Monday, November 12, 2012

Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training ~ Week 4/E.S.R.I.T.

To say that the last week of school was hectic would be an understatement.  As I think back on that week I can't believe the range of emotions that my classmates and I went through.  The last Sunday-Friday was packed with so much that it nearly broke folks.  Well, I say that loosely, but it was intense.

We started the week last Sunday with posture clinic where we learned some of the last postures in our manual and gathering information about the final written exam, which was the next day.   All along we were given practice tests that corresponded with what we were learning each week and we were assured that we had all the info we needed to pass the test and pass it well.  I have to admit that I wasn't too worried about it, but some folks had lots of anxiety.  So it was challenging to be in that vibe.  To say that Sunday was tense around the place is an understatement.

After a full days work, we were given the last section of the day to study.  I didn't push too hard because I knew I would pass. I know that might sound like my ego talking, but I really believed that they had set us up to win. Also, I leaned on my nyama Ishvar-Pranidhana (Surrender) as I went into the test. That doesn't mean I didn't study, it just meant that I did all I could and I was leaving the rest to the Creator.

On Monday after morning Sadhana and breakfast, we took our written exam.  I felt really good about it. I knew that I probably got a few wrong, but I was not going to beat myself up about it.  After all the tests were turned in, there was no time to think about how we did as we were right back in posture clinic getting ready for our third practice teach, which was the next day.  No rest for the weary.  On the upside, when we came back from lunch we found out that we all passed the test!  Yeah!  On to the next challenge.

Practice Teach 3
As I told you before, I'm a crammer.  By Monday night I had written a few things and had a few ideas for my class sequence. On Sunday I found out that I was going last for my teach on Tuesday.  With this in mind I thought I would make the class gentle since it would be the last of the day for my group. At practice teach prep the staff gave us the information for what to expect the next day and then  let us go early to work on our teach.  Some folks stayed in the room together, but  I went to the sauna. I needed some head space to that I could put my plan together.  I sat in the sauna for a while and was able to put most of my plan together in my head. After the sauna, I headed to the sanctuary where I always studied and pulled my plan together.  I wrote it out, walked it through for myself, said a prayer and headed to bed.

Tuesday was big on so many levels. It was election day and practice teach 3.  I couldn't even think about the election until the day we done.  I was in a great auditam group for the third time around.  Peter, Laura, Ray and I really connected.  I was really excited to work with them and to be a support for them.

The day was long.  After supporting my group it was finally my turn to teach.  By that time I wasn't nervous; I was really just ready to go.  I centered myself, a passage was read to the whole class and then it was time to teach my first 1 hour class.  So how did I do?  I knocked it out of the park!  There were certain pranayams and postures that we were required to do and I got everything in.  There is so much to think about when teaching, but I just took a breath and let spirit take over. It was like nothing else. Well actually it was like singing.   I made it though with ease and I am so thankful. When I finished I thought I would have a feeling of relief that I was over, but I really just felt high like I was floating.  I am so looking forward to teaching again.  Susan, the staff member who worked with me during my last teach, gave me some great feedback and we even set goals for my next class, which will be back in New York.  I love that it feels like the mentoring continues. It was such a great day. Amazing!

Tuesday night was a reason to celebrate on so many fronts.  We passed our written exam, we all really rocked our last practice teaches and many of us we were hoping to re-elect a president.  So for the first time since I arrived there, I went out to a bar.  I didn't drink because I hadn't touched anything for nearly a month and election or no election we still had to be at sadhana at 6:30am.  We went to a cool spot in Lenox to watch the returns, but the funny thing is that folks started to head back to Kripalu about 9 or 9:30pm because that was our bed time.  At that time Romney was up a bit in the electoral vote and some folks were really worried. I, on the other hand, was not.

I have to tell you that I was never really worried. Maybe I should have been, but I really wasn't. I knew the president would be re-elected.  There was just something in my spirit that said yes.  At the time we left the bar, the west coast hadn't even come in. I knew that the whole left was going to light up blue. Yes there was the question of Ohio, but for some reason I didn't think that would be an issue either.

