With 384 yoga teachers filling the halls and classrooms of Kripalu Center, the building hummed all weekend with light, joy and celebration. The hugs, laughter, smiles and tears reflected the love that serves as the foundation for this outstanding event, which took place Oct. 23-26. "This feels like the source of some great river. I come here and it all pours forth and we’re part of it," said conference participant Penny Ballantyne. "I came to be in this energy of Kripalu Yoga teachers and sit in this pool of nonjudgment and compassion and deep empathy," said Tawanna Kane, who graduated from Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training in 2001. "I feel so heard."
At Thursday evening’s opening session, Shobhan reminded us of our responsibility to keep yoga from becoming just another exercise fad. To embody the depth of yoga we must model its core teaching-that no one needs to earn a connection to spirit, that yoga is not a self-improvement technique but rather a spiritual path that begins with the bold assertion that each of us was born divine. "Perhaps most important," he said, "yoga allows us to look deeply into ourselves and see a stunning truth. No matter how stiff our body, how confused our mind or closed our heart, the power of a direct connection to spirit is greater than all that. The universal spirit is who and what we are."
Maya Breuer, a member of Kripalu’s board of trustees, planted the first seeds for what has grown into Teaching for Diversity, Kripalu’s grant program for yoga teachers doing outreach work with diverse populations. At this year’s opening session, we heard moving stories from three grant recipients.
Anna Dunwell Friedler, below left, teaches yoga to battered women and children living in a shelter. Tawanna Kane, below middle, to women of color in New York City and Mary Beth DiGannm, below right, to children at risk. Many conference participants were inspired to explore how they too could make a difference in this way.
Sudhir brought more belly laughs to the Main Chapel than ever before. At Friday night’s sesson, he jokingly referred to himself as "tall and funny"...
...and introduced Stephen Cope as "short and deep." Fulfilling that description, Stephen shared his view on the psychological role of the teacher in transformative process; We hope to have his talk available as a KYTA resource CD in 2004. The session was a highlight for many, including Beverly Hummitzsch, who was here for her first conference after graduating from KYTT last year. "The tape from their talk in 2002 has been supporting me over the last six months," she said. "I’m so grateful for the wonderful support we receive."
Kripalu Center has affiliated with nearly 30 yoga studios in the U.S., Canada and England. Twenty-two KAS (Kripalu-affiliated studio) owners attended the KYTA Conference and many of them gathered on Wednesday for a pre-conference meeting.
Attending were, kneeling front, Deb Foss; front row, Donna Boyle, Sheila deMagalhaes, Kendal Sheldon and Jeanne Wettlaufer, Jane Montgomery, Mary Lou Buck, Marleen Salko, Vandita, Rosemary Clough, Pam Jackson, Debra Risberg, Toni Bradley and Anne Marie Ward; back row, Lawrence and Rose Campisi, Bob Gibbs and Diane Utaski. Also attending were Paul and Sydnie Cote, Shirley Sicsko and Sue Giberson. See a complete list of Kripalu-affiliated studios.
Vandita and Shrila shared the full gamut of emotions and experiences throughout the weekend. Whether the moment called for emceeing the conference, giving one-on-one time to a participant or dropping in to sample workshops, they did it all with grace and lovingkindness. All their planning and preparation paid off when the conference was rated "very good to excellent" by 98% of participants. "Hosting this year’s conference was one of the highlights of my year," said Vandita. "I was inspired by our speakers, the workshop presenters and the yoga teachers in attendance. All are so committed to delivering the breadth and depth of yoga to their students and keeping it alive in their own practice. I am honored to be part of KYTA, as a member and as a colleague of many talented instructors."
There were 28 three-hour workshops offered on Friday and Saturday, covering a myriad of topics of relevance to yoga teachers-from working with specific groups to planning classes to running your yoga business.
Here’s just a sampling of what we heard from participants.
Jashoda [Edmunds] and Brahmani [Liebman]’s workshop on assisting addressed all my fears.-Gean Bloss
Stephen Cope’s workshop on the Yoga Sutras was a really good, solid, clear introduction. It’s demystified it a little for me so it’s not intimidating. In Todd Norian’s inversions workshop, I did my third handstand since injuring my wrist a few years ago. Something about the alignment and language he used helped me know where my body needed to be.-Tawanna Kane
I came especially for Rosemary Clough’s workshop on children and also got the added benefit of the lunchtime talk with Craig Hanauer on children with special needs.-Kim Krenz
Ann Greene’s workshop on hand balancing postures was fun, fun, fun!-Brucie Waltemyer
"I chose classes to help me move to another step. I learned a lot in Rudy Peirce’s workshop on the complete Kripalu Yoga class...
...and in Rebekkah Kronlage’s workshop on bringing Kripalu Yoga Stages II and III into a beginner’s class. Now I want to move on to Teaching the Deeper Practices."-Beverly Hummitzsch
Sunday morning’s closing session integrated all the experiences of the weekend and celebrated yoga teachers as catalysts for transformation. There were laughter, tears and countless hugs. "By Sunday morning, our group energy was incredibly high," Shobhan said afterwards. "As I watched each person affirm their next step on the path and symbolically blow a string of soap bubbles to heaven, my heart broke open. I was reminded once again that KYTA is my tribe." "This is the best conference I’ve attended so far," said Gean Bloss, who’s been coming to KYTA conferences since she graduated from KYTT in 1999. "Everything I’ve gotten is exactly what I needed. I came looking to be reignited as both a yogini and a teacher, and in both respects, I have been revitalized. I’m definitely coming back next year!"