Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Search for Yoga Teacher Training...

My search for yoga teacher training began with residential programs recommended by yoga teachers. The Sivananda Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne, NY and Kripalu in Stockbridge, MA stood out to me the most at first. As I wrote about here, I visited the ashram in Woodbourne, but didn't feel like it was right for me. In two weeks I'll be practicing yoga at Kripalu for a week. There are two new ashrams on my radar at the moment. Yogaville in Buckingham, VA and Yogi Hari's ashram in Florida have teacher training programs in the fall. Yogaville practices Integral Yoga and Yogi Hari's ashram practices Sampoorna Yoga, but both styles are based in Sivananda. I would like to visit Yogaville this summer for a welcome weekend. Florida of course is not as easily accessible.

A friend and yoga instructor gave me some good advice the other day. "Have patience," he said. He also suggested that I focus on my practice for a few months before worrying about teacher training. I've taken his advice to heart this week, and pranayama and asanas have effortlessly worked their way into my day even if I don't make it to BYV (I even do a few Sun Salutations if no one is around in the bathroom at work!). Now if I could only stop trying to figure out how to swing it all and stay above water... In any event, tonight I'll enjoy a Vinyasa Flow class at BYV.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Baltimore City Teaching Residency

Thursday evening, I stopped at Ma Petite Shoe after visiting ReNew Organic Day Spa. The ReNew Spa Package was extraordinary.

My Dad loves chocolate, so Ma Petite Shoe (a.k.a Shoes and Chocolate) seemed like the perfect place to pick up a father's day present. After choosing a few decedent items for his gift basket, I started chatting with the young sales woman. Eventually the conversation turned to work and she told me about her acceptance into the Baltimore City Residency Program. In the fall she will begin teaching kindergarten at a Baltimore City School.

I was immediately interested and after grilling her more, the program still sounded fantastic. Baltimore City Schools has formed a partnership with Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame. If accepted into the program, residents participate in a four week intensive training in June or January before being placed full time as a classroom teacher. If working in a "high-needs" school, the teacher certification and Master of Education degree are fully subsidized. The next cohort will begin with training in January 2008. Needless to say, I looked into it.

I'll be at Baltimore Yoga Village after work today. I am going to take the Ahimsa Yoga class this evening, which BYC describes as "a flowing, intuitive and joyful practice that opens the heart and mind". After driving to Rochester, having a jammed packed weekend of visiting everyone we know, and driving home, I am relieved to be visiting BYV.

Maybe having a daily yoga and meditation routine in the morning would help me stay centered when I am away from home. I've felt myself go into a slump filled with negativity over the past few days.

I've also started a lacto-vegetarian diet. It's been about two weeks without meat and I don't miss it. My next step is to start cooking meals from my new Ayurvedic cookbook. One step at a time though. All this change and activity is wearing me out. When we arrived home Sunday night, I was overwhelmed by the housework that had piled up and our new family member- a tuxedo cat named Sweet Pea.

All day Monday I was fretting over cleaning, catching up with my online writing course, grocery shopping, and taking care of Sweet Pea. Then a co-worker gave me a lift home and reminded me "not to sweat the small stuff". Her advice struck a chord with me. I delegated shopping to my supportive fiance, decided to put my writing first and only cleaned the first floor of the house. I'm still tuckered out today, but I'm proud of my progress.

I know that yoga tonight will put me more on track and I'm excited about trying a new class. Until then...Namaste.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Baltimore Yoga Village, Kripalu, and Rochester, NY

It was wonderful to be back at Baltimore Yoga Village yesterday. Interesting and kind people are always walking through the door. Last night, I met a yoga teacher who is interested in starting a nonprofit. He holds a yoga class in addition to his other classes, that donates all of the profits to a charity. It only make sense to form a 501 c(3) that would be tax-exempt. I was thrilled to be able to share my knowledge of nonprofits and point him in the right direction (hopefully). The Foundation Center has a cooperating collection in Baltimore that holds free classes on nonprofit management, has helpful staff to answer questions and help with grant searching, and numerous other print and online resources. It just makes you feel good to know about people who are finding creative ways to support charitable causes.

