Yesterday was my first day of training at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and I’m so blown away by what I’ve experienced and learned so far that I can’t wait to tell you about it.
We (me, my husband, and our two boys) started the day yesterday by boarding a train in Bangalore at 6 a.m. and we arrived in Chennai just before 11 a.m. The hotel forgot to send a shuttle for us, so we caught an uber and made it to the hotel by noon.
My first appointment at KYM was at 2 p.m., so I had just 2 hours to unpack a little, freshen up, find my notebooks and stuff, feed my kids, and catch another uber to get to KYM.
KYM is a yoga therapy institute. They focus almost exclusively on one-on-one, private sessions, totally tailored to the needs of the student. Many of the students have illnesses, injuries, diseases, and/or other issues, and they’ve chosen yoga therapy as their method of healing.
As such, my first appointment was a “consultation” where a senior yoga therapist did an intake to understand my health issues. I answered a questionnaire and she asked additional questions so that she could formulate a yoga practice that addresses my specific issues.
Coincidentally, the senior yoga therapist I was assigned to happened to be the same woman who was my asana instructor when I was here last - 9 years ago!
I was so overjoyed to be at KYM, and even more so because I was assigned to the same yoga therapist (Geetha), that I was smiling from ear to ear for almost the entire session. I just couldn’t help it.
As Geetha was beginning to document my prescribed practice in my chart, she said, “I’m going to give you chanting to help with your stress,” and my eyes filled with tears.
I’ve learned over the years that when something is right, when it’s the truth, my body reacts with tears. And in that moment I knew that I was in the right place, with the right teacher, to help me shift my health in a right direction, and shift my teaching in the right direction. I just knew that everything was right.
After my consultation, I met with Anand at 3:00 so that he could teach me the practice prescribed by Geetha. Anand is a younger teacher, I’m guessing mid-twenties. He completed his teacher training in 2012, so he’s only been teaching 4 years compared to my 8, but boy does he know his stuff.
He patiently led me through the practice that Geetha prescribed. He taught each combination of poses, then had me perform them. He watched carefully to make sure each specific combination worked for me and made adjustments as needed. He emphasized that every movement should feel comfortable. Not painful, not straining, not tired, just 100% comfortable.
If you’ve taken a class with me, you know that I emphasize balancing effort and ease, but this idea of 100% comfortable was 100% new to me. This is where my mind started to be blown.
Anand also led me through the breathing, chanting, and relaxation parts of my practice. When he felt I’d bitten off as much as I could chew for one day, he stopped, saving the rest of Geetha’s prescription for another day.
He documented my practice and instructed me to do the practice before I came to see him again the next day.
My 4 p.m. appointment was with Sangeetha, who is teaching me about the Yoga Sutras, which is a very important yogic text.
She spent an entire hour providing context about the text and teaching me about how and why it was written. I can’t begin to explain how valuable this instruction is to me. The Yoga Sutras are life changing, and all these years I’ve been trying to learn them and understand them on my own. Having a real, live, knowledgable teacher to guide me and answer my questions feels incredible.
At 5 p.m., I met with Madhavan, who is teaching me about Theory of Asana. You’d think that, having taught yoga for 8 years, I’d know a thing or two about teaching asana. Regardless, I’m approaching my experience at KYM as a humble beginner. I know that what I know is a tiny fraction of the knowledge available at KYM.
My beginner mentality proved to be the right track for my lesson with Madhavan. He spent a good 30 minutes, if not longer, explaining the concepts of Sthira and Sukham, Effort and Ease, or as he translate them Stable and Comfortable. If you’ve attended my class, you know I talk about Effort and Ease all the time, but my level of understanding was blown out of the water by what I learned from Madhavan.
I left KYM yesterday utterly exhausted, not only from my early morning travel, but mostly because my mind was overwhelmed with new knowledge. It was fantastic.
Today, Day 2, looked a lot like Day 1.
I met with Anand at 3:00 so that he could review my progress on the practice he assigned me yesterday. He corrected my mistakes. Then he created a new practice for me and taught me the practice. The new practice is my homework before I see him tomorrow.
I met with Sangeetha at 4:00 and she spent an hour and fifteen minutes (AN HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES!) teaching me the very first sutra: 1.1 Atha Yoganusasanam. The first 45 minutes was spent on the single word Atha. No kidding. So rich, the wisdom she shared. Just. Blown. Away.
I absolutely love the Yoga Sutras and I am so, so grateful for this one-on-one instruction. As we walked back up the stairs to the lobby she was still teaching me. She concluded by saying, “Yoga is not about how we can change, how we can improve ourselves, it’s about how we can improve the other person’s life.”
After over an hour’s discussion about how we use yoga to change our patterns, to have her turn the tables and tell me it’s not actually about my own personal progress just blew my mind. Of course, she is totally right. And now I need to find some quiet time to sit and think and figure out exactly what she means. And this is yoga.
Today wrapped up with Madhavan again. It was another hour of absolutely mind-blowing instruction. One Aha! moment after another. I’ll summarize it with one story. He asked me if I’m familiar with Ujjayi breath. Of course, I am. I practice and teach it every day. At least I think I know what Ujjayi breath is. I tell him I learned that Ujjayi breath is for heating the body.
He pondered my response with a bit of a puzzled expression, trying to make sense of it. Finally, he said something like, Yes, I suppose it is a little bit about heating, and then proceeded to explain the real purpose of Ujjayi.
Here I’ve been teaching for 8 years (and thinking I’m doing a pretty good job) and now I realize I don’t even know the whole story about what I thought was a simple and basic practice, Ujjayi.
Then he filets open my 17 years of yoga practice by saying, “Wait, if you’ve been practicing Ujjayi for all these years, then something else is missing from your practice.” And I was like, What?! Tell me, please!
And so it turns out (and of course he’s exactly right) that I’ve been doing Ujjayi mechanically, without real awareness. I’m multi-tasking with Ujjayi, observing sensations in my body, and thinking about which pose comes next, and I haven’t been *really* *really* present with my breathing.
So as you can tell, I’m absolutely blown away by the vastness and depth of knowledge at KYM. I feel like a baby beginner. I’m so grateful to be here and I’m soaking in as much as a can, as a student and also as a teacher.
I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week brings and I can’t wait to bring my new knowledge back to share at The Yoga Room.
Miss you and see you soon!
All my best,