Last summer, I attended a 10 day LifeForce Yoga ® Practitioner training at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. The teacher of our training, Amy Weintraub, presented a very comprehensive and well-planned curriculum intended to help both mental health professionals and yoga teachers develop skills to address the symptoms of several mental disorders – primarily depression and anxiety – through yoga. My fellow students and I sat through many hours of lecture about the brain, the physiological and psychological effects of yoga. We meditated, we chanted, we practiced asana, we examined ourselves, our beliefs, our biases, our inner-critics… as I said, it was comprehensive. And exhausting. And although it was interesting and thought provoking, I found myself tuning out at times due to the sheer volume of information I was putting into my already full brain. Having just graduated with my masters in counseling two months prior, I had reached my saturation point.
On the second day of the training, I met a woman named Amanda. We struck up a conversation while enjoying some iced tea and the view of the mountains from the top floor of the dorms across from the dining hall. It turns out that Amanda is a school counselor who is also in charge of the yoga program in her high school. She lives in a small community near Halifax in Nova Scotia. We had a lot in common and became fast friends.
We continued on through our training, engaging in very serious and deep practices. By Sunday evening, about 3 days in, we were all feeling a little grouchy. Again, the information was fantastic, and those who have taken my Yoga for Mental Health class know that I make use of the tools Amy provided to us on a regular basis; however it was just too much to hold onto at that time. Several of the students and I found ourselves complaining about the rigorous schedule which allowed little time to experience the other classes – the less mentally and emotionally taxing classes – Kripalu had to offer. It was ironic that many of us in Amy’s training were beginning to actually feel depressed and anxious. The saving grace were the noon Yoga Dance classes in the great hall, which we did have time for on most days. A number of us would attend and enjoyed the free-form expression and movement. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to move as I needed after HOURS of sitting, listening, and processing. It was fun, and hilarious, and I got to sweat and roll around on the floor and be a bit ridiculous. I also got to feel utterly graceful, and gentle, and beautiful – all in the course of 60 minutes. This was quite a different experience from my college days when I got a B in Jazz Dance class. This has always stuck with me – this judgment of the way that I move. It was OK, but I didn’t deserve an A. And through these Yoga Dance classes, I was able to let a little bit of that self-consciousness go. One thing yoga has taught me is that it is not about how a pose looks; it’s all about how a pose feels.
And then, on Tuesday, while Amanda and I were sitting at lunch outside on the deck, up the stairs walks Shiva Rea – possibly the biggest yoga celebrity in the world. I had never seen her in person before. Vicky – who did her teacher training at Kriaplu – had told me a story of her Shiva sighting at Kripalu. I believe it involved Shiva running out into the rain with ecstatic joy as a group of students looked on. I have been a fan of her DVDs for a while now, especially her Trance Dance practice. In person, this woman is luminous. She has a glow, which is in part due to her California surfer blond hair, but it’s more than that. I can only describe her as a Goddess. She just glides. She is graceful. So, needless to stay, I was star-struck. Amanda was as well. We were sure to attend her kirtan session with Donna De Lory on Wednesday evening. We danced and sang. When it ended, Shiva stuck around and played DJ as we participated in an impromptu dance party late into the night. It was then that Amanda and I vowed that our next training would be something with Shiva – something not quite so serious.
In July, Amanda and I will meet in Venice Beach at Exhale Spa for a 3 day Global Trance Dance teacher training with Shiva Rea. I’m sure there will be some lecture, but I what I am looking forward to most of all is feeling good in my body and moving as I am inspired without judgment. I believe this can be just as healing as Pranayama and Meditation – maybe even more so. We’ll just have to see…
So, Blossom Yoga fans, look for Global Trance Dance coming home to Laramie in late summer, early fall 2013! But you also don’t have to wait until then either. As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”