Teacher Training

“Love is not far away; it is as close as your heart.  You can find it there without walking a single step.” – Swami Kripalu

I wasn’t really sure what I hoped to learn during a month-long, 200-hour yoga teacher training at the Kripalu Center, nor was I sure, when I left home just four weeks ago, whether my fifty-two year old body was up to the challenges ahead.  Three to eight hours of yoga a day sounded like a lot.  Having gotten through four years of college without a room mate, I was about to bunk with five complete strangers in a small room — would I ever get a good night’s sleep?  I’d been warned by a recent graduate that the program was “intense,”  and I worried about what that might mean.  “Intense” as in physically demanding? I asked her.  “Intense” as in emotionally wrenching?  “Intense” because morning sadhana would begin at 6:30 am every single day, follwed by hours of lecture and posture clinics, another yoga class at 4:15, and a program that continued right through till 9 at night?

I noticed that my friend wasn’t really answering any of those questions to my satisfaction; her advice consisted of things like:  dress in layers for class, have a notebook for anatomy, bring flip flops for the shower, don’t make any plans for the so-called “day off,” as you’ll need that time to study and do laundry and catch up on the reading.  I wrote all of this down on a piece of paper, in the innocent hope that with the right packing list and a few words of wisdom from one who’d survived the course, I would be prepared.

Less than five minutes after my friend and I had parted on that winter afternoon that now feels like a lifetime ago, my cell phone rang.  “Just remember this,” she said when I answered, “it’s all about love.”

It will take a while, I think, for me to fully understand what the last month has meant, how this full immersion into a 200-hour certification program was in fact only superficially about learning the proper alignment for Warrior I pose and much more about what it means to bring one’s self into alignment — both on and off the yoga mat.  Of course, aligning the breath with the movement, or the knee with the ankle, is the easy part.  What the last month has taught me is that my real practice — of life, of yoga, of being human  — comes down to commitment.  It seems that growing up, even at my age, is all about making the commitment, again and again and again, to bring my outer persona into alignment with my inner truth, my words into alignment with my deeds, my thoughts into alignment with my actions, my deepest values into alignment with my smallest choices, my heart into alignment with my mind, until what I do and how I live is a reflection of who I truly am.  I’m beginning to think that what I’ve just experienced was in fact a profoundly transformational course in how to live more skillfully, very well disguised as a first-rate yoga teacher training.

It also happened to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for sixty-three randomly self-selected people of all ages and sizes and backgrounds to live and work and sleep and eat together every day for a month.  As a group, and individually, we had to make a decision to trust the process, and then, under the guidance of our two very amazing teachers, we  began to open up our hearts to one another, to open them just as wide as they would go.  The only thing we had to lose, it turned out, was our sense of separateness, our well-defended images of who we already were.  And what we had to gain, simply by being fully present, was a glimpse of our own true selves: lovable, vulnerable, imperfect, human.

There were many amazing moments.  Two days after a graduation ceremony that is already fading in my memory into a blur of tears, music, candlelight, ringing bells, rice and rose petals, whispered words of appreciation and encouragement from my classmates, an orange smear of  blessed oil placed reverently upon my forehead and a certificate of completion pressed into my hands, I remember one moment of the month above all others.

It was the second night, a candle-lit ceremony in which we students were to be presented with our own mala beads and then guided through our first extended exercise in meditation.  Our teacher placed the string of carved rosewood beads into my open palm and looked into my eyes as he said the Sanskrit words “Om Namo Bhagavade Vasudevayah,” which translates loosely into “thy will be done.”  Something deep inside me simply cracked open under that unwavering, unguarded, utterly loving gaze.  I looked back at him, my own eyes full of tears, and knew suddenly exactly what it was that I had come here to learn:  to be able to look into the eyes of another human being with such compassion, such acceptance, such unconditional tenderness and devotion.  I closed my fingers around the smooth strand of beads.  My education had begun.

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your comments

  1. I’m so glad you’re back! I have missed your weekly words. I just love your message about alignment, especially about bringing your insides in alignment with your outsides. It is so critical, I think, to “match,” for this is when, as you say, we are most truly ourselves. When I think about the times in my life I have been happiest, they are always the instances in which all parts of myself are congruent. Perhaps, rather than asking ourselves how we can be happier, we should ask ourselves how we can be more aligned, in all senses of the word. Welcome home!

  2. And my eyes are filled with tears reading this. I’m so looking forward to hearing more, here and (i hope!) in person. Also – I missed you!
    xo

  3. Kripalu IS compassion…welcome back to the world…may your heart open more each time you return to Kripalu, and close a little less when you leave.
    Jai Bhagwan

  4. Welcome back! You have been missed!
    I am so happy albeit not surprised to know that your experience was even more than you imagined. You’ve opened my eyes and heart to the many challenges that yoga teachers encounter as they learn. What a gift to be able to experience it all.
    I thought of you so much while I was in Mexico…doing yoga on the beach. Can’t wait to see you.