When we got back to Kripalu, I stayed up. I got on my computer and just checked the internet and jumped on facebook to keep up with what was going on. The only other folks that stayed up with me were Monica and DeAnna. Oh Ben and Brooke were up too, but they were in the dining room and we were in the cafe.  Monica, DeAnna and I were sitting and chatting when at about 11:45pm a woman came dancing down the hallway saying that Obama won!  What??!! So we logged on to CNN and there it was.  I also looked on facebook and everyone was in agreement. It was over and before midnight!!! I wanted to go wake up my roommates, well at least the ones who cared, to let them know, but I choose not to. They would know soon enough.  So then we waited for Romney to concede so that the president could speak. By the time the president re-elect spoke, Monica had called it a night because it was almost 2am. DeAnna and I knew we would be hurting the next day, but we had to see it.  I'm so glad I stayed up. I was hurting the next day for sure, but it was worth it.

My B'earthday
Wednesday thru Friday were a lot less physical, but a lot more emotional.  It was my b'earthday on Wednesday and Kripalu has a special b'earthday song that they sing for people on their day and it's a pretty cool song.  I got many a b'earthday greeting that day, folks sang happy birthday to me in the dining room out of the blue, which was sweet, and even got a gift. Oh, I actually got an early gift from my parents in the form of a massage, which I really needed.  I hadn't cried much over the four weeks during training. In fact I might have cried once and it was quick and done.  Well after Wednesday night the tears started to flow.  There was so much to be thankful for and the day of departure was getting closer. I was ready to go home, but I was starting to get really sad to leave these men and women who had become my family.  The tears just started coming and really didn't stop until Friday afternoon.

Thursday was our final posture clinic, but it was really time for us to ask questions have a conversation with our teachers Devarshi and Megha.  When that conversation ended we sang our morning prayers and chanted our near final Om together and that just broke everyone. We had to laugh because the whole room was crying. What happened to us? LOL!

That night was our graduation celebration. We honored our teachers and ourselves that night. People had been asking me to sing all month and that night I got a chance to finally share. I was not the only person with musical talent by far.  Alicia R. played piano, Peter played guitar, harmonica and piano, Andrew played guitar and sang, Dana played Uke, Michael played guitar and sang, a little comedy and percussion from Barry, and Jill  played percussion as well.   Bonnie and Jill also play the Uke and Michelle playsDulcimer!  There were many beautiful voices in the crew included Jess, Lyneel, Eva, and many more. Oh and how could I forget Alex who put together a slideshow of our month.   Our teachers cried tears of joy and seemed to have an overall good time.  We gave them massages and sang lots of Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya.   It was a beautiful night.

Friday was graduation.  Temple Sadhana in the morning was wonderful and the actual graduation was beautiful.  There continued to be tears and feelings of great joy. I kept thinking about all of you who supported me on this journey. I could not have done it without your spiritual and monetary support.  I am so blessed and I realize that even more now.

As we prepared to leave on Friday afternoon I said my farewells to the people who had been my family all month. Sixty-two people who I thought I would never really get to know, but by the end I knew them all.  It's still hard to believe.  I have a brand new community and new friends all over the world.  From Germany to Panama and Cali to Wisconsin and back to Massachusetts.  I have a brand new sangha and I am truly thankful.

Going Home
My classmate Odetta came back to my parents house with me.  We spent one more day together because she wasn't flying back to the UK until Sunday.  So she stayed with me and my family for one day. She actually ended up meeting my whole family in that day, grandparents too. Then on Saturday night I drove her to the airport and dropped off my soul sister. It was so crazy to say farewell to her. I thought all of my tears were done, but when we looked at each other the tears came back to my eyes and my heart felt like it was breaking.  She was my final physical connection to the last month.  As I pulled away, she blew kisses.  My mom laughed and I cried. I know my mother probably thought I was little crazy, but oh well.  That's just the way I felt. I'm glad I will be seeing Odetta again when I head to Europe this winter.  :-)

I'm now at my parents house in MA and I'll head back to Brooklyn on Monday. It's back to rehearsal and shows and life as I knew it, but it will be different for sure.  It's back to finding a place to hold my classes and reconnecting with people that I left behind for a month. I'm ready to go back to New York and for some reason I feel like going swimming.  It's strange, but I must make that happen.  For all the yoga I did last month I don't think I lost a bit of weight because the food was so good! But I am stronger. I'm physically and spiritually stronger.  I gained so much through this experience. I wish I really had time to break it all down here, but you will see it. It will show.

