Becoming a Yoga Instructor: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course

By Laurie Bishop
June 22, 2018

 

With week one and week two under our belt, we moved into our final week of the Sri Sri Teacher Training Course in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina. During week three, our schedule remained the same, and our growth continued.

 

Tapping into the joys of childhood

At the beginning of the third week, everyone in class began to look younger. It doesn’t make sense, does it? After two weeks of lengthy yoga sessions, unpredictable weather, and long days, we should have looked haggard.

But, we didn’t.

We all have those memories of the unbounded joys of childhood. Remember those? Our class collectively began to tap into those old memories of happiness, and the contentment of self that young children have before life gets rough. Tapping into those feelings of happiness made us feel and look younger. That lost eye twinkle was back!

What could challenge that renewed youthful spirit? Well, I’ll tell you what…EXAMS!

 

Exam time!

The class instructors were very upfront about the upcoming exams. The exams would be difficult.
Panic rippled through the class. What if we spent three weeks learning anatomy, physiology, the endocrine system, ancient yoga knowledge, Sanskrit, perfected our yoga poses only to be told, “Sorry, honey, you failed. You can’t be a yoga instructor.”

Before I started the course, I didn’t even know I wanted to become a yoga instructor, and now I was panicked I would fail. Other classmates verbalized that same fear as we dried dishes during seva, or walked up the hill to class.

During the third week, we had two practicums where we had to perform poses in front of our class and the teachers. The teachers we had grown to love would have clipboards and stern faces and would grade us as they watched us teach, and they weren’t afraid to give failing grades.

We had the tools we needed, knowledge, proper alignment of poses, but could we teach a class? Did we believe in ourselves enough?

Doubt crept back in, and most of us wondered, “Do I know enough to succeed?”

 

Letting go of doubt

One of our teachers said something remarkable when faced with a barrage of questions from nervous classmates (It wasn’t just me!) about the level of difficulty in the exam and practicum. Instructor Bharti said that if we failed, then she failed as a teacher. It was her job to provide us with everything we needed to pass. We had everything we needed. We just needed to calm down and believe in ourselves.

Intention matters. My intention developed and grew, and I wanted to pass the course. I had to believe that I did indeed have everything I needed. I had to let go of the crutches that kept me from succeeding, the what if’s in life that everyone has. What if I couldn’t remember the information. What if I physically couldn’t perform the poses. What if I fail. What if…

 

With a little help from friends…

Our class would study together as we walked to the dining hall for meals. We would quiz each other while we were drying dishes. When one person felt weak about a particular subject, whether it was the name of bones or muscles or how to pronounce words in Sanskrit, collectively we would help that person. As we worked together as a group, and we became stronger as individuals.

Each classmate at one time or another during that last week reached out to help me with some aspect of the exam. I, in turn, reached out to help whoever needed help. We created a song to go with the Sanskrit words for the personal ethics of yoga while working in the kitchen. One classmate created a Jeopardy game that quizzed us on the endocrine system. A classmate reminded us all that we were only as strong as the weakest student. The individual desire to pass became a collective one fueling us through the week.

 

A desire to help others

When it was time for the practicum, I focused on my intention to teach yoga to the best of my ability. I didn’t worry that I wasn’t the most flexible person in the room or that I was in my 50’s. My focus was on my intention, and my intention had grown from accepting a challenge from a friend to strengthening a desire to help others.

Without the three-week immersion into all things yoga, I might have missed that essential element.
I’m not going to tell you that the written exam was easy because I had all that I needed to pass it. It was tough, really tough. I hadn’t taken a college-level exam in a long time (OK, so I’m talking 30 years.). We had 2 ½ hours to complete the exam (which felt like a college-level exam to me), and it took me the entire time. Yes, I remembered nearly all of the information, but I did get confused on some of the questions (what did the mitral valve do…what did that Sanskrit word mean again…argh!).

 

The results

At the end of the week, we found out as a class what our grades were and that we would be getting our 300-hour Sri Sri Yoga Certificate, which would allow us to apply for a 200-hour Yoga Alliance Certificate as well.