This evening I am visiting ReNew Organic Day Spa. My thoughtful future step-mom gave me a ReFresh Spa package, which includes a Renew Classic Facial, a Therapeutic Massage and Ancient Hand Ritual, as my bridal shower gift. I can't wait!

Now that I've signed up for the Build Your Yoga Practice Program, I am meeting people who have visited Kripalu every time I turn around. At BYV, one of the instructors described Kripalu as "Yoga Heaven". I have also been told numerous times that the food is fantastic. This is another experience that fills me with joy every time I think of it. There are so many enriching new aspects of life that have trickled in over the past six months. I'm very thankful.

Another exciting gift is joining our family in a few days. A black tuxedo cat named Momma (we are trying to think of a new name for her) is coming home with us after our visit to Rochester, NY this weekend. My future sister-in-law contacted us after Momma visited her animal hospital from Habitat for Cats (which I didn't know existed before). I hope that Thomas adjusts well to his new friend.

I'll be back to write more next week. Until then, Namaste.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Healing Touch Level 1, Burlington, and Sivananda Yoga Ranch Visit

It has been quite an adventure over the past four days. I left Thursday afternoon for Tarrytown, NY to visit with a friend and break up the trip to Burlington, VT. Friday morning, I set off for Burlington while listening to Deepak Chopra's Buddha: The Enlightenment on CD. The trip flew by, especially when I reached the tranquil state of Vermont. There were cows, goats, beautiful black birds with red streaks on their wings, and I even saw a mare cuddling with her foal at one of the many farms along the way. I love that Vermont does not allow billboards.

My dear friend in Burlington lives on Lake Champlain. The mountains surrounding the city add to its awe inspiring beauty. To top it all off, there is a bustling pedestrian mall in the city center that is filled with shops, restaurants and street performers. Needless to say, we had a wonderful time and ate delicious food!

Friday evening was the first of three Healing Touch level 1 class sessions I would take that weekend. The students were mostly women, half of them nurses, from the age of 20 and up. To begin, we sat in a circle of wooden chairs surrounding a chakra circle, which was filled with symbols and candles representing each of the seven chakras. Our teacher, Kathleen, started the class with introductions and after a guided meditation, we jumped right into the energy work.

Kathleen and her helper demonstrated each technique before we paired up and practiced on each other. The other students were from diverse backgrounds, but we all found common ground in our desire to learn about the healing arts and our positive and open minds. It is amazing how quickly you bond with people in a situation where you are connecting with them through positive energy and physical touch (although physical touch is optional and all techniques can be done without it). We were also constantly sharing our feelings and experiences with the class. Everyone listened and respected each other at all times, which created a comforting and encouraging atmosphere. By the end of the three days, I was ready to practice the Level 1 techniques on my friends and family and incorporate the principles into my life. I can't believe there are four more levels!

The most difficult aspect of the class was trusting my own experiences. At first, I would feel something, for example another student's energy field, and immediately question myself. It is still difficult to explain my experiences to anyone who was not in the class or is not involved with energy work. My left brain keeps saying, "are you crazy?". But as the weekend progressed, I discovered first hand that energy work reduces physical, emotional, and mental stress.

It was sad to leave Burlington on Monday, but I knew that I had taken a big step in my personal and professional development through my visit. Deepak Chopra kept me company on the way home as he read the rest of Buddha: The Enlightment on CD. The question of "what's next?" gnawed at me and I kept having to re-listened to Chopra each time my mind got stuck on this question.

Yoga and the Healing Arts are my main focus at the moment. Baltimore Yoga Village is fantastic, but I want to experience and live yoga daily and intensively for a period of time, as I've discussed earlier in regards to visiting an ashram. Sivinanda Yoga Ranch and Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health are top on my list of possibilities.

