Antonio Aragona AD, sometimes known as “Vishnu” or even Dr. Antonio, has dedicated his life to helping others transform from victim to victor so that they can awaken to a hidden potential of healing and guiding them on their paths to a better life. He helps them to reconnect with their health through their bodies and hearts by providing a safe foundation that involves exploring the potential of emotional and physical wounds that have affected others’ health incorporating a holistic model of body-mind-spirit medicine.
Antonio’s life has been all about transforming and transcending his own childhood traumas that rendered him hopeless and helpless at times. It was his life’s purpose to transform it all so that he can be a lighthouse for others and show them how it’s possible to go from pain and suffering into health and happiness. Growing up as a first-generation Italian immigrant family he learned household responsibilities, the art and science of gardening, and healing through compassion as he witnessed friends and family around him struck by grief. During this time he was introduced to massage at age five, through his stepfather, and he learned old-world Italian herbal remedies. He began developing an interest in healing sciences at a young age. Antonio’s childhood was anything but “rosy.” He was a victim of sexual, physical, emotional/mental abuse. Poverty on so many levels was an issue, and not just financially. This went on for years (between the ages of 4 and 17) and because of it his self-esteem was shredded to pieces and he developed numbness to his physical pain from all the abuse. Physically wrought, due to such an environment, coupled with a less than optimal diet, Antonio suffered from chronic digestive problems. He spent most of his years detached from his body. By the time Antonio became a teenager life seemed beyond bleak and meaningless, filled with rage and mistrust in the world. He suffered from anxiety and depression and survived a few suicide attempts.
Yet, “something” inside him persevered. He had this sense that all of this pain could not be real and there had to be a way to finding peace. Antonio’s second oldest brother was the sole positive influence during his childhood. Throughout this time, he would come and save him from the excessiveness of these abusive experiences. At the age of 16, he was told by this brother that “just because 16 years of his life was ruined that he had the rest of his life to change it.” Antonio couldn’t wait to take himself away from home and to figure out how he could do his life differently. He wanted to understand the mind and learn why people behaved as they did. Antonio enrolled in a psychology class in high school and fell in love for the first time with this subject, so much so that he eventually made his way to SUNY Purchase College and received a Bachelor’s in Psychology. It was because of sheer grace that his life began to re-inspire him after years of feeling so much pain, emptiness, anger, and detachment. His roommates’ girlfriend came from California and spent a lot of time helping him to reconnect through her loving nurturing touch. This friendship eventually encouraged him to pursue a certification in massage therapy. While at SUNY Purchase, she strongly urged him to take yoga and this is where the journey of yoga began for this “angry Italian boy from the Bronx.” Antonio fell in love with yoga and all because of his first yoga teacher who was 87 years old (but looked like she was in her 50’s.) He remembers that first day of class saying that he wanted what she exuded from her being, which was radiant.
After graduating, Antonio had a lot more work to do on himself to really dive deeper into his old wounds and begin to transform them so that he could live life to his fullest. He worked at New York Hospital/Cornell Medical University’s Dermatopathology Laboratory processing biopsies. During this time, he completed his massage training (through Anjanette Decarlo) and ventured into the Himalayan Institute in Manhattan to learn the basics of meditation and was introduced to this profoundly designed system of therapeutic healing known as Core Energetics. He began therapy and was given the diagnosis of “Affective Disorder with Mixed Emotional Features and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Antonio was emotionally stirred during the ’90s when he learned the devastating effects HIV/AIDS was having on so many people. Because of this, he became, certified by NYC in HIV/AIDS education, counseling, and testing. This led him to pursue a career as a social worker and provided services to clients that had HIV/AIDS. Antonio witnessed many related deaths to this chronic disease which ignited the desire to find a holistic approach to complement his current education was a must. To support this, he obtained certifications in Reiki, Shiatsu and preliminary training in Chinese Medicine. In 2001, while completing his shiatsu and holistic training in New York City, Antonio met the love of his life, Luis, who lived in Philadelphia.
A month before graduating, Antonio was affected by 9/11 in New York City and this, along with his developing relationship with Luis, prompted him to relocate to Philadelphia a few months after. He continued his career as a social worker, working for Child Protective Services while continuing his holistic training by receiving his yoga teacher certification through Yoga On Main. In 2003, Antonio and was introduced to Ayurvedic Medicine (the sister and medical side of Yoga) as part of his yoga training, and yet again fell deeply in love. Antonio felt that Ayurvedic Medicine was the complete comprehensive approach to healthcare and healing that tied together all his prior training. Ayurveda looks at the whole person by approaching their healing by putting them under one umbrella of body, mind, and spirit. It was also during this time that he met his teacher Amma who initiated him and gave him the name “Vishnu.”
Antonio continued to integrate his yoga and Ayurveda education and training by night while being a social worker by day. His passion continued to grow and he noticed how greatly Ayurveda and yoga could help everyone including his own partner, who had been living with HIV for many years. Luis’s health declined and had little benefit from western medicine. Because of this, Antonio introduced his partner to his first Ayurveda teacher who was able to help Luis to regain some of his health. Unfortunately, his partner decided to relocate out of state, never followed up with Ayurveda, died a couple of years later. Antonio grieved heavily from his loss. After seeing how a little bit of Ayurveda went a long way in his partners’ health he was passionately motivated to continue his studies in Ayurveda. Along this journey of Ayurveda, one experience led to another and Antonio obtained further training and certifications through the American Institute of Vedic Studies, Ayurvedic Institute, Kerala Ayurveda Academy, California College of Ayurveda, and Hindu University of America, where he earned his Masters of Ayurveda degree.
In 2009, like a “mouse following cheese” and after so much extensive personal healing with shamans, therapists, rebirthing, flower essence sessions, twelve-step groups, and education, Antonio followed the direction of his inner guidance. He retired from social work to dive full force into the Ayurveda/Yoga Practice full-time. Consequentially, he wanted more training in the western model and decided to enroll in LaSalle University’s Pre-Medical Program taking a year and a half of courses.
Antonio continues to see patients in his private clinical practice out of his home office. He offers workshops around the Philadelphia area, lectures through some universities on occasion, teaches private yoga sessions. After a strict outlined process created by NAMA (National Ayurveda Medical Association), based on his education, training, and clinical background he has met the requirements as both an Ayurvedic Doctor (AD) and Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist (AYT.) NAMA is the leading Ayurveda organization responsible for creating the standards of what it means to practice Ayurveda in the USA. By no means is the AD to be confused with becoming a medical doctor (MD) which requires a whole other level of training and licensure. Antonio is currently enrolled in an Ayurveda program that has a more classical, scientific, and clinical foundation in Ayurveda through AYU Academy. Additionally, Antonio completed an advanced clinical Ayurveda certification program through AYU Academy, becoming certified as a Svasth Acharya, and is now entering the next level of advanced clinical training through the Arogya Center, with Vaidya Kashyapa, as part of the Ayurvedic Physicians Program. These programs offer a more classical, scientific, and clinical foundation in Ayurveda.
Antonio offers volunteer services through Amma.org, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, and is also the Head and Director of a volunteer HIV Social Group in Philadelphia. He has been interviewed and cited by several thesis projects.
Antonio’s passion is to assist and support others in their own journey toward balance by helping them to discover that all we are in search of is that which already resides within us. His life is and has been dedicated to serving others by helping their growth and transformation; supported by the power of nurturing touch. Through his experiences as a social worker, his own personal process, and witnessing patients, close friends, and loved ones suffering from ailments, chronic illnesses, and emotional/mental imbalances, Antonio was compelled to exploring life to its fullest. He lives Ayurvedically and incorporates yoga in his personal daily practice as he maintains his own health requirements.
Antonio after having undergone the dark night of the soul was able to rise like the phoenix and transmute trauma into triumph; making impossibility become possible. From his desire for death to his embrace of life, Antonio adamantly feels that healing begins from the inside out. He understands the importance of connecting to resources that can help lift the heavyweight of a traumatic life. He has discovered from the first-hand experience how yoga, Ayurveda, and all that he has learned and continues to learn from both western and eastern systems of medicine and philosophy, how all these things are instrumental in is his own recovery from trauma, as well as his own personal and successful management of HIV. Antonio views the quality of his own life and his achievements as a testament to the work that can be done and of the potential that exists in all of us who desire to live a full life with health and happiness despite our past. This is what Antonio has to offer to all that cross his path. His deepest desire is for everyone to live life as fully and happily as possible.