Ironically before I journeyed to Bali, Indonesia to teach a 200 hour Yoga Alliance Teacher Training to 20 uniquely-potent yogis/yoginis, I leaped into the seat of a Bhakta (devout student) by studying in Pune, India at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) with BKS Iyengar and several of his senior teachers, including Geeta and Prashant Iyengar. I will have a separate post highlighting my entire experience in Pune with Guriji himself, but I must make note that the time spent as a devoted student before conducting a teacher training was the most paramount move I could possibly make before stepping into the role of guiding a group of soon-to-be yoga teachers.
Teachers who are guiding others on an inner journey when they have no experience of discipleship are perpetuating their own karma and suffering of others ~ Shambhavi Sarasvati.
The quote may seem a bit intense, but she exposes the significance of studentship (i.e., Adhikara) – especially for teachers. I feel the gems of all qualities to embody as a student so that the inner fields are plowed & teachings can be received & sprouted are: humility, tenderness, a yearning, fierceness and an emptying-out in order to make space for the new. Plunging into the intensity and taste of being a Bhakta in Pune unveiled channels of knowing and inflamed Nature’s wisdom inside of me, which then proceeded to pour out of me in Bali. I see my teacher weekly in Vancouver (which is pure bliss), but stepping into the ferocity & magnitude of studying at the RIMYI in Pune before leading the teacher training in Bali allowed me to dissolve into the seat of a disciple, which is the exact seat I was about ready to guide. The group of trainees arrived into Bali collectively holding these gems in their pockets and ready to rock it out as zealous and effective students!
I reference a ‘Bhakta’ or ‘devotee’ in this context to accentuate the type of study when there are no distractions from work, roles, obligations, daily stressors, etc. In Pune and Bali, we as students were completely immersed into the study of Self, and believe me – it is a pure luxury to have the time & space to devote into the exploration of Nature herself...whom lives & dances within you…shaping and reshaping your moment to moment existence and reality. It was a pure blessing to observe how each of the trainees elegantly swam into their own journey of Self discovery in an incredibly sacred manner.
Ever since I was a little girl, I partook in collective ritual and prayer, which started with my immediate family (which is somewhat large) and progressively evolved into Sanghas. I address this because collective sadhana practices have the potency & capacity to not only harvest a soft blanket of buffer but also an almighty sword for cutting through the nebulous internal weather patterns or obstructions that prevent us from experiencing life in its highest forms….providing a space for perception to widen and heighten. When perception widens, there are larger windows of understanding…and deeper understanding leads to more Love. The wider perception also initiates an alchemy of energetics within - literally reshaping and churning the fabric of our beings.
One of my primary aims for the training was to shape an environment for the teacher trainees to coalesce… so that their collective forces could stir and amalgamate into a sweet shield, and it is this tender shield that provided an arena for power to build itself into a mechanism that served the intensions of each of the group members. It was truly an honour to witness the teacher trainees plunge into collective ritual with rich & personal intentions, which we took the time to address immediately on the first day of training. As sangha practices have revealed for me, I know the lush experiences within the 25 days spent together will seep deep into the cells and memory of the hearts of each and every one the yogis/yoginis that were with me for this amazing pilgrimage we took together…a pilgrimage within. I bow in full humility to the LOVE that was produced and expressed between each of them.
Humility has been one of my most profound teachers. Unfortunately, humility is often hard-earned…it can take a long time and can include many uncomfortable and painful sensations along the way. I know the teachings of humility will be with me for lifetimes to come, and I plan to savor each & every one of them. I’ve noticed that humble beings expel great radiance…they shine light. This light is then used for them to see clearly….and this clarity allows for them to recognize the beauty that other people contribute on this planet. That is humility to me – being able to identify and acknowledge the contributions that others provide. Each one of these amazing teacher trainees were very humble ~ they clearly saw the beauty in each other.
Every single one of these beautiful souls arrived in Bali reflecting incredibly ripe studentship qualities, which were bound to lead to an experience of transformation and recalibration when compiled and shared collectively. We practiced 3-4 hours a day (asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra); nourished our minds and bodies with vegan/raw food; soothed the soul with salt water, surfing and sunshine; bathed in the diversity of the particles that were emanated from the jungle’s ecosystem; and the journaling and wealthy philosophical discussions led us further into our adventure. All of these abundant and sensuous pieces added to the symphony….the composition we made together with our breath, bodies, minds and hearts. The pilgrimage led to a refined polishing of the gems – so that each of these yogis/yoginis are now a full-blown jewel.
The beings who stand by your side provide a direct link to Source...which feeds your soul and brain... providing you with the strength to keep going. I must pay the utmost level of GRATITUDE and RESPECT to Alli Shafer...she stood by my side. Her devotion to the practice and teachings of yoga is reflected through her eyes, skin, touch, voice, intentions, vision, behaviours and actions. She is Goddess in the most expansive essence. I’m truly blessed to have had her by my side at the training and every one else feels exactly the same. I couldn’t of done it without her.
To each of the new yoga teachers - I will always witness each of you as a Phoenix soaring across the sky. A Phoenix is an Arabian bird said to set fire to itself and arise anew from the ashes. The Phoenix has also been referred to as a masterpiece, pearl, treasure, rarity and phenomenon. United together you are a symphony of jewels…and PLEASE remember that the practices & teachings will always live inside you.
Keep your eyes out folks for a powerful, skillful and uniquely radiant group of teachers with unraveled hearts ~ they are on fire!
p.s. Jon Chiang is an amazing artist and photographer (pics below)...we were so fortunate to have him capture so many of these beautiful moments we shared. MUCH LOVE Jon. Check out his AMAZING work: