Stockholm, to start thinking – and launch a ground-breaking 800 h teacher training in yoga therapy.
We believe that people need to become human again and that this can only happen when we really meet each other with compassion. In this work of change, we believe that yoga teachers have an important role to play – provided they are given the right tools to work with. Since we live in our bodies all our lives and experience life through our body, emotions, memories, traumas and thoughts are stored as experiences in the body.
So it is quite logical that when you start to feel the body, which happens naturally when you practice yoga, you start to access these experiences. Yoga then becomes a natural starting point for deep healing, say Isa and Neo and explain that yoga therapy in Urban OM’s bottling is about deepening the opening of the body that occurs through the physical practice of asanas with the help of therapy, and so wise arrive at deep personal insights.
The training is integrated with Baravara’s (course farm in Dalarna that offers courses in self-awareness and meditation with course leaders from all over the world, ed. note) program:
If you are to be able to work therapeutically with people with integrity, you first need to face yourself, and as the training is largely based on the same principles as those at Baravara, we want you to attend their Door Opener courses (multi-day courses in three stages for you who yearning to open the door to your inner self).
What is yoga therapy? The International Association of Yoga Therapists defines yoga therapy as “the process of using yoga to enable individuals to improve their health and increase their well-being”. More specifically, yoga therapy uses yoga postures, breathing exercises, counseling, and self-reflection to encourage and facilitate the union of mind, body, and spirit.
Urban OM’s yoga therapist training is based on three keys or pillars.
We believe that you need to access both body and emotions for real change to take place. Being in the body is the antidote that can cure the feeling of living outside one’s body that so many people feel today, say Isa and Neo and explain that in Urban OM’s yoga therapist training, they place a lot of emphasis on practicing sensitivity to both the physical like the subtle body and our emotions.
The training therefore includes techniques for stress reduction and the students also get to practice their ability to interpret internal signals about bodily needs.
We work with an evidence-based yoga practice that draws inspiration from Krishnamacharya with elements of tantra and kundalini yoga. Here, both body and mind get a chance to strengthen and heal with the help of the therapeutic qualities of various positions, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.
Here the purpose is to awaken a curiosity for the self and to help the individual get closer to his true truth. Self-reflection, honestly asking yourself the question “who am I?” is a practice that is practiced within basically all spiritual traditions, and at Urban OM the future yoga therapists learn techniques for counseling both individually and in groups.
Dare to break through all thoughts about what we must, should and are expected to do helps us start to see beyond the illusion of our ideas and true transformation can then take place. Because our learned behaviors are as old as ourselves, they can be difficult to see and break through on our own. The value of therapy is to be supported to go beyond what limits us, what does not work and learn new ways. Being real is about being ready to take full responsibility for your life, Isa and Neo explain.
With our mix of embodied (somatic) therapy and Eastern philosophy, we want the yoga therapists we train to have the ability to create a safe place where body and mind can merge so that there is room to dare to live life more authentically, more expansively , say Isa and Neo and explain that they work with both active and more contemplative meditation techniques that draw their wisdom from, for example, Vedanta and Osho.
It’s all about finding a deep connection with your inner self and daring to live your truth.
READ ALSO: At Urban OM you get to be yourself
Isa and Neo are life partners and their path to each other is beautiful if not entirely straight…
Isa grew up with a mother who was depressed and already at the age of 17 got an insight into the world of alternative therapies after a visit to the famous course farm Mullingstorp. Isa’s mother’s path was crossed at this time by Lars Knutssons, which became the starting point for the course farm Baravara, where Isa is also involved today.
When I entered this world, I knew instinctively that this was important and something I needed, Isa says and explains that something happened deep inside her.
It was like turning on a tightly closed tap, so much emotion that was pent up. The liberation of feeling and being in my body was total and there was no going back after that experience.