As a class, we did pretty well. There were a few As, a few Bs, many Cs, a few Ds, and a few people failed but were allowed to retake the exam. My grade was a B, and I was content with that.
We spent many hours after we got our scores smiling, hugging, laughing, and talking about how we would visit each other’s yoga studios and guest teach. If we make those visits, the trips will take us all over the United States, to Canada and China.

 

A way to give back

I’ve been home from The Sri Sri Teachers Training Course for several months now, and I find myself pausing when my friends say, “How was your yoga trip? It must have been so relaxing to do yoga for three weeks!”

“No. No, it wasn’t relaxing at all.” I reply to them. “It was transformational.”

My life isn’t perfect since I became a yoga instructor, and I’m certainly not happy all the time. Life is hard for everyone, and there is always something that knocks me off my confidence platform. Yoga, though, is a way for me to pick myself back up when I get knocked down. It’s also a way for me to give back to the well of life from which I drink.

I have taught a few yoga classes since I have been home. The best part about teaching is looking at the faces of students after the yoga session and seeing people who are relaxed and happy. It’s a great feeling to know that I am helping others to find their happy through the practice of yoga.

Recently, I’ve learned there is a 500-hour yoga teacher training course. I’m in my 50’s and not very bendy, but in the near future, I’ll be taking that course.

 

This September, you can experience the Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training for yourself. Click here to learn more and begin your yoga teaching journey! 

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living retreat center , experiences , Retreats , teacher training , yoga , yoga instructor training
A Mountaintop retreat in Boone, NC

An Unlikely Candidate: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course

By Laurie Bishop
June 12, 2018

A Mountaintop retreat in Boone, NC

Last summer, a friend of mine, Sejal, suggested I take a three-week course in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina to become a yoga instructor. At first, of course, I said no.

 

I’m in my 50’s and not very bendy. Except for taking Sejal’s yoga class at the Art of Living Retreat Center, the only yoga I had taken was a class here and there at the YMCA and a few other fitness centers. Those classes were more feats of calisthenics than true yoga, and left me sore and feeling inadequate.

 

Sejal persisted, which made me wonder, “Why?” Why should a woman in her fifties with minimal experience in yoga become a yoga teacher?

 

“You don’t have to be bendy,” Sejal insisted. She went on to say that this is about a lifestyle, a chance to make life better.

 

Suddenly, and surprisingly to me, my “Why should I?” turned into “Why not?,” and I headed to the mountains of Boone with my car packed full of clothes and emergency cookies.

 

Arriving at the Center

Upon reaching the Art of Living Retreat Center, I immediately felt a sense of calm, as though I was home. I checked into my dormitory-styled room, heaving my overstuffed luggage up the stairs. My room consisted of a bed, a nightstand, a desk, and a chair. I opened the windows and let the fresh mountain air fill the room before walking to class.

 

The view from the front of the building was gorgeous as I stopped by the benches placed for people to sit and breathe in the mountain view. It was October 14th, and the leaves were changing color.

 

I walked up the hill to one of the buildings below the main ashram. The crisp air, the view of the rolling mountains, and the overall stillness of retreat center made life feel simpler as I walked towards Veda II, the building I would be taking classes in for the next three weeks.

 

The first class

The building was intimate, yet had plenty of room for our class of 24 to spread out. I sat in the front row facing a small stage. On a yoga mat next to me sat Sunita, who soon became my buddy. She is 72. Yes, 72. It wasn’t long before she told me about her double knee replacement surgeries and how yoga helped in her recovery. Here I was worried about not being very bendy and in my 50’s…

 

While sitting on our yoga mats, the class had a short introductory session before we broke for dinner. It’s a steep hill up to the dining hall, one we would walk up and down many times over the three-week course.

 

Nourishing food and community

The dining hall for the Art of Living Retreat Center is entirely vegan, and meals are served buffet-style. There were so many choices of food that I found my plate piled high each meal because I wanted to try everything. Chef Mel was fabulous at providing unique meals and only repeating dishes when asked – his tomato and pepper bisque was a welcome repeat.

