“When I was first introduced to the empowering teachings of Tantra, my heart burst open and I recognized my true nature as joy. I relaxed profoundly and as the tension and stress drained out of my body, the light of the universe filled every cell of my being. For the first time I was happy. I came home to my heart and found what I was searching for all along – my very own self. I shifted from living from my head – trying to achieve something, accomplish something, or prove something – to my heart, where I took delight in simply savoring the miracle of life. I’m grateful for all that I’ve been given and for the opportunity to serve others in their journey of the heart.”
Todd Norian, E-RYT 500, YACEP, internationally acclaimed yoga teacher, founder of Ashaya Yoga, author of Tantra Yoga: Journey to Unbreakable Wholeness, A Memoir, musician, acharya in Blue Throat Yoga, and a Kripalu Legacy Faculty, teaches classes, workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings both live in-person and online, for students and teachers all over the world. A student of yoga since 1980, Todd brings a depth of inner strength, devotion, vulnerability, and an unapologetic sense of humor to everything he does. Todd seeks to awaken others to their inherent potential for healing and joy by integrating the body, mind, and heart through Ashaya Yoga and meditation.
For more than 28 years, Todd has taught workshops, immersions, and teacher trainings internationally, including the U.S., Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Sweden, Greece, Israel, and Japan, bringing the integration of body, mind, and heart to hundreds of practitioners. From 1996-2001, Todd was certified in Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy and became a program director, training other therapists. In 1997, he began studying Anusara Yoga. Over the next 15 years, he became a Senior Certified Anusara Teacher and Teacher Trainer, and was introduced to many Tantric scholars,
including Douglas Brooks, Paul Muller-Ortega, Bill Mahony, and Sally Kempton.
In the early 2000’s, Todd was a frequent presenter at the prestigious Yoga Journal conferences, the Omega Institute conferences, and on yoga cruises. His band, Shakti Fusion, was chosen to be the house band for one of the Yoga Journal cruises. From 2008-2011, Todd was a featured presenter at the International Yoga Conference in Köln, Germany.
In 2011, Todd was initiated into Neelakantha Meditation, by Tantric scholar Paul Muller-Ortega, founder of Blue Throat Yoga. Todd later became an Acharya (distinguished teacher) and is authorized to impart the teachings and initiate others into this transformational practice.
In 2012, Todd founded Ashaya Yoga®, an alignment-based, heart-centered practice which uses the five elements and the teachings from the Nondual Tantra tradition to build strength and flexibility while giving students access to a universe of power within. He is a guest teacher at many renowned spiritual centers and conferences including Kripalu Center, Omega Institute, Esalen, and the Toronto Yoga Show. As a classically trained jazz musician, Todd created several music albums for yoga and relaxation, including the world-renowned Bija: Soothing Music and Mantras for Yoga and Meditation.
My Heart Journey:
I started piano lessons at the age of eight and as I look back, it was music that led me to yoga. I think it had to do with the ear-training and sensitivity that goes along with learning music that gave me the skill and interest in hearing nuance and subtlety. And I was good at it. I was talented and I enjoyed it. I have my dad to thank for the gift of music since he played the trumpet and was in the University of Michigan marching band when he was in college. I grew up hearing him practice scales at home and he had a jazz orchestra where he played for parties and celebrations that spiked my interest in bands. I used to love listening to his band practice at home and even got to sit in on piano once or twice.
In high school, I applied to many colleges for music and went to the University of Michigan to study classical piano performance. When I got there, I soon realized that the competition was fierce. I was no longer the best in the school like I was in high school. This triggered a feeling of unworthiness and lack that followed me throughout my entire life. My core wounded identity of shame would become the springboard to my search for meaning that inspired my spiritual journey.
When the University of Michigan didn’t work out, I chose to follow my heart and transfer to the University of Miami where they had an excellent jazz program. I loved studying and playing jazz. But the pressure was intense. I would practice 8-10 hours a day, yet I never made it into the top jazz band. I remember experiencing a lot of stress to succeed within a highly competitive environment.
Across the street from the university was a yoga studio. A year or so earlier, a friend of mine had told me about yoga but I had never tried it. Because I heard it was good for relaxation and stress reduction, I decided to give yoga a chance.
Having never done yoga before, my body was super stiff, and I felt pain everywhere. During my first class in 1980, I endured what seemed like an endless torture session and couldn’t wait to get to śavāsana (corpse pose) for the final relaxation. When I stretched out on my back, an overwhelming feeling of peace and relaxation flowed through my body. Suddenly, tears began streaming out of my eyes. I had no idea why I was crying. It was the most extraordinary experience, difficult to put into words.
I felt as though a blanket of grace was draped over my previously aching body. All my pain was now released, and I felt open and spacious. I felt free inside, as though I was floating. I felt complete acceptance of myself as if for the first time, with no pressure to become anyone special or accomplish anything. I was okay just being me. I had come home to myself. Later, I realized that this was my very first experience of pure worthiness for no reason at all. As the tears continued to stream down my cheeks, pools of water began to form in my ears. I laughed out loud because it was so absurd, and then for the next few minutes I alternated between laughing and crying. I couldn’t control what was happening, but the experience was so pleasurable that I didn’t want it to stop.
A couple of years later in 1982, the same friend who told me about yoga invited me to visit him where he lived, at a yoga ashram in Pennsylvania. It was the original location of the Kripalu Center, which back then, was a guru-run yoga ashram. I went for 10 days and stayed for 13 years! My heart opened to such a degree that it transformed my whole life. I dropped out of the fellowship I was offered at University of Miami for my masters program in jazz education and composition, and I moved into the ashram.
In 1983, I helped move the Kripalu community to their current location in Stockbridge, MA. Soon I was trained to lead yoga classes and workshops, then was recruited to assist the Yoga Teacher Training. I quickly became one of the directors of the training and trained more than 1000 Kripalu teachers over 11 years.
As one of the longtime residents of the ashram, I was promised lifetime care which fueled my fantasy of living the rest of my life at Kripalu. But in 1994, the same year I married my former wife (who also lived at the ashram), the Kripalu community shattered, due to a guru scandal. This event was a turning point for my spiritual growth. I had been a devoted follower and the news of this sex scandal both surprised and devastated me. I was distraught with feelings of betrayal, anger, fear, grief, and disillusionment.
What saved me was the yoga. The yoga had always been true for me. I continued with my practices and began traveling and teaching workshops and trainings all around the US and Canada. Then in 1997, I began studying Anusara Yoga. Over the next 15 years, I became a senior certified teacher and teacher trainer. What Anusara gave me was a very effective alignment technique and a philosophy that was uplifting and empowering. I was introduced to many Tantric scholars, including Douglas Brooks, Paul Muller-Ortega, Bill Mahony, and Sally Kempton. I’m so grateful for all that I learned in Anusara. But in 2012, there was another scandal! The founder was called out for committing all kinds of deceptive and abusive behaviors and the community broke apart. At that point, I was beside myself. To go through a second scandal, loss of a teacher, and loss of a community was almost too much for me to bear.
But again, it was the practice of yoga that was true. I poured myself into my practice and opened my heart for guidance. It was then that I received a clear message to brand my own method of yoga. In September 2012, Ashaya Yoga was born!
As I look back on the challenging journey of my heart, I bow with gratitude for all that I had gone through to come to the place of inner knowing that who I am and what I have to offer is not only of value to others, but desperately needed in this world. My deepest intention is to encourage others to follow their heart, pursue their dreams, live to the fullest, and to bring more peace, joy, love, and laughter into this world.