Updated: Feb 10, 2022
August 2019 - December 2021
Day 0: Tomorrow begins Yoga Vahini’s 2.5 year, 850-hour Yoga Vaidya program of practice, observations, group work, lectures, retreats, presentations, mentoring, and internship. There are 25 of us in the course, from all corners of the globe. I think, This is totally awesome! I’m going to be amazing and help people and know everything!
Day 1: Saras says, “Yoga therapy is the ongoing study of the person in front of me, beginning with me.” Like children returning home, we reconnect to various definitions of Yoga and remember the philosophical bhumi (ground) of Sankhya. We ponder the meaning of “healing” during a group retreat. Our mentors review our personal practices. The closing questions propel me forward - “What are your aspirations as a Yoga therapist, and what commitment are you willing to make in that direction?” I think, It's time to look unflinchingly in the mirror, to accept my beauty and to adjust my relationship to anger.
Day 180: The past six months have reinforced the fundamental importance of observing and listening as part of the healing process. To observe ourselves, we complete a 30-day food journal; I admit how much I overeat in order to avoid feeling hungry. We take another group retreat, where our listening skills are tested in real-time as we engage in a challenging conversation about power (and its potential misuse). We learn a heap of other stuff about anatomy, Āyurveda, and common physiological and respiratory conditions. There is a slew of homework assignments. I start to feel overwhelmed, but I'm determined to do my best!
Day 365: COVID-19 has flipped this course on its head and together - from Brazil to China - we must learn to learn virtually. It’s not easy. Our teachers offer brilliant consultations to a handful of new students. As we observe, I wonder, How do they do that? Will I ever be that perceptive? The vyuham structure of heyam-hetu-hanam-upayam (symptom-cause-goal-practice) begins to crystallize our ability to see the whole student and then chart a personalized course based on that understanding. We learn about more conditions - endocrine, cardiovascular, urinary, reproductive. Homework continues, and I still don't know everything.
Day 545: Things get juicier. We examine conditions of the sense organs, and I recognize that my poor eyeballs are exhausted after a year of virtual life. Then we dig deep into how Yoga frames mental health; the saying, “How you look determines what you see” takes on a fresh meaning. We viscerally absorb the importance of daily practice for protecting the body and clarifying the mind. My classmates and I start to present our internship work of one-to-one, community service, and condition-based Yoga therapy. I listen and observe and remind myself, My personal practice must support me through this; no compromises.
Day 730: Āyurveda - we have been studying it all along the way, but the concepts of guṇa-s, doṣa-s, dinacarya, and agni are coalescing in a fuller appreciation for this ancient wellness tradition. We unpack bits of the Yoga Sutra’s third chapter, and our minds are blown open by the power of meditation. Saras reminds us, “Every interaction is an opportunity to practice listening and observing.” I visit my family after a long year and a half apart, and it is here - at the dining table, in the car, on the hiking trail - that I listen differently to my loved ones. These cherished relationships are knitted into my practice.
Day 910: The end! Or the beginning...? We studied many frameworks for healing - guṇa, pañcamaya, pañcavāyu, vyuham, mahābhūta, anatomy and physiology. We scribbled notes about a long list of health conditions from the perspectives of Western medicine, Āyurveda, and Yoga. We practiced observing, listening, course planning, and teaching for individuals with unique constellations of personalities, lifestyles, and health parameters. We documented 150 hours of teaching Yoga therapy in this beautiful tradition of Sri T. Krishnamacharya. We came together as a saṃgha, and we sharpened each other in the process. As the course concludes, our paths must now carry us forward to a new level of learning - that of embodying and expressing what we understand about Yoga therapy, that of sharing these precious teachings with the world.
I have been transformed, humbled, invigorated by the experience of Yoga Vaidya. The "me" of today and the "me" of a few years ago are different people. With reverence, I commit to a life of continued practice, learning, and service. Many inspiring questions remain with me, the answers slowly unfolding one day at a time in a stunning kaleidoscope of potentiality...
What is my definition of Yoga?
To what do I aspire as a Yoga therapist?
What am I willing to commit to?
What is “healing”?
How can I deeply listen to the other?
Who am I…really?
(This piece was originally written for Yoga Vahini's newsletter, and it was edited for your enjoyment here.)