The title of the blog is E.S.R.I.T., which stands for Enter, Sustain, Release, Integrate, Transition. This acronym is talking about getting in and out of postures, but to me it's a metaphor for my life right now.  I Entered into yoga school, I Sustained and held on through the process, I was Released on the day that I graduated, it is now time to Integrate what I have learned into my life and Transition into a new journey.  A life where I am doing exactly what I want to do every day of the week and living from what I love.

I am saying Yes to life and a big Hell Yeah to yoga!  I'm excited about the possibilities that lye ahead. I can't wait to continue to share my yoga adventures with you.  I love you all so much!  You rock!

Jai Bhagwan!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training ~ Week 3/Exhausted

I'm exhausted.  Mentally, physically and emotionally, exhausted. Week 3 was a beast!  If you read my blog about Practice Teach 2 then you have an idea, but really I didn't get into the feeling of it all.  What I mean is this.

Weeks 1 and 2 I was tired, but still excited.  At that time my classmates and I were still in the thrill of it so to speak.  We are overloaded with information, but we just keep making it happen.  Then last Sunday hit and we were faced with another week  of the same and it became too much. For a while I just zoned out. Well as much as I possibly could in this situation and I was not alone.  Last week was the first time I heard talk of wanting to go home or folks who could go home for the weekend (which is one day for us) saying they didn't want to come back.  Of course they were going to come back, but it's a feeling.

I understood. I didn't so much want to leave, but I was missing my friends. I was missing familiarity and the people who just get you without having to say a word. People who aren't asking you if you're OK all the time. Yes I'm OK! Now leave me alone.  LOL!  In week three you get to the point where you are tired of crying. I'm so happy that my crying here has been minimal, but for some others it was a daily process.  I'm not saying that one way of being is better than another, but think back to what I said at the top. I think if I had been crying every day I would be under the bed right now. Crying is good. It's necessary, but it let's be honest; it can be exhausting.

There is so much to process here and folks have been going through it. I am included in that "folks," but the transformations and realizations here are deep.  If you think you are just gonna come here and learn some cool poses you are sorely mistaken.  Month long YTT is a pressure cooker and during week three some people did indeed pop, but all for the better.

During week 3 the winds of change were blowing.  Sandy was just one of the storms that passed over.  As I mentioned in my earlier blog, we lost Joe, we lost power and we damn near lost our minds, but I suppose it's all part of the process. I'm starting to think I like the pressure cooker. Hmm... What's that all about?  I'm not sure exactly where to begin when talking about last week.  A lot of it seems like a blur, so I'll just tune in to yesterday, which was our day of silence.

I have been doing the silent meditation retreat thing for quite some time. I went on my first silent retreat around 2004.  I remember it being a rough time in my life, when I learned about a People of Color (POC) silent retreat that was happening in Garrison, NY at the Garrison institute. My friend Gayle told me about it.  I immediately went home that day, bookmarked the site for the retreat on my computer to make sure I would be there the next time it came around.  So much sprouted out of that trip. I met some of the women who would then become my circle sisters at Casa Atabex Ache and I also found the silence is so much more than golden, it's a God/dess send.  Since then I have been on a couple more silent retreats and have began to meditate regularly. I was looking forward to the silence, but for some of my other classmates, the thought of silence was terrifying.  No texting, no email and no talking. What was going to happen?  I am an empath so I was feeling some of the anxiety in the room. It was thick.

Our teachers treated our day of silence like a retreat. So our morning Sadhana (yoga practice) was something called Inward Diving, which is basically some really deep pranayama or breath work. The class was led by a man named Micah and it was incredible. He had us doing a lot of deep breathing in various styles including Dirga (three part breath), kapalabhati (breath of fire, while alternating nostrils) and some other things that I can't remember the name of that were new to me. Talk about feeling the energy.  Usually I don't like to do so much pranayama in the morning because it's challenging to get into it, but I was all into this and loving it.  I later found out I wasn't alone.

