Meet Cynthia Rivera

Cynthia Rivera, Warrior Flow School

1- In less than a minute, tell us who you are and why we keep hearing good things about you.

I am an Infectious Disease physician and a clinician educator (Associate Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency, Program Director, Infectious disease fellowship) at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida.   Through my own personal journey of burnout and moral injury, I found my way back to reconnect with my desire to engage in compassionate healing, to create care partnerships with my patients.

Since 2021 I started a well-being and cognition curriculum that has opened spaces of vulnerability, acknowledgement of grief and trauma, of connection, of re-imaging compassionate healthcare.

2- What inspired you, if any, to join the Warrior Flow 200-Hour Yoga Training’s faculty? 

I want to share my story and to shift the narrative around healthcare and engage in deep listening as a physician with other healers to birth a community of people invested in compassionate healing.

I believe physicians should partner with all community healers to make an impact on people’s lives in an integrated way.

3- In simple words, what does yoga mean to you?

Yoga to me signifies one way to experience our union and connection with divinity, or more specifically, a deep knowing that we are all divine and connected to each other and to all sentient beings on this planet.

4- What is the main difference between learning yoga now and when you took your first yoga training?

About 20 years ago, I discovered beginners’ yoga DVDs to become more flexible, and that is all it meant to me! I noticed that I not only felt more flexible, but after each session, I was relaxed, warm, calm and full of breath. I now see yoga as less of a physical process and more of a discipline, a contemplative practice.

5- In your opinion, why is this a key moment in time to learn yoga? 

For me, the tumultuous nature of our time has sparked great curiosity about how to best honor the miracle of being alive, and how to access stillness, compassion, love and affinity during times where it is easy to become reactive and polarized, disconnecting ourselves from a deep knowing that we are all one.

Yoga, practiced in a way that honors accessibility and recognizes all eight limbs of the practice, can continue to return us to our loving nature and allow our actions in life to stem from that nature.

6- Who would you be without yoga? 

I have no idea! I just really credit yoga for introducing me to all contemplative practices and opening a world of spirituality that I had not accessed during my childhood, adolescent and early adult years.

The calm I would feel during my early years of yoga practice felt like home, and I have an understanding of my true nature through yoga practice.

7- Who were your role models? And what pushed you to learn and become who you are today?

My mother, through her own spiritual journey as a woman balancing her career and motherhood, has been such a force in my life. She has supported me throughout my journey to become a physician, my decision to become a mother, my grappling with dissatisfaction at our current healthcare system.

I have had a female physician, Rebecca, as my life coach for 5 years and I credit her guidance with allowing me to create a vision for how I would like medicine to be practiced, for helping me sift through the emotions of physician burnout, for reconnecting me to my healing nature.

8- What were the pivotal roadblocks and challenges you encountered along the way that helped you define your path?

2017 was a pivotal year for me. I was six years into private practice, and I felt stuck, a sense of doom.

The question “is this my life?” hung over me.

Deep sadness ensued. I was unhappy with how medicine was being practiced and I did not see a way out. Working with a life coach helped me understand that we all possess creativity, and that I can create a new path. This year, I am completing a Contemplative Medicine Fellowship at the New York Zen Center with many other doctors committed to partnership with patients, to compassionate care.

9- What can we all do right now to make this world a better place?

I think deep listening can change the world.

Listening to people with compassion, with a desire to understand their world, to engage in collaborative conversations. Listening not to respond but to learn, to allow people to be heard. Reactivity and polarization are dividing us. Despite being electronically more connected than ever in history, our ability to communicate has suffered greatly.

I think loving kindness meditations are great contemplative practices for accessing compassion and allowing deeper listening in the face of emotional dysregulation.