KYTA Conference 2004
by Tresca Weinstein
Thursday night's opening session in the Main Chapel began with a recognition of the workshop presenters, teacher mentors, conference producers and assistants, Kripalu-affiliated studio owners, and Teaching for Diversity award recipients in the room. "I'd like to have one more group stand up," Shobhan said, once the applause had died down. "Everyone who came here to deepen their yoga practice and have funstand up!" All 350 of us rose to our feet.
The evening continued with a Power Point presentation by Kripalu's president, Dinabandhu Garrett Sarley, titled "Kripalu: A Vision for the Future and a Basis for Relationship." Speaking also for his wife and vice president, Ila, Dinabandhu described their approach to yoga as a "one-size-does-NOT-fit-all" tool for producing happiness. They envision Kripalu as an "institution where you go to discover what it means to be fully human and fully alive through a nonsectarian and nondogmatic approach to yoga," with the goal of advancing yoga as a foundation for a revitalized society. He and Ila will be focusing on increasing Kripalu's profile in mainstream culture, creating more opportunities for Kripalu yoga teachers to reach out to the world, and improving communication between the various "organisms" that make up the interconnected "reef" that is Kripalu. To hear Dinabandhu's talk in its entirety, visit www.kyta.org.
Nearly 30 different workshops and a handful of lunchtime presentations were offered on Friday and Saturday, covering everything from teaching techniques to the business of yoga. Deborah Welton of Shelby, N.C., an Integrative Yoga therapist visiting Kripalu for the first time, found the workshops she attended "all offered wonderful things and were complete and thorough." She also loved the gourmet meals! Jan Craver of Mobile, Ala., reported that her favorite workshop was Yoganand's Adding to the Mix: New Teachings on Kripalu Yoga. "It made me glad I'm a Kripalu-trained teacher. His ability to communicate what we're about is so clear and so deep."
In his keynote talk Friday evening, Shobhan spoke of our potential to be both fully human and fully divine. Prana is the connecting link in our being, the way to soul, he said, and attuning to its inner flow brings the body, mind, and heart into a state of harmonious balance. In her keynote address, Vidya Carolyn Dell'uomo brought the spirits of Swami Kripalu, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Theresa into the Main Chapel. She played tapes of a dharma talk with Bapuji and an excerpt from King's "I have a dream" speech, and spoke of the role of faith and grace in the lives of teachers who heed the call to their profession. "When we say 'yes' to teaching, we are saying 'yes' to a soul-transforming way of life," she said.
Justin Morreale, a member of the Kripalu Board of Trustees, had big news for us on Sunday morning. The Alfond Foundation, run by the family of Harold Alfond, founder of the Dexter Shoe Company, has given Kripalu Center a challenge grant of up to $2 million in matching funds. That means your donation to Kripalu will be doubled by the Foundation. It's an amazing time to give to Kripalu, and you can specify where you'd like your donation to go. Donations to the Teaching for Diversity program will allow KYTA to continue supporting yoga teachers who bring yoga to disabled children, homeless shelters, inner-city youth, prisons, and other groups. "To know that we can replenish this well is a dream come true for me," said Vandita. "Your donation to the Teaching for Diversity program has never been more important and may never again carry such value. To date, we've awarded $75,000 with the help of generous gifts from the Tides and Ritter Foundations and Kripalu Center. Those funds are gone, but I have over 20 applications waiting from yoga teachers who are hoping to teach to underserved populations." A letter has been sent to KYTA members explaining how you can contribute.
Also on Sunday morning, Megan McDonough, KYTA's marketing consultant, introduced the KYTA Yoga Entrepreneur Award; for more information, click on From the KYTA Office on the Highlights page. We heard from KYTA member Andrew Kahn, whose ongoing dedication to spreading peace, tolerance, and cooperation through the World is One Family project took human form during the conference in the shape of yoga teachers wearing the beautiful T-shirts Andrew designed. To use the logo, get bumper stickers for your students, or learn more about Andrew's booklet, Creating Peace in Our Current World, visit www.theworldisonefamily.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shobhan led us through an integration and closing, giving each person time to share in small groups about their conference experience. "What is going to lead you forward on your unique path?" he asked, calling on us to put our next step into words. The room filled with laughter, tears, smiling faces, and iridescent soap bubbles. "You stick 350 yoga teachers in a single room, [with] open hearts and open minds, and we're going to connect extra, extra deeply," said Kripalu yoga teacher Jim Readey, who was returning for his ninth conference in as many years. "It happens every time for me, and that as much as anything fuels my personal growth."
The weekend was a transforming experience not just for participants, but also for the conference co-directors, hosting together for the fourth time. "I've been in a place of trust this whole weekend," said Vandita. " This was a pivotal conference in terms of speaking the great wisdoms of Bapuji, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and the many other great teachers who were called into the room during this conference." Said Shobhan, "Every time we gather for the KYTA conference I know in my bones that this is my tribe. I am so grateful to be walking the path with souls like these."