After breakfast we did an OSHO meditation. I had done this before so I was ready, but many other people had not so it was a lot. If you are not sure who OSHO is, just give him a google and you can get all this info. Anyway, this meditation consists of 15 minutes of shaking, 15 minutes of dancing, 15 minutes of seated or standing mediation and 15 minutes of shavasana.  If you are not ready for this, it can be life altering.  This mediation reminds me of the emotional release work I did a Casa.  One of the things we would ask women to do when they felt something coming up was to shake and then at the end of the emotional release we would have the women dance.  Shaking is usually the most challenging part of the meditation.  We don't usually move our bodies like that or when we do it's because something really terrifying has happened.  So the first part of this meditation can be very intense for some.  Then after 15 minutes you move to the dancing.  My teacher was playing something really tribal so I just went in.  It was great!  That part always seems to go fast because I'm all in it.  Then we did the 15 minutes mediation. We could either do it standing or sitting so I chose standing.  I was dripping with sweat, but it didn't bother me a bit. Then we laid down for shavasana.  I have been fighting off a cough for the last week as well.  It has been getting me up from shavasana at least once or twice a day.  I was hoping to make it through this one, but I did cough a couple of times. Then I was able to settle in.  After that I was beat.  I went to lunch and then took a nap to get ready for the end of the day.

When we returned for the last half of the day, we spent the first hour outside doing any sort of mediation that we wanted. Some people went to the lake, others to the labyrinth and my group went to Swami Kripalu's meditation garden.  I have to say there that here is a strange bust of the Swami in the mediation garden, which I wasn't expecting to see.  Although it was his garden I didn't really expect to see him there. LOL!  Anyway, it was a nice space and has a great view of the lake from there.  So I spoke to my ancestors for a while and then we returned to the center.  For our final activity of the day we had to hold bridge pose...for a while.  The exercise was about finding our edge and edges were surely found. But what I realized is that I'm always living life on the edge, which can be good when it comes to taking risks and leaps of faith. I don't ever want to be rid of that in my spirit, but I would like life to be a little less on the edge in some aspects of my life. So that's what I got out of it. I know how to go to the edge, but maybe a little stability would be good. Very good. I'm not coming back from here and looking for a full-time desk job or anything like that, but I am going to work to shape my life to be the way I want it and have all aspects of my life working for me.  It can be a challenge to be yourself and really step into your authenticity, but I'm going to keep stepping. I've gotten this far, I know I can make it even brighter.

The last thing we had to do before breaking silence was find someone near us, look them in their eyes very close up and then give them a hug...for 6 minutes.  Now, coming from the artsy, hugging and kissing community that I come from, this was no big deal, but for some it was life altering.  The woman I hugged broke down afterward because she was so scared of the eye contact and the hug because she didn't think that she was lovable and she could feel that I really loved her when I hugged her and in that moment she realized that she really deserved to be loved.  POW!!!  It was deep for sure.  I know I have had some hard days, weeks, months even, but I have never felt unloved or not lovable.  Did I say it was deep?  Well, it was deep.  It made me even more thankful for my life and the people in it.

Then about 5pm we broke silence and some of my classmates spoke about their experience.  Besides the one mentioned above, others had found a new sense of self or at least realized it in the silence.  I had a few revelations myself, but that is one of the reasons why I came here. Another thing I realized is that Music is my Yoga.  Don't worry, I'm still going to teach, but yoga is more than just postures.  Yoga is really the breath and I'm breathing when I'm making music.

Week three is done and tomorrow begins my last week here.  As much as I'm ready to go home, I'm gonna miss this place and these people.  In some ways they have become my family. We are the only ones who will understand what happened here. Yes there have been other Yoga Teacher Training classes before us and there are many to come, but I know that no two groups are alike.  I'm so glad I went through this process with these people.

OK, I'm signing off.  I had studying to do, but there is also an acro-yoga workshop going on. What to do?  Thank you so much again for all your support.

Jai Bahgwan!