Updated: Jul 8
By Barbara Baker-Kuterka
Teaching at Mandarin YMCA and JCA
I first started practicing yoga in 1979, after the birth of my second child. My daughter was 2 weeks old when I serendipitously came across a program on PBS called Lilias Yoga and You. I was always “limber” so yoga came quite naturally to me. The breathing and concentration were similar to techniques I learned through the International Childbirth Education Association. I practiced faithfully every day, bought books and even found a community education class or two. This led to an amazing teacher and to my first introduction to Kripalu Yoga. I took my first teacher training in her home.
The training took place over the course of two weekends. In those days it was required that a student practice with a teacher for at least a year. This is valuable rule, but a different topic for a different day. My family moved from Dayton to Jacksonville, FL. Again, I found myself immersed in self-study. I managed to teach yoga at a community education program, which I loved. Some teachers in training from Kripalu were attending my class. Visiting other yoga classes was also a requirement in getting certification. I was happy to make the connection with them.
That connection opened the door to a Kripalu fellowship here in Jacksonville. Along with my new yoga family, I attended many weekend seminars with Yogi Amrit Desai. I was able to represent our local fellowship at the Kripalu Center for their annual gathering. The Kripalu Center came on board with Yoga Alliance, and teacher training became a more structured curriculum towards the 200-hour certification. Unfortunately, my former training wouldn’t count towards the new certification requirements.
Even without the RYT 200 certification, I was able to continue teaching in community education programs and fitness centers. I figured that I would pursue certification after I retired. Then, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. I had a lumpectomy, then 2 weeks later a mastectomy because they had not gotten all the margins. I went through chemo, radiation, and few reconstructive surgeries. I didn’t want to lose my yoga and I did what I could on my own. Yoga was a health bank that I was able to tap in to. During my recovery, the principal at the school where I taught, told me about a news segment she saw. A local yoga teacher was offering free yoga classes to breast cancer survivors. That teacher was Christina Phipps! I wasn’t able to attend her classes right away, because I worked. I talked with Christina on the phone (in 2006) and she shared her copy of the video YOGA AND THE GENTLE ART OF HEALING: A JOURNEY OF RECOVERY AFTER BREAST CANCER with Susan Rosen. Eventually, I was able to attend one of Christina’s classes (in 2007) and it was wonderful. Christina, was wonderful!
That was my only opportunity to meet Christina face to face. A few years went by, then one day I picked up a copy of Natural Awakenings (a free publication in the area). There was a “call to all yoga teachers” to carry on her legacy. The article gave details of her (then) recent passing. Her family had decided to honor her by creating the Christina Phipps Foundation. I knew this was my calling!
There was one small glitch, I didn’t have 200-hour certification. So in 2011 I finished my 200-hour YTT at the yoga studio where Christina had last taught. A year later, I was attending CPF training. I have been teaching CPF yoga since 2012. In my desire to better serve my students I knew I needed chair yoga training. I received that training from our beloved Beth Daugherty.
I thought I would put off my 300-hour certification until I retired, but Beth encouraged me to go for it. Teaching others is in my blood. I was still working as a full time teacher of students with special needs, cognitive delays and physical impairments. I earned my RYT 500 before I retired from teaching school. So you see fate, the Universe, God, or whatever you believe in had a plan for me.
In addition to CPF yoga, I teach oMS which offers free yoga to the Multiple Sclerosis community. Being a cancer survivor and the parent of a child with MS, these populations are very dear to me. In 2021 the MS Society sponsored the tuition for oMS teachers to train in adaptive yoga and Mind Body Solutions via Zoom. The adult students we engaged with online were from all over the country and as far away as Ireland. They had various forms of physical challenges from prosthetics, paraplegia, quadriplegia, and more. I felt like I came full circle as my yoga and special needs teaching intersected.
In 2021, I am once again teaching CPF at the YMCA in Mandarin after a pandemic break. The oMS classes are continuing on the ZOOM platform. Mine was a circuitous path which revealed itself as a rich tapestry in my life. I am in complete awe of it all. I asked God for a way to serve others and help my family and have been on an amazing journey. I am forever grateful to healing power of yoga in body and soul. I am grateful for the opportunities I have to share yoga with others. It is one of the many joys and passions in my life.
If you have any questions about becoming a yoga teacher with the Christina Phipps Foundation email Beth at: email@example.com
Here is a picture of long time friends Barb and Beth. They met in 2011 at CPF Training