Meet Jivana Heyman

Meet Jivana Heyman

Tell us a bit about yourself… 

I’m a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, and I love to demystify the yoga teachings and show people that everyone can use the practices of yoga to find more peace in their lives. Accessible Yoga is the organization I founded over a decade ago, and our community is dedicated to welcoming everyone into the practice. I live in Santa Barbara, California with my husband and we have two grown children who still need a lot of support. I love teaching yoga and writing about it. In fact, I just published a new book, The Teacher’s Guide to Accessible Yoga: Best Practices for Sharing Yoga with Every Body.

What does a typical day look like for you? 

I start by making breakfast for my husband, and then I go sit for meditation. I usually do some teaching online and answer emails. Then I go for a bike ride to the beach and go for long walks looking for sea glass. I usually do some asanas later in the afternoon. Teaching yoga in any format makes me happy. That includes creating posts and reels for social media or writing about it. I also love working with my community, staff, board members, volunteers and anyone who is interested in making yoga accessible. 

How did your yoga journey begin and what inspired you to become a yoga teacher

My grandmother taught me yoga when I was a young child. She was practicing yoga in the 1960s in LA and inspired me through her dedication. Then, in the 1980s I came out of the closet as a gay man and became an AIDS activist when my community was facing the AIDS epidemic. At that time, I went back to yoga to address burnout and the deep grief I was experiencing as my friends were getting sick and dying. I finally became a yoga teacher in 1990 so I could share yoga with my community of people with HIV and AIDS. 

What inspired you to specialize in your practice?

As I started teaching yoga for people with HIV and AIDS, my students showed me what they needed. Accessible Yoga was born from their wisdom and generosity. Over the years,  I encouraged many of them to become teachers themselves, and my teacher training programs were created for them. In 2015, I organized the first Accessible Yoga Conference in Santa Barbara, California, and since then I’ve focused a lot of energy on helping to support other yoga teachers who are working in this area.

How have you seen yoga benefit your students?

There is nothing more compelling than teaching yoga and seeing the way it transforms people’s lives. Yoga offers a pathway back to ourselves. It doesn’t exactly give us peace, but it removes the obstacles to us experiencing the peace that is our essential nature. Yoga offers techniques for reducing our suffering, and for that I will be eternally grateful. 

What is your favorite quote or life motto?

That’s a hard question because I turn to the yoga teachings daily for inspiration and to support me in living a peaceful serviceful life. One of my favorite teachings is from the Chandogya Upanishad, which is approximately 2,500 years old:

The little space within the heart is as great as this vast universe.

The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun, and the moon,

and the stars; fire and lightning and winds are there; and all that

now is and all that is not: for the whole universe is in It and It

dwells within our heart

What’s coming up for you in 2024?

I love seeing the ways that Accessible Yoga is growing around the world, and I’m excited to get back to in person teaching. For the first time in years, I will be leading a few Accessible Yoga Trainings in person, including programs in Italy at the end of April and in London in early May! I’m also working on my fourth book, which makes me very happy. 

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