Student Spotlight: Rachelle Atkinson

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Imagine going all the way to India to do your NTI internship!   That’s what Rachelle Atkinson did. Rachelle is both a Certified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner and a yoga therapist practicing in Lubbock Texas. She is currently continuing her education with NTI to receive her MNT.

Rachelle’s internship was with an organization called Navdanya, which is a woman-centered movement of seed keepers and organic producers who are on a mission to protect India’s biological and cultural diversity. We thought we’d interview Rachelle to learn more about her experience.

Tell us a little more about Navdanya.

Navdanya is a network of heritage seed keepers and organic food producers spread across 17 states in India. Founded by world-renowned scientist and environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya has helped set up 111 community seed banks across the country and trained over 5 million farmers in seed sovereignty and sustainable agriculture. Dr. Vandana Shiva has led worldwide activism against GMOs and biopiracy for two decades. The word Navdanya means “nine seeds”, symbolizing the protection of biological and cultural diversity. Navdanya has also set up a learning center, Bija Vidyapeeth (School of the Seed) on its biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Doon Valley, Uttarakhand, North India, and that is where I interned for a week.

How did you find out about Navdanya and what made you connect with them for your internship?

I had planned a sabbatical to India for the fall of 2014 where I hoped to volunteer at an ashram/orphanage, Sri Ram Ashram in the city of Haridwar, also in the state of Uttarakhand. I visited about my trip preparations with one of my yoga teachers who travels frequently to India and she is the one who told me of Bija Vidyapeeth. She had not been to Bija Vidyapeeth herself but during her travels had met women who had spent time there. She described the women as very “sattvic” after their time at the farm, which is an Ayurvedic term for “balanced” or “peaceful.” Given the farm’s proximity to Sri Ram Ashram of two hours by car (in a country where it can easily take ten hours by train to cross one state) and my own passions for soil, organic food farming and local food, I felt it was serendipitous and that I must go. A short while later I read Barbara Kingsolver’s account in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle of being at Navdanya herself and my own desire to see this amazing place was ratcheted up a notch. I applied with Bija Vidyapeeth for an internship and was accepted. It was only once I was there on the farm working that I realized it might simultaneously count for my internship hours with NTI.

What kind of work did you do for them as part of your internship?

Along with other interns from around the world, I assisted with whatever the day’s work at the farm brought. Our activities included a lot of the manual labor required for sustainable, organic food production such as preparing seed beds with a double-digging technique, sowing heritage grains, herbs and spices, harvesting rice by hand, collecting cow dung, making compost, attending lectures on subjects such as permaculture, learning to prepare traditional Indian cuisine, and prepping meals for a group of about twenty interns.

Tell us about some of the “ah-has” you experienced while you were there.

My main ah-ha was that if I will travel to India to work on a farm and grow food, I must be a farm girl at heart! I’ve known this, but when you travel to a foreign place alone, all familiar context is stripped and you’re left with only the bare truth about yourself! It confirmed to me that those dreams and passions that remain in such new surroundings are the true you, are your heart speaking, and are the only direction there is to follow. My plan for my future definitely now includes being an organic food farmer!

It’s also very comforting to know that we have a brotherhood and sisterhood on the other side of this planet in a country we consider ‘third world’ that are working for the same things we value as holistic nutrition therapists … food safety and democracy, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, organic farming methods, and fresh, homemade, wholesome food and herbs as medicine.

Tell us more about yoga “therapy”.

It’s a Complementary and Alternative Medicine modality that utilizes the various tools of yoga and adapts them in a specialized, therapeutic practice for the purpose of addressing the health disturbances or concerns of an individual. It’s successfully used for not only musculoskeletal issues, but mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, emotional distress, PTSD, heart health, and chronic fatigue or pain.

I love it!! 🙂

What are your future plans once you receive your MNT?

After receiving my CNTP with NTI in the fall of 2013, I worked for a year as the Nutritional Health Coach at the Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage in Lubbock, TX. It was a fantastic year of professional growth, community connection, and sowing the seeds of holistic health and food as medicine. At the end of a year there, I traveled to India. Since returning home in December of 2014 I have been at work again on my MNT, but primarily I am in the work of launching my private nutrition and yoga therapy practice. It is a dream come true to be opening a business that involves both of my passions for healing the whole body. More about my new business can be found soon at www.theradianttable.com!

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