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teacher training

in Spirituality, Yoga

Hatha Yoga Teacher Training – at an Ashram!

When I finished my Kundalini Yoga teacher training, teaching classes was one of the greatest experiences for me. Sharing knowledge and seeing firsthand how yoga transformed people brought me unexplainable joy. But after a year, I felt the need to be a student again. I had been delving deep into Hatha Yoga studies on my own so I decided it was time to seek out a proper teacher.

I longed to go to India to study with a real teacher in an ashram, but you see ::Kevin Hart voice:: the way my bank account set up –  lol…well that and the fact that I have a small child and I run a real estate business single handedly – prevented me from going. So I researched other ashrams nearby. It turned out that there was an ashram 8 minutes away from my house that I had NEVER heard of! And the teacher was a legit yoga master! You can imagine how ecstatic I was. I couldn’t go to India but India came to me. So off to Yogi Hari’s Ashram I went.

Our class practicing yoga underneath a Bodhi tree at the ashram

TEACHER TRAINING

Teacher training at Yogi Hari’s ashram was an immersive yogic experience to say the least. I lived there for two weeks with the exception of sleep – since I live so close, I chose to go home at night to sleep in my comfy bed – don’t judge me! This was our daily schedule:

5:30 am – Wake up
6:00 am – Meditation, Nada Yoga, Lecture
8:00 am – Asanas, Pranayama
10:00 am – Brunch
11:00 am – Karma Yoga
12:00 pm – Personal Studies
2:00 pm – Main Lecture
4:00 pm – Asanas, Pranayama
6:00 pm – Dinner
7:30 pm – Meditation, Nada Yoga, Lecture

It was pretty much non-stop all day.  I would drop dead in my bed at 10:00pm…but we learned SO MUCH! Yogi Hari shared his knowledge about the yoga sutras and would give us personal stories to tie the lessons together. He loved to do Nada Yoga and you can tell his heart was in his voice as he chanted. His disciples, Rama and Ambika, taught us how to teach an authentic Sampoorna yoga class for beginners and advanced alike. We learned posture variations, posture corrections, different pranayama methods, and yogic cleansing techniques (those were really fun…anyone like enemas?? LOL). The amount of yogic knowledge I gained is invaluable. It is exactly what I hungered for!

Rama & Ambika teaching us posture variations

OTHER EXPERIENCES

  • SELF DISCOVERY & SPIRITUAL GROWTH – At the ashram, I felt like a different person. My life didn’t revolve around endless responsibilities, long to-do lists, and other worldly duties. The identity of ‘Nelsy’ and all the labels attached to her ceased to exist (for the most part anyways). Instead, the sole focus was on going inward and discovering the hidden gems that lie within.  I had ALOT of time to ‘go inside’…two weeks of intense, uninterrupted focus on spiritual growth helped me tremendously.

Lounging in the patio

  • COMMUNITY, TOLERANCE, & LOVE – Living together with 30 other yogis from all corners of the world was so cool. I mean yeah, there were some challenges: some people had quirks, others had certain personality traits, so on and so forth…But regardless of our differences, we grew very close and became a little yogi family. We took care of each other, helped one another, and supported each other. Teacher training was difficult but sharing time and space with these beautiful souls made it worthwhile. They will always have a special place in my heart, including the disciples.

Dinner time

  • SUNRISE MEDITATION/YOGA AT THE BEACH One of the events we had to participate in during our training was a sunrise meditation and yoga class at the beach (gotta love Florida!). The whole experience absolutely blew me away…such peace, stillness, beauty, wholeness. I had a profound moment during meditation that I will never forget and truly there are no words to describe it but I will say this: I strongly suggest to update your bucket list to include a meditation and yoga practice on the beach at sunrise at least once in your life!

Our class meditating on the beach

BITTERSWEET ENDING

Graduation turned out to be a beautiful ceremony. We cried, laughed, and reminisced about all of our yogic adventures during those long but short two weeks. Although I was happy to go back to my life, a part of me was undeniably sad. I realized that living a spiritual life in the real world was MUCH MORE demanding than living it in an ashram or a cave somewhere. You have jobs, finances, children, spouses, pets, etc. constantly fighting for your attention. It takes significant effort, dedication, and discipline to lead a spiritual life in the outside world. I knew that going back to ‘normal’ meant that my lengthy practices and newly developed habits would be threatened to take a backseat.

Well here I am, reporting almost a year later, to tell you that my prediction was correct. I do not spend nearly half as much time meditating, chanting, or practicing yoga as I did in the ashram. But I do not feel bad about it because it would be unrealistic for me to meditate and practice yoga 5 hours a day given my current circumstances. Oh how I wish things would be different, but for the time being, they are what they are. So I make it a point to dedicate time to my spiritual life everyday, whether that be two hours or 10 minutes.

I am grateful for having been blessed with the opportunity to live in an ashram and experience the beauty of dedicating one’s life to exploring within, exploring God, and exploring yoga. I will take what I learned with me and continue to share it with the world 🙂 Om Shanti!

Top: Yogi Hari and I // Bottom: Class Picture on Graduation Day

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Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training

A Transformative Journey

I will never forget my first Kundalini Yoga class. I don't think most people do.

My friend Elsa, who was in the middle of training to become a Kundalini Yoga instructor, asked me to attend her "yoga" class, which she held out of her real estate office. I was experienced in Vinyasa Yoga so I was thrilled to have a chance to practice, no matter where it was.  LITTLE DID I KNOW...this was NOT Vinyasa.