Isa went on and got a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Stockholm University and began leading groups in personal development in both Sweden and the rest of Europe. The first time Isa and Neo’s paths crossed was in 2003. She was 25 and had already spent close to ten years diving deep into the world of therapy. But there was a challenging process that beckoned: Path of Love.
Neo, in turn, encountered yoga already while he was studying law. But it was only after his whole world and the career in the dotcom industry he was in were shaken that yoga took on an essential role in his life. He was meant to fly from San Francisco to New York on the day of the 9/11 attacks – it was an awakening and he reflected on what he actually wanted to do with his life. The answer that came was yoga. He moved to the yoga mecca of the time: Byron Bay in Australia. After a year in the form of a 1200h teacher training – “I did yoga between six and eight hours every day and lost 25 kilos” – Neo decided to settle in Marbella, Spain where he started holding yoga classes in a tent that persisted with to blow away as soon as there was a storm. This was before Instagram and social media, but despite this he managed to build a following after appearing in Yoga Journal and presenting at major yoga conventions in the US.
Mostly by chance, he ended up on the same Path of Love course as Isa in Germany. “Are you afraid?” she managed to ask the then always white-clad and clean-shaven Neo who, relatively unaware of the demanding process that awaited, answered “NO” – before he crashed straight into the meeting with himself in front of a group of 60 people.
But, as Neo says: “life tends to move in seven-year cycles”, and it would be another seven years before his and Isa’s paths crossed again.
The shattering experience in Germany had sparked something in Neo, and he went on to train as a therapist.
I had built a career in yoga and was able to make a living doing what I loved, but I had started to feel disillusioned and empty inside.Neo Moreton
When everything felt the most pointless – there was no way back to working with yoga in the same way as before, but also no clear way forward – he had an “epiphany” in the form of a Morgan Freeman-like voice that said: ” Now you need to be of service.” That experience led him to New York where he found a way to begin combining yoga and therapy in orphanages in Grenada in the Caribbean through the Reach Within charity he founded.
But back to that decisive meeting between, it would turn out, two soul mates. When the time came, it happened with grace – Neo and Isa bumped into each other at the airport in Mumbai seven(!) years later and have been by each other’s side ever since. And in a similar way that Isa’s mother Gayan met love in Lars Vedam Knutsson and founded Baravara, the meeting between Isa and Neo led to Urban OM seeing the light of day in 2012.
And now in 2019, seven (!) years later, it is once again time for a new project to be born: a comprehensive and innovative training in yoga therapy.
The yoga therapist training is aimed at anyone who is dedicated to personal change in depth and who wants to work with people in both a physical and therapy-based way.
Here the participants get the chance to be guided by experts and learn practical tools so that they can in turn go on to guide others, say Isa and Neo who see the yoga therapist training as a next step in the career for yoga teachers who have a desire to work more individually with his students in a therapeutic, emotional and communicative way, as well as purely physically with yoga positions and breathing.
The training is of course also aimed at those who are interested in taking part in the tools and learning more about a healthy approach to a more satisfying life.
In order to be able to apply for the training, you need to have some form of 200-hour yoga teacher training at the bottom so that you have the basic knowledge of yoga, positions, breathing and alignment with you on the way.
The yoga therapist training will build on with deeper knowledge of breathing, the anatomy of the body and the nervous system. The future yoga therapists get deep personal experience of facing their emotions and learn how to be with people in an emotional situation. They will also learn how we can open up our voice and use it in a therapeutic way, for example with the help of mantras, say Isa and Neo and explain that an important aspect during the training is also how we should look at and work with the body in a more well-functioning and embodied way.
800 Hour Yoga Therapy Teacher Training in Urban OM’s collection: The yoga therapist training is aimed at people who want to work with supporting people to step out of the limiting personality and find the courage to be true. The training combines modern anatomy, the wisdom of yoga, bioenergetics, Eastern philosophy and humanistic psychology. The yoga therapist training enables the students to really understand their clients on a physical, emotional and psychological level.