As I approached Saratoga Springs, I realized that I was not too far from Sivanada Yoga Ranch. I pulled off at the Saratoga exit and stopped at the nearest gas station to buy a map. Woodboure, NY was about 30 miles away, so I found my route in my new Atlas and took off for Sivananda. The drive itself was enough reason for the detour. It was exhilarating to explore this unknown territory on a whim. There is nothing like following your gut to stimulate and awaken your mind to the limitless possibilities of life.

Budd Road was a bit difficult to find, but after a few wrong turns, I was on my way up a steep hill to the ranch. I pulled up a dusty road to find a small parking lot next to a greenhouse and a large vegetable garden. It was so silent outside the car that I carefully closed my door to avoid making any noise. Walking up to the registration office, I looked around to see blue open skies filled with gigantic white clouds in every direction. Inside the main office, a staff member gave me a map and sent me off to explore on my own. I walked through the middle of the grounds up a large hill to one of the temples. On my way I saw: a large old house converted into a dormitory, outdoor yoga studios hosting one-on-one yoga training and meditations, students sitting in big wooden chairs overlooking the rolling hills, a large indoor yoga studio, an outdoor eating area, and tents scattered on the hill past the dorms.

As I reached the shrine at the top of the hill, I waited for some sort of feeling that would tell me that this was the place for me. It wasn't that I got a bad feeling, it was just that I didn't feel drawn to stay. I wanted to know that "yes" this was the place for me to study yoga intensively. After walking through the grounds a bit more, I left Sivananda and headed home. Although I don't think that Sivananda is the place for me right now, I would like to revisit this possibility in the future. I could tell after my short visit that for someone in the right frame of mind and place in life, the experience would be life-altering.

After mulling over the situation and bouncing ideas off my Burlington friend over the phone, I decided to give Kripalu a call. This morning, I received the reassurance I needed to move forward and register for one of Kripalu's week-long programs. Speaking with the Teacher Training Director sealed the deal. Caroline spoke about the philosophy of Kripalu and it connected with something inside me immediately. Kripalu describes their philosophy below:

"While grounded in yoga, it is important to understand that Kripalu does not espouse a narrow or sectarian mindset. According to the Kripalu tradition, yoga is an honest and unfettered inquiry into all practices, philosophies, techniques, and approaches that produce thriving for individuals, families, communities, societies, and the planet. This “non-denominational yoga” includes perennial wisdom gleaned from all the world’s religions and spiritual traditions, together with the amazing knowledge gained from science, psychology, and contemporary researchers. It also includes healing techniques drawn from traditional, allopathic, and complementary/ alternative medicine that help individuals heal and return to high levels of functioning.

As an institution, Kripalu is dedicated to yoga as a rigorous, non-dogmatic, and non-sectarian inquiry into the core issues of life. This kind of truth-based inquiry inevitably frees us from fears, fantasies, and distortions and produces positive ways of being that generate beneficial results. To support rigorous inquiry and dialogue, Kripalu operates in accord with a set of core values that includes: a commitment to authenticity, radical self-trust, the courage to fully express one’s self, and unconditional positive regard for others. Embracing these and other values is a proven way to move toward the state of integrated functioning where what you think, feel, say, and do are aligned and in synch." (

I am visiting Kripalu in July to participate in their "Build Your Yoga Practice" program. I am also very interested in their teacher training program and studying Aryurveda, but I'll make that decision after completing the week-long program. Registering for the class filled me with excitement. There is a lot more to write about, but I'm still tired from the long weekend. Time for bed.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

If At First You Don't Succeed...

I've dabbled in yoga for at least five years, but it never clicked. For some reason, I've tried it again and again, each time in a new city or studio. I think the reason that it is sticking now, is that I am building a foundation of principles that support and nurture the practice of yoga. For the first time I want to integrate yoga into my daily life and work towards becoming a teacher. I have never been as deeply immersed in meditation than the past two Vinyasa Flow classes I've taken this week. Last night was the second and it was fantastic. I couldn't believe the progress I had made from the first to second class.

