Melissa Russell

Foundations & Advanced Program Graduate
C-IAYT Yoga Therapist
Location: Chapel Hill, NC

I definitely feel like I am on the right path. I knew I was interested in yoga therapy and it seemed like the next step for me when I started the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program. I now just love, love, love what I am doing. Learning constantly, working on my own practice, and working one on one with clients is so much fun. I feel like my life has joy and purpose! 

I had lost my dad a little over a year before I started the program. His death really had an impact on my life. I felt like nothing mattered. As my boss at the time said, “it seems like you’ve lost your center.” I ended up quitting my job because it seemed pointless — I was creating higher education materials for students for whom they had little value and for instructors who were constantly complaining about the content, cost to their students, and technological limitations. After some time off, I considered grief counseling and as I was looking at counseling and social work programs Breathing Deeply came up at the top of my search. I had never heard of yoga therapy and started doing research. I considered a number of programs but I have to say it was having a call with Anna that made me choose Breathing Deeply. I thought.. oh, she cares, I’m in:) P.S. It was also the month after the Covid lockdown started and it didn’t hurt that Breathing Deeply was already online!

I have had a committed daily asana practice for about 30 years (at home or in studios). I have dabbled with meditation — on and off for about 4 years. The Breathing Deeply program has helped me expand to the other limbs of the 8 limbed path. I now incorporate breathing and daily meditation into my practice. I am looking forward to incorporating more sutra language into my life. It hasn’t always been easy for me to put the way I see the world into words and I love the way the program encourages students to use the teachings to help clients. It helps me to articulate things that are important to me which is empowering on a personal level.

Moving beyond asana and incorporating chanting, meditation, breathing practices, as well as philosophy are transformations in my teaching and work with clients. I also feel like I have more knowledge of the science behind the practices that are helpful with clients. I have always been a little nervous chanting in front of students and recently I found myself chanting OMs with a client and really enjoying it. So fun.

When I think about the most useful/valuable part of the program for me, the answer that comes to me is “all of it”. I don’t think there was anything that wasn’t useful. Thus, I would say that it’s really Brandt’s ability to distill things to their essence and has really helped me focus on the simplest ways to help people. I am getting my 500-hour RYT throughout a program that has a yoga therapy focus. The program is all over the place with lots of different teachers and philosophies. It’s hard to know what you might do to help someone. Brandt’s teachings are clear and concise. You know exactly what to do and if you don’t you can get on a Q&A call with him and figure it out.

This program has completely exceeded my expectations. I expected to come out with the certification but I didn’t expect to have a teacher who is so clear and dedicated to training yoga therapists. You really feel like this is Brandt’s calling and he is doing his best to help you. I also didn’t expect to find such an amazing community. The Q&As, the social network, and the Meditation Program really make you feel connected to a group of people with similar outlooks and goals.

For one of my case studies, I’ve been working with a young woman who has anxiety. I asked her to put her hands on her belly and OM 10 times. As we moved into Savasana she asked if we could OM during Savasana because she felt it helped her to still her mind. At our next meeting, she said she was using the OM practice a few times a day. To center before an event or during an event when she found herself getting distracted. It’s such a small thing but something I never would have known to offer before. It’s such a gift to find the right practice for the right person.

My plan is to continue to grow a private yoga therapy practice. My main areas of interest of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and pelvic floor health.

For anyone considering becoming a yoga therapy student with Breathing Deeply, know that it is amazing. And, I am sure it would only be more amazing with the options to do the retreats/modules in person, as I have been enrolled through Covid, so our “in-person” modules were moved online.

Info Session

Brandt talks about common questions applicants have about the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program. Tune in to get the full program details.