 

Windows lined the dining hall wall and displayed a view of the rolling mountains painted with the changing fall leaves. That first night, I sat and ate dinner amongst strangers not fully aware that after three weeks these people would become my family.

 

Serene mornings

The first full day set the tone for how physically and mentally demanding the course would be. I set out for the day at 5:05 am, meeting Sunita and Daisy (another classmate) for the 15-minute walk up the hill to class.

 

At 5:05 am, the stars shone very brightly in the night sky. The brisk morning air stung my cheeks. I planned on bringing with me to Boone a mini Keurig so I could continue having my morning coffee, but my teenage daughter would not allow me to bring one. “Mom,” she said with great exasperation, “It’s like bringing beer to rehab. You are not bringing a coffee machine to learn yoga.” She was right, and the coffee-free brisk morning walk helped to wake me up for the 5:30 am class.

 

The early morning class began with yoga, breathing exercises including Sudarshan Kriya (rhythmic breathing developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), and Sahaj Samadhi meditation until 8:30 am. Then it was time for breakfast.

   

The hidden blessing of seva

One of the essential aspects of Sri Sri Yoga is seva (selfless service). We were all assigned a seva, and my seva was working in the kitchen after each meal.

 

Usually, I would not be excited about working in a kitchen. Truth-be-known, I am never enthusiastic about working in my kitchen at home. It made a huge difference that this kitchen was not my kitchen. It was a commercial kitchen filled with happy people whose intent was to help others. I would dry dishes and put them out on the counter, or stack dirty dishes bound for the large industrial dishwasher. This dishwasher had a conveyor belt system. Every time I pushed a tray into the machine, it reminded me of how people get on rides at Disney.

 

I scrubbed pots and pans, and I wrapped fruit. Whichever task I did, I did with contentment. It’s amazing how being around like-minded happy people can make even the most menial tasks enjoyable.

 

Jim managed the kitchen. This job was his retirement job, and he always had a pep in his step and a sparkle in his eyes.

 

Other classmates worked in the kitchen with me. We would talk about our families and lives back home as we dried dishes, or whatever chore we were doing. Seva was a very grounding and comforting experience.

 

Sinking into yoga

After breakfast, it was back to Veda for more yoga. The Yogi Master, Krishan Verma, would have us hold specific yoga poses or asanas, and I would think, “Wow, I am awful at this,” or “I’m not going to be able to stand up and walk again after holding this pose for so long.” After a session, I would stand up and walk just fine without any pain. Yes, I would be exhausted, but I would not feel pain, which amazed me.

 

There were many times that first week when I kept looking into Krishan and his wife Bharti’s eyes thinking they were going to shake their heads at me with an awkward look of annoyance and point towards the door saying, “This really isn’t working. It’s time for you to leave.” Of course, that never happened – it was just doubt overwhelming my mind.

 

I doubted whether I would be able to do all the poses. My body is still recovering from a car accident I was in two years ago. It was a significant accident. I had neck problems and mild traumatic brain injury from the wreck that affected my speech and short-term memory. I would think about that as I was sitting crossed legged listening to Krishan teach the class. Maybe Sejal was wrong? Maybe I wouldn’t be able to do this.

 

So much doubt!

 

Working through mental and physical blocks

Several years before the car accident, I blew out my Achilles tendon while training for a marathon and had to learn to walk again after having a new tendon created. Maybe I just couldn’t do yoga because of that, never mind the car accident…

 

I kept doing all the poses to the best of my ability, taking the meditations seriously, committing to the breathing exercises, arriving to class early, and listening to what the teachers were instructing. At some point during the first week the doubt I was carrying became unimportant. It was still there. At times, it would wash over me in waves, but I found it best to acknowledge it and move on.

 

Maybe it was the fact that I was constantly busy? Perhaps the yoga poses, breathing exercises and meditations were giving me the strength I needed to ignore the persistent nagging doubt? Maybe I was just too exhausted? I don’t know, but I stopped listening to that voice in my head that said, “You can’t do this because of…” I began to concentrate on one step at a time.