  5. Victoria says:

    Ah, how beautifully written. With courage and grace you opened, blossoming into the ocean of compassion and connection- with yourself, with others, with the for-better-or-worse human condition. Occurs to me that often we become ready for this after we’ve been around for a few years. Your fifty-two-year old self experienced all it needed to, so you could enter this so fully, and communicate it so lovingly. So we all can share. Thank you, Katrina :)

  6. Dear Katrina
    Beautifully and poetically written. You captured the essence of our month together. Thank you for sharing your exquisite thoughts with all of us. And as one who has two years on you…I would say we did splendidly!
    much love
    Susan

  7. cindy standen says:

    What an wonderful experience for you. I’m rather new to the practice of yoga, but have been doing a little research about the 200 hour teacher training courses. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it and look forward to hearing more.
    namaste, Cindy

  8. welcome home — your body and your mind and your spirit even more complete than they all were just a month ago.

  9. I, too, am so glad you’re back! I, too, missed you and your thoughtful and thought-provoking posts and I can’t wait to hear more!

    As a midwife and mother, I have seen again and again striking parallels between the stages of labor and the stages by which any person navigates momentous change. And the result is the same: at the end of these transitions, a person celebrates their own new life
    while coming to terms with the fact that their old life has changed entirely.

    Like your friend said, it’s an intense process. But it’s so worth it! You simply *must* trust “thy will be done.”

    Thanks so much for this lovely post and your support and encouragement to trust this process!

    Big love to everyone navigating their own challenging transitions!

  10. Yes.

    And now the work of integrating all that you learned into the world you live in begins… another journey, of sorts.

    Welcome back and blessings on your way…

  11. Lisa Delafontaine says:

    I did not realize until now but I was waiting for you to come home and write to us. Your trip away seemed so cleansing and renewing. What a good experience, rendered exquisite in words.
    Yes. Welcome back.

  12. ah, yes! I know exactly how you are feeling having completed a teacher training myself last year. It is bittersweet. You are glad it is over but yet you already miss it.

  13. I too loved what you wrote about alignment. That is my goal in life: to align my daily life with my deepest beliefs and desires.

    Welcome, welcome back. Om Namo Bhagavade Vasudevayah. Thank you for that!

    Love,
    Pamela

  14. The spirit in your words, the love and compassion, resonate like bells tolling for all of us. It’s clear that you have taken the yoga with you—thank you for sharing it with us. Namaste

  15. Mary Lee says:

    Lovely insight…I find your writing quite inspirational…but wonder when you say “thy will be done,” are you refering to God’s will being done?
    You refer to faith in your writing, but wondering what yours is…can you enlighten?

  16. I must also welcome you back and tell you how much I missed your regular inspirational posts while you were gone. It’s funny, but I thought of you often while you were gone and wondered how things were going for you there even though I have never actually met you. I am glad that you took so much from your course that will stay with you for a lifeteime. You are certainly what I would consider a spiritual guide for many of us on this journey called life and I am so grateful to have “found” you and look forward to hearing much more about your experiences while you were there!

    Thanks for reminding us all to bring our outer and inner lives more into alignment. I think that is the essence of happiness!

  17. Katrina, I can’t begin to imagine your experience over the last month. Thank you for this glimpse. I can’t wait to hear more about it. Missed you, but was so happy for you too.

  18. Aah. Yes.

    Good to see you home.

  19. Melanie Einhorn says:

    Your words are so inspiration and ones that I relate to all too well. I have had to come to learn to live life differently these past 4 years when my husband had to take a job in another state. We moved our daughters to their new home, with mom being the one who would commute back and forth until the house was sold. Well, due to the economy and unknown medical problems I developed due to the new climate we were moving to, we soon discovered our plans would have to change. First off, due to my health issues it was not conducive for me to always be in our new home as I got too sick. Second, the housing market was dropping and we just couldn’t sell our house for what it was truly worth. So began my new life, which meant not always being there for my girls. How could I do this, how could I be apart from them, what was I doing to them? However, they were now teenagers, growing up, becoming wonderful young women. Perhaps I was lucky to be thrown into this situation, for it brought to light, as you have said how it hit you one day that the life as you knew it was changing. I have adapted as best as one can with a situation like this, but I have come to appreciate each day a little more. I realize how special it is when they ask for that hug, or to make them a sandwich. I charish each and every momonet, for come this fall my one daughter will be heading out to college. Life is precious, each day is a gift, rejoice in all that is given. I have learned how the material things in life don’t matter, it is the fact that we are there for one another. Thank you for giving me the strength for looking forward to another day, even though it may not be quite what I want it to be. Each day is special, I love the ordinary, being a mom.

  20. It’s wonderful to hear from you again, like a long lost friend! It’s lovely to hear about your experiences during the past month and I look forward to you sharing more of these experiences with all of us in the near future. As always, thank you for being the student who will in turn teach the rest of us! You are so appreciated!

  21. Welcome back…you were missed! It sounds like you had a tranforming experience. I admire your strength and process of self exploration so very much!

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