I got a message via Facebook yesterday from a lovely lady who found me via Tumblr (and now I'm on blogger - oh the confusion of social networking!!) who has been searching for a yoga teacher training program. She asked me about my experience at Kripalu. After responding to her message I thought it might actually make a decent bloggy blog blog post, so I am sharing what I wrote about YTT at Kripalu here. I'm planning on eight more stories like The blue and black stone (each corresponding with one of the wall hangings in the stairwells at Kripalu - that's what the Plato quote photo is!) but as inspiration hasn't yet hit...until then... Jai Bhagwan! =)
Sorry it's taken me longer than I thought to get back to you!
It's really hard to synthesize my EXTRAORDINARY month at Kripalu into a general picture, but I'll try.
The month-long at Kripalu was the PERFECT teacher training program for me for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, the complete immersion and the ability to be 100% focused on the program, the process, and my own experience of it was invaluable. (I used to love going on tour with my choir during college for this reason. During the academic year I could really only focus on the music for the hour we rehearsed each day - maybe working on it outside of rehearsal for a few hours a week. But during tour (over spring break) it was the ONLY thing I had to do. There is something profoundly meditative and peaceful about being able to put our focus on ONE thing and really live it.)
I had looked at other programs that met once a week or even once a month, and I somehow knew, deep down inside that what *I* needed was the opportunity to be completely focused on the process of becoming a yoga teacher. I didn't need real-world distractions, I didn't need an environment that would be anything less than supportive of what I was doing, I didn't need to have to make time for my studies - I wanted my life to BECOME that study. I also had a sneaky suspicion that the four weeks would involve a lot of self-inquiry, and I longed for that. I truly can't imagine doing a yoga teacher training program in any other way now that I've completed the Kripalu program. Getting to LIVE yoga in a way almost impossible in the "real world" (depending on your circumstances, I suppose... but those would be rare circumstances to say the very least - I don't know anyone in my circle of friends who has a personal chef who prepares all of their meals with organic, local, healthy ingredients!! Heehee!) was such an INCREDIBLE and rare opportunity. Just writing about it now I'm so aware of what a gift the month was!
I think you do need to be prepared ahead of time that it is, really, yoga boot camp - and they do tell you as much in the literature. You are going, going, going for, essentially, 15 hours a day, six days a week. Those 15 hours include at LEAST 3 hours and 15 minutes of yoga practice, but when you add in experiential posture clinics, practice teach sessions, shadow mentoring, etc, there are days you will be actually, physically, DOING YOGA for eight solid hours a day. That sounds almost impossible when I see it in writing, but having done it, and many a time over the last month, I know it's doable!! (And no, I was not in the habit of three hours of yoga a day before I left. I practiced approximately 90 minutes, four times a week.) I think the fact that you are almost guaranteed eight hours of sleep a night (you're too tired NOT to go to bed by 10pm, usually!) and eating such nutritious food supportive of health and energy is what makes it possible - and, of course, in my experience a lot of physical activity tends to actually GIVE you energy as opposed to depleting it, especially when your body gets used to it. I will say that there were days towards the end of week three and the beginning of week four when my body was, truly, EXHAUSTED, when I woek up horribly sore, and I think at one point I may have gotten a memo from my quads along the lines of: "one more warrior pose and we're going on strike." =) But it's really an incredible thing to look back on and say to yourself: "holy SHIT, I did that. I am SO, so, SO much stronger than I ever, ever realized." =)
One aspect of Kripalu yoga that I truly appreciate, and was not completely prepared for, is the spiritual side of things. Of course if you practice yoga you probably realize that yoga is, at its core, a spiritual practice - or, at least, initially developed as such 5000 years ago in India. But in today's culture it's becoming increasingly unpopular to acknowledge or explore that - maybe out of fear of offending people, etc. I'm not sure. In any event, I really did not know a lot about yoga philosophy before August, and it was incredible to learn about it, and even more amazing to actually begin practicing some of the rituals and traditions in my own life. My class had people from all different religious backgrounds - devout Catholics, practicing Buddhists, on-the-fence-Methodists, Atheists... and somehow the spiritual side of Kripalu yoga was presented in such a way that everyone really welcomed it. I don't know exactly how they do that, but it's amazing.
I think the lovely thing about a program like Kripalu is that it is somewhat self-selecting (my 10-year college admissions background is coming out now) in the sense that, like a small, private liberal arts college (I went to one and worked at three!) the people who are drawn to a place like Kripalu tend to have a certain base-level of what I'd call a kindred-nature. I really felt, and still feel, that each of the 56 other people in my program were people I could develop a strong connection with on some level. Of course, it's impossible to actually become super, super close with 56 other people in one month when you're THAT busy, HOWEVER, I can honestly say that I came away with at LOT of VERY close friends who I will probably keep in touch with for the rest of my life, and a lot of people who I know will always have my back and who I'd drop just about anything for in a heartbeat. In this sometimes cynical, sometimes cold world where it's really hard to develop intimate relationships outside of certain constructs (like college or family) meeting like-minded, interesting, POSITIVE people is SUCH a gift. Especially as we were encouraged to be more and more and more real and honest and vulnerable with each other, it felt completely SAFE to be incredibly and powerfully honest about things we don't talk about in the workplace, on first dates, at bars, or even often enough with our own family and friends- those pesky FEELINGS!! EMOTIONS!! Ha!!
I suppose I should mention (for some reason I feel like it goes without saying, but that is silly) that the actual instruction on HOW TO BE A YOGA TEACHER is second to none at Kripalu. I studied with people who are essentially ROCKSTARS in the yoga world. Their experience and accomplishment would have been overwhelmingly intimidating were it not for the fact that they were the kindest, most humble and most LOVING people I've ever met. Having graduated from Kripalu, I now feel beyond confident in my ability to lead a safe, positive yoga class. The Kripalu toolbag, as it's called, it really unbelievable. You learn exactly the tools you need to teach yoga, and it's surprising how quickly they become second nature and, really, how simple it is. It is a daunting process to actually give voice to the body to lead someone else though a yoga practice. On one hand I quickly learned that it truly is a skill that takes development - teaching yoga is NOT easy. On the other hand, the Kripalu methodology makes it straight-forward to learn.
I think I'll cut this short for now - certainly I've given you a lot to think about!! Let me know what specific questions you might have at this point.