"ONG NAMO GURU DEV NAMO!!!!!" Elsa chanted loudly to start the class. We were supposed to have our eyes closed, but I peeked through my right eye to see what the heck was going on. I had never heard of Kundalini Yoga before then but I decided to just go with the flow. I was absolutely stunned to see how effective this practice was in getting me to relax and quiet my mind in such a short time. Yes, I felt awkward at first, but after a few minutes my body remembered. It remembered that this ancient practice was a part of my ancestral lineage. It was a part of who I was. My soul reveled in this recollection and now all that was needed was for my conscious mind to catch up to the Truth.

And did it catch up!! I was hooked after the first class. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about the practice. I stayed up several nights watching YouTube videos and reading tons of articles about Kundalini Yoga. I read great things, controversial things, and also scary things, which deterred me for a while [ugh, fear *eyeroll*]. But then I came across an article about the Master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan, and I was surprised to discover that his birthday was the same day as mine. I took that as a huge sign from the universe. I wanted to go deeper....so after just a few months of being introduced to Kundalini Yoga, I signed up for Level 1 Teacher Training.

Image result for so it begins meme

TEACHER TRAINING

Level 1 Teacher Training took about nine months and was a pretty big commitment. Once or twice a month, we would meet all weekend long. The first day, my stomach was in knots.  I didn't know what to expect nor did I know anyone there. We all had to sit in a huge circle to introduce ourselves. I am naturally outgoing but speaking in front of 40 strangers gave me a bit of anxiety.

Truth be told, it went pretty well. As the months passed, we got to practice speaking in front of the class and interacted in smaller groups. We thoroughly discussed topics from our books and many personal matters on a one-on-one basis, which allowed me to get to know some of my fellow classmates on an intimate level. We even took turns in teaching our first yoga class in small groups. Oh, and the workload was not for the faint of heart. We had to read and take in A LOT of information but fortunately our teacher, Deva Kaur (a/k/a the Queen of Kundalini 😉 ), was amazing at explaining everything to us. For me, it all felt so familiar. It felt like home.

Our Level 1 Teacher Training Graduation Ceremony in Yoga Source

WHAT I GAINED

  • KNOWLEDGE: What didn't I learn!? We were taught so many things: The roots of Kundalini Yoga; yogic philosophy; humanology and yogic lifestyle; Western anatomy; yogic anatomy; awakening consciousness through pranayam, mantra, asana, mudra, bhandas, and meditation; the role, responsibilities, and identity of a Kundalini Yoga Teacher; proper yoga class structure; teacher etiquette; and SO MUCH MORE. The beautiful part about the knowledge we received is that we were not "talked at" all day long about these topics. Instead, we were very interactive and EXPERIENCED most of the things we studied.

 

  • GROWTH: My vulnerable side and I had been out of reach for yearrrrrsss. I equated it to weakness. Boy was I wrong. There is so much power in acceptance and vulnerability. We had to speak in front of the whole class at times. Other times we had to speak to a partner about a sensitive or personal topic. We were told to get up and dance in many instances. Or walk around the studio. Or lay down and suck on our tongues. Or chant with our eyes open. Or watch others cry. There was definitely no room for embarrassment or judgment here. These experiences helped me gain a stronger acceptance of myself and others. It allowed me to embrace vulnerability in a way I had not before, which helped me to grow as a person.

 

  • PERSPECTIVE: My perspective on spirituality definitely changed. It does NOT have to be serious all the time. For God's sake, life is meant to be FUN! For example, at lunch we were always given a delicious Indian meal. It was all good until those beans started kicking in and farts started flying out of people left and right. Man, I had my fair share of giggles. Also, there were times where we had to stay in baby pose for a while and I felt like I was drowning in sheep hair. I would sit up, spitting all over myself, trying to get the hair out of my mouth [in Kundalini Yoga, we sit on sheepskins while practicing]. This was the epitome of human-ness in spirituality. And I loved it.

 

  • PUSH PAST LIMITS: This training helped me push past the limits of my mind. Sitting on the floor for 8 hours was not easy. Plenty of times it hurt like heck, but I did it. Keeping up with the 40 day meditation challenges was also difficult, but I did it. Studying textbooks for hours and preparing class schedules was daunting.....but I did it. Your mind can play tricks on you and make the tasks at hand seem insurmountable...until you overcome them. Having the confidence and belief that you CAN do things is key; because in reality, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO. 

 

  • COMMUNITY: Lastly, I began to put my guard down and was more open towards others. I actually started to TRUST people! And I am glad I did, as I gained a sense of what a real community is. I felt supported, guided, and loved the entire time. I met some amazing friends and I was finally able to come together with members of my soul tribe who love me just the way I am.

 

Me, speaking at the Graduation Ceremony

HIDDEN JOURNEY

I went into Teacher Training with a insatiable hunger for knowledge. What I left with was far more than just that. In the process of learning the origins and intricacies of this ancient practice and the methods on how to teach it to others, I learned so much about myself.

It has given me such an appreciation for life (and my body) that otherwise I do not believe I would have attained. The relationship with my mind has significantly improved and continues to get better, one meditation at a time. Before being introduced to Kundalini Yoga, I was on a fast track to disaster. Unhealthy thoughts and habits, destructive relationships, stressful career, and harmful behavior patterns were my norm. I did not know who I was or the power I possessed as a woman.  I can honestly say that Kundalini Yoga played a big part in being able to let all that go. It taught me to self-reflect in order to self-correct.

In the span of nine months, I shifted right before my very eyes. The amount of transformation that occurred in that time is monumental for me. It brought me closer to my true authentic self.  I discovered that this was not a regular yoga teacher training, but a gentle nudge towards a profound inward journey.  I can honestly say that all of my classmates and I left this training a changed person, in one way or another. I recommend this training to anyone who is looking to teach Kundalini Yoga, but more so for those who are willing to grow and evolve as a spiritual being having a human experience.

SAT NAM!

Class Picture

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