 

We would break for lunch between 1 and 1:30, walk up the steep hill, eat lunch, and I would work in the kitchen again. That first week, as I got to know my classmates better, I began to notice that we all had voices of doubt to overcome. Life is difficult for everyone. It doesn’t matter what kind of doubt someone carries. Doubt is doubt, and for every individual, it can stop progress.

 

Finding a rhythm

Some days, my classmates and I would talk a lot while doing seva. There were days when we wouldn’t talk at all. Then there were days where we would laugh and sing. It all depended on what we were working through that day. Our struggles might have been different, but our paths were similar.

 

By the end of week one, we had learned all the Sri Sri Yoga poses, and we began learning anatomy and ancient yoga knowledge. Class started at 5:30 am and ended at 10 pm, followed by a daily written homework assignment and studying. After week one, the battle between myself and my mind had quieted. Now I wondered, can my body withstand the course?

 

To Be Continued…

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living retreat center , experiences , Retreats , seva , teacher training , yoga
Artist Retreats

Artist Retreats – Explore Your Creative Side

By Paige Reist
January 23, 2017

Artist RetreatsCreativity is a muscle, and like other muscles, it needs to be exercised. The challenge for those with artistic souls is finding a way to exercise that muscle when so much time is spent on work, home stresses, and more.

While practicing your preferred craft is a great way to start working out your creative muscles, there are times when you need something more – a chance to reconnect with your artistic self, and a muse that you can use to inspire your creative works for the future.

 

Benefits of Artist Retreats

Since our founding, we’ve offered several different types of retreats, including Ayurveda retreats, spa healing retreats, and more. These retreats attract people from all walks of life. But we have found that some of our visitors that seem to best enjoy their experience are artists.

This is because artists, perhaps more than any other group, benefit the most from reconnecting with both nature and themselves. Spiritual and healing centers have many benefits that make them ideal as an artist retreat, including:

  • Cleared Mind – Healing retreats help to slow the world down. They are relaxing, and able to calm your mind from the stresses of the day. This allows the analytical side of your mind to rest, and the creative/artistic side to start to take over.
  • Fresh Air and Nature – Any artist retreat would be incomplete without a chance to spend time with nature, and these types of healing retreats provide just that. At all times you are surrounded by beauty, which stimulates your creative juices and clears up the busyness of the city.
  • Better Sense of Self – Creativity comes from inside you. Artist retreats give you the chance to tune out all of the outside influences that you receive in your life from work, TV – even friends and family, so that you can bring out your own artistic ideas.

Retreats are also energizing, and many people leave these getaways feeling like they are ready and motivated to take on anything that they had envisioned.

 

Types of Artist Retreats at the Art of Living Retreat Center

Each retreat has its own unique strategies and perspectives, so choosing between them is really about addressing yourself: what is it you feel like you could benefit from most for both your personal side and your creative side.

 

Upcoming retreats include:
Storytelling For Change with JAC Patrissi

The Art of Bewilderment with Nick Flynn

The Art of Letting Go with Heather Allen Hietala

Deep Writing Workshop with Dr. Eric Maisel

Yoga & Writing with Karen Kenney

 

Every artist deserves a chance to explore their own creative soul. Let our retreats help inspire you, and provide new energy to put into your chosen craft.

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , artist , creativity , Retreats , wellness

Ayurvedic Detox (Part 3): Panchakarma

By Dr. Harrison Graves, MD
July 22, 2016

web_864x577-taste-of-panchakarma

 

Ayurveda, the holistic medicine from India, has given us the ultimate way to detoxify the body-mind: Panchakarma.

Panchakarma, or the “five actions,” is a time-tested cleansing process that releases stored toxins and restores the body’s innate healing ability. It is a series of therapies that helps remove deep rooted stress while balancing the body-mind types – vata, pitta, kapha.

Panchakarma was developed thousands of years ago by the physician-yogis of India. Its five actions refer to the five cleansing and rejuvenating procedures described in Ayurvedic textbooks. Panchakarma in the West mainly uses three of these five Ayurvedic methods for removing toxins, each prescribed based on one’s body-mind type.

