Enhancing your teaching
Now that she's certified as an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist through the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, Colleen Hruska, a KYTA member who lives in Dover, New Jersey, can tell a lot about her students the moment they walk in the door.
"I can summarize their body type by watching them walk into the room, by looking at their skin and the color of their hair and eyes," Colleen says. "And once I know their dosha, I'm able to use certain wording when they're in a posture that fits their type."
Learning how to identify the doshas (the three primary Ayurvedic constitutions) and adapt a yoga class or posture to each body type is just one aspect of the intensive Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist training. Consisting of seven three-day sessions spread out over seven months, the curriculum includes the history and philosophy of Ayurveda; Ayurvedic lifestyle training; Ayurvedic anatomy and philosophy; Sanskrit; Yoga and Ayurveda; and Ayurvedic psychology. The first session of the 2006 training is set for January 19 to 22.
The Kripalu School of Ayurveda also offers an Ayurvedic Consultant certification training, which comprises 18 sessions within two years. Nearly all of those who entered the school's inaugural program this year to earn their Yoga Specialist certification decided to continue the training and become certified consultants.
"Traditionally, yoga and Ayurveda were always taught hand-in-hand," says Hilary Garivaltis, Director of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. "Ayurveda enhances the understanding and knowledge of how prana flows in the body. Once you learn the language and practices, it's impossible not to bring it to your teaching. It enhances yoga teachers' personal practice as well as their ability to explain Ayurveda to their students in a deeper, more powerful way."
As Colleen puts it: "As a yoga teacher you become aware of your body, but this really puts the icing on the cake. It's like another dimension, another awakening, just like when you first discover yoga."
Chaya Heller, a yoga teacher who lives in Lenox, Massachusetts, completed the Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist training this year and is continuing toward Ayurvedic Consultant certification. She says understanding the principles of Ayurveda has enhanced not only her teaching, but also her one-on-one sessions, bodywork practice, and "Body and Beyond" workshops, in which she uses yoga and Ayurvedic wisdom as a framework for holistic health.
"Ayurveda teaches us how to observe everything in relationship to everything else," Chaya says. "It's sharpened my ability to observe my students and clients and match who they are with what they need to find balance in their lives."
Graduates emerge from the program with the tools to integrate Ayurvedic knowledge into their existing yoga classes and workshops and to launch Ayurvedic cooking and lifestyle classes. Hilary says a number of the yoga teachers who enrolled have been prompted by their students' interest in the subject.
"Many have been teachers for a while and have a following of students or have their own yoga studios, and they're getting inquiries from students about Ayurveda and how to incorporate holistic changes into their lives from an Ayurvedic perspective," she says.
The Kripalu School of Ayurveda's 12 faculty members include Vasant Lad, former medical director of the Ayurveda Hospital in Pune, India; Vyaas Houston, founder and director of the American Sanskrit Institute; acupuncturist and yoga therapist Scott Blossom; and David Frawley, one of the few Westerners recognized in India as a vedacharya, or teacher of the ancient wisdom.
Chaya, who has been teaching yoga for 11 years, is amazed by all the ways in which this 5,000-year-old discipline remains relevant to our lives and health today. "It's this ancient science, yet it's not stagnant," she reflects. "It's very accessible, very open-minded, and as we move forward, it moves with us. It's a framework that can still serve us as we evolve as a society."