I was looking forward to visiting Baltimore Yoga Village all day yesterday. Ever since I stepped into the place I haven't stopped researching and thinking about yoga teacher training and retreats at ashrams across the country. After checking people into the new Wednesday 5pm class, Anjali and I sipped hot chai tea and talked about the Sivananda Ashram in Woodbourne, NY. Anjali explained the benefits of the Sivananda approach, which is summarized on their website:
"The course covers Asanas, Pranayama, Meditation, Mantra Chanting, Vedanta & Yoga Theory, Bhagavad Gita, Mantra Meditation, Kriyas (cleansing exercises), Yoga Diet, Anatomy & Physiology, and more. By the end of the course, the beginner and advanced student alike will possess a solid foundation for teaching Hatha Yoga, will have developed a personal Yoga practice, and will have increased self-discipline and harmony of body, mind and spirit." (

I'm hooked. Of course my western brain says, "Be practical! You can't just go to some yoga retreat for a month and start a whole new way of life! What about the bills? What about your responsibilities!?". So my challenge is to figure out if this is the right path for me and how I can make it work. My dream would be to participate in the Sivananda Yoga Retreat Teachers' Training, teach yoga and continue to learn and grow my yoga practice in Baltimore, continue training through the Healing Touch Program, and explore other practices such as Aryurvedic Medicine. I hope that by writing this down and talking about it, I am sending vibrations out to the universe that will help me accomplish these aspirations.

One of my first steps in achieving these goals will begin tomorrow. I am taking off tonight for Burlington, VT for the Level 1 Healing Touch Class. I can't wait to write all about it when I get back on Monday.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Vinyasa Flow Yoga at Baltimore Yoga Village

The thunderstorm couldn't have come at a more perfect time. As soon as I arrived at Baltimore Yoga Village (BYV), the rain started to patter on the roof of the converted mill. Anjali showed me the ropes for a while and we chatted about BYV's unique and enriching events coming up this summer. Many talented teachers will be visiting the studio this summer in addition to the experienced teachers holding regular classes. Events will cover everything from family dancing, to drumming workshops, to Sitar and Native American Flute Concerts.

After working with Anjali for a couple hours, I experienced the talent of BYV's yoga teachers first hand. Deborah Quirk teaches the Vinyasa Flow Yoga class on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30-8:00. There were about eight people in class. We started with a short meditation, during which my feet kept falling asleep. Hopefully yoga will improve my circulation.

The majority of the time we worked on a series of poses that grew into each other. Baltimore Yoga Village describes the class as: "Students progress through a step-by-step progression of postures, which develop into a challenging and flowing sequence.". By the end of the class I was sweaty from head to toe, my heartbeat was elevated, and I was fully focused on the movement and strength (sometimes weakness) of my body. The symmetry of the poses helped me realize the large difference in strength of the right and left sides of my body (left being much weaker).

Deborah was encouraging and clearly communicated each movement. She also pointed out modifications for the more intermediate poses so that everyone could participate. Deborah also took time to work more in-depth on the cobra pose after noticing many students practicing the move improperly. Her suggestions were very helpful and prevented my from getting frustrated, discouraged, or hurt. The stretching and closing meditation was especially enjoyable. I was surprised when this portion of the class began because the 1 hour and 15 minutes had flown by so quickly. Not once did I feel self conscious. Everyone in class was focused on themselves and Deborah always gave me an encouraging smile when I wobbled or fell off balance.

We lay on our backs in darkness and silence for five to ten minutes at the very end of class. The only thing I could hear were the birds outside and the last of the drizzling rain. I forgot that there was anyone else in the room. I forgot I was even breathing. Deborah ended the meditation by ringing a soothing Tibetan metal bowl and we sat up at our own pace. It meant a lot to me when Deborah approached me after class and asked about my experience.

For the first time, in I don't know how long, I slept for eight hours without waking last night. My dreams were vivid and long. I'm looking forward to going back to BYV on Wednesday to help out at the studio and take the Vinyasa class again.

PS-I bought a handy Gaiam yoga bag at Bikram Yoga Hampden during lunchtime yesterday. It has enough room for my yoga mat, yoga clothes, keys, phone, and wallet. There are also beautiful handmade yoga bags made from silk saris at Baltimore Yoga Village.