Scientific studies have proven that the natural purification treatments of Panchakarma can successfully eliminate environmental toxins such as PCB’s and pesticides from the body.

A Panchakarma program is only effective if special detoxification diet is consumed along with the treatments. The staff at the Shankara Ayurveda Spa are keenly aware of this and every individual undergoing Panchakarma receives a special diet which is monitored by the doctor.

The Process

Think of Panchakarma as a three step process: mobilization of toxins, elimination of toxins, and body-mind rejuvenation.

Step 1: Mobilizing Toxins
Panchakarma begins with oleation — the application and ingestion of oils and ghee to loosen and mobilize toxins from the stomach and intestines. Deep soothing massages are given, using warm oils like coconut and sesame, that have been infused with healing herbs.

Step 2: Elimination and Release
After oleation, comes Swedana, or sweating therapy, in the sauna or steam room. Sweating allows toxins to be eliminated through the skin while improving circulation and releasing tension. In addition, the toxins mobilized in Step 1 are released using a series of daily basti’s, or therapeutic enemas. Basti is much more than an enema, however. It refers to a special type of colon cleanse that uses herb infused oils to remove fat-soluble toxins from the intestinal tract.

Step 3: Body-Mind Rejuvenation
Once the toxins have been released, the time is ripe to nourish the body with natural foods, with meditation and gentle yoga.

The Shankara Ayurvedic Spa Experience

Panchakarma Retreat for wellness at the Ayurveda Spa.

A Panchakarma Detox Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center Spa is pampering and de-stressing experience, customized just for you. It includes:

  • Initial Ayurvedic consultation with pulse assessment followed by daily check ups with an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner so that you experience the best treatments for you
  • About 2 1/2 hours of daily Ayurvedic treatments, customized to your personal wellness program
  • Abhyanga (warm oil massage): One of the world’s oldest massage therapy techniques, herb-infused oils are massaged into the body, loosening toxins, relaxing the nervous system and providing rest, nourishment and rejuvenation.
  • Swedna (steam room therapy)
  • Combinations of several different treatments, such as shirodhara, karna purna, nasya, marma, kati basti, netra tarpana as recommended for you
  • Therapeutic, organic diet designed to optimize your experience in treatments
  • And much more, like Ayurvedic cooking classes and daily satsang/kirtan

* * *

Releasing Emotional Toxins

Emotional toxins can be just as damaging as physical toxins – for example, the suffering caused by a toxic relationship at home or undue criticism at work. It’s important to remember that your mind and heart are continually digesting energy and information as well as foods.

The inability to clear these toxic emotions like anger, jealousy or grievances can lead to stress related illnesses, from ulcers to hypertension to stroke. If your emotional agni, your inner fire, is strong, you will be able to reinforce the positive emotions that nourish you – like happiness, contentment, joy and gratitude – and eliminate the negative emotions that no longer serve you.

Cleansing the Mind: Mantra and Pranayama

Both Ayurveda and Yoga recommend mantric chanting and conscious breathing as an important part of holistic healing. Some mantras, like Aum and OM Shanti, are soothing to the nervous system. Other mantras, like the Gayatri, a mantra for higher consciousness, are chanted for wisdom and illumination.

In addition, pranayama, breathing exercises like nadi shodhana, can rapidly relieve anxiety and soothe the worries and hurries of the mind.

According to Ayurveda, good health depends upon our ability to fully assimilate all aspects of life, taking in that which nourishes us and eliminating the rest. If we don’t completely digest our food, experiences and emotions, toxins will accumulate in our body and mind, creating imbalance and, ultimately, disease.

Learn more about Panchakarma

If you’d like to find out more about Panchakarma and how it can help improve your quality of life, especially in relation to the aging process, you can check out the ebook:

ayurveda guide download

Interested in learning more about how Ayurveda can improve your health? To find out more, schedule a free consultation with our Ayurveda specialist.

 

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living retreat center , art of living Shankara spa , Ayurveda , ayurveda cleanse , cleanse , Detox , harrison graves md , Panchakarma , Retreats , Swedana

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