September 26, 2010

Notes on a Teacher Training

Every fall, Laughing Lotus Yoga Center offers a 200-hour teacher training program at both their San Francisco studio and their Manhattan studio. Dana Flynn spearheads the adventure in Chelsea, while her partner Jasmine Tarkeshi conducts this ecstatic journey in the Mission. Dana and Jasmine, with the aid of co-teachers, cultivate a truly unique practice space for their ever-growing, ever-loving yoga family. And I, your humble narrator, have taken the dive.  I am faithfully working towards my 200-hour certification at the Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in New York City.

The program is totally consuming, so much so that no matter where I am, my mind is on yoga. I spend approximately twenty hours a week engaged in training requirements. Every Saturday and Sunday, my classmates and I gather at the Lotus for asana, anatomy classes, mantra instruction, chanting, and meditation. We (all thirty-four of us) are being taught by the incredible Dana and her dynamic co-teachers Sheri Celentano, Alison Cramer, Heather Heineman, Sarah Tomlinson, and Lauren Magarelli. Soon we will be joined by the renowned Sanskrit scholar Manorama, as well as by the magical Jasmine herself.

Besides the ten hours on weekends, my mentor group and I meet every Monday night. On Thursday evenings, I hop, skip and jump over to my lovely study buddy’s apartment for practice, discussion, and tea. And then there are the readings and writing assignments, which can take anywhere from two to six hours to complete.

Three weeks into the training, I am settling back into the East Coast swing of things, trying to find my footing in a constantly shifting landscape. About four to five days a week, I couch-hop in the city, staying with friends and family throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Two to three days a week, I’m out on Long Island living with my father and my younger brother. My time in the city is frenetic and pulsing; my short stays on the Island are mellow and homey. I am in the midst of transitioning towards full-time city living, but at the moment I am somewhat nomadic and living out of a backpack and a tote bag. I have not lived in New York for about four years now, and yet suddenly I am back here and feeling very much at home.

I have always been hesitant to enroll in a teacher training program. Even after seven years of personal practice, I have doubts about my proficiency and comprehension of the complex, holistic system that is yoga. The philosophical density is unnerving. However, I have felt compelled to take this next step for some time now, and somehow circumstances converged in such a way that made it possible.

One of the most essential aspects of the Laughing Lotus teacher training (or Love Skool, as it affectionately known around town) is establishing a deep personal practice in addition to group practice. On the first day of training, we were instructed to make manifest a daily sadhana. This may include asana, meditation, chanting, and/or pranayama. We were also given the suggestion of building small altars to practice near, as a way of cultivating a thoroughly sacred space. Each sadhana is individual to its practitioner.

If you are so inclined, dear reader, please let me know what your personal daily sadhana looks like.

The value of a personal practice is undeniable. It allows you to work on your own approach to asana without an external guiding voice. This can be incredibly empowering.  In my own experience, I have focused on maintaining a strong and steady home practice as opposed to a group practice. It’s difficult for me to attend classes regularly and constantly follow someone else’s instruction, even if it ends up being a relief and a joy to do so. As much as I thrive off of that collective energy, it takes quite a bit of effort and motivation for me to consistently put myself at the mercy of others. And yet when I do this, I find that I receive, receive, receive. My fellow Lotus students are remarkable human beings, and I am blessed to be in their presence on a weekly basis. I have much to learn from them.

Over the next twelve weeks or so, I will report back from this training on a regular basis. In the meantime, I leave you with our most oft-chanted mantra, the togetherness mantra.

Om saha navavatu
Saha nau bhunaktu
Saha viryam karavavahai
Tejasvi navaditam astu
Ma vidvishavahai
Om shanti shanti shanti

Let us be protected together
Let us be nourished together
Let us grow together
Let us not criticize each other
Let us not entertain negativity
Om, peace, peace, peace.

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