Reigniting the flame:
Allow your awareness to focus on your heart, feel the sensation of joy and gratitude, and allow that joy and gratitude to begin to flow into your arms and legs, your muscles and organs, even into the bones, and to fill you with joy and light.
With these words, Vandita welcomed 250 yoga teachers to KYTA Conference 2007, bringing us together with a centering meditation in preparation for a weekend that would be jam-packed with connection, inspiration, words of wisdom, questions and answers, music, poetry, and movement. On this balmy August evening, the Main Hall was filled with warmthboth literal and figurativeand with a group that included first-time conference participants and veterans who return year after year, yoga teachers from across the country and around the world (including Ireland, Sweden, Iceland, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, and Canada), newly minted teachers and old-timers, men and women of all ages.
In keeping with the theme of the conference, Onto the Mat and Into the World: Yoga for Positive Change, keynote speaker Priti Robyn Ross spoke of the benefits yoga offers to a multitude of populations, and recalled her experiences teaching yoga in a cardiothoracic unit in New York City. She asked the group to envision how each of them could reach out to their community: "We have the opportunity to move out into the world and make a difference in such simple, tender ways, with the amazing tools of yoga that can be adapted to every single situation."
Those concepts took concrete form when two recipients of Teaching for Diversity grants took the floor. Josh Melissari spoke of teaching yoga to elementary school children in Trenton, New Jersey, an experience that inspired him to become a public school teacher there. Donna Wingate shared anecdotes about teaching yoga to pregnant and parenting teenagers. Finally, a poignant slide show of photos contributed by Teaching for Diversity recipients put faces on the 2,000 people from all walks of life who have had the opportunity to practice yoga as a result of the $150,000 in grants awarded by the program since 2000.
On a Saturday that hovered near 90 degrees in the shade, participants in Richard Miller's yoga nidra class stayed close to the ground, while others pumped up the mercury in Shaun Laframboise and Allison Gemmel's drumming and yoga workshop. Many workshops focused on specific populations, including women recovering from addictions; plus-size students; corporate yogis; prison inmates; and new moms. The evening program opened with poetry and percussion by John de Kadt, followed by a keynote talk by Kripalu CEO Dinabandhu Garrett Sarley, who spoke with down-to-earth honesty and humanity on the concept of karma yoga as skillfulness in action, an "authentic equilibrium" that creates greater life force within and outside ourselves.
"For me, the conference is a wonderful blend of professional learning, as well as time for myself, as well as time to network and socialize with other teachers," said Laura Danna, returning for her third KYTA conference. Chris Timmins, a roadie for Shantala (the husband-and-wife musical duo of Benjy and Heather Wertheimer), who was at Kripalu Center for the first time, offered a fresh perspective: "It’s inspiring to feel the community and the level of connection this center has with its teachers," he said.
Sunday dawned bright and cooler, a perfect day to do CircusYogaTM with Kevin and Erin Maile O'Keefe, practice Ashtanga Yoga with Sheila Magalhaes, or chant mantras with Shivananda Thomas Amelio (among many other workshop choices). Shantala offered an ecstatic evening kirtan, accompanied by John de Kadt on drums and Steve Gorn on flute. Guitarist Chris Brenne, KDZ: The Drummers at Kripalu, and Bhavani Lorraine Nelson were also among the musicians who embodied the conference symbol: the Saraswati Yantra Mandala, honoring the goddess of music and the creative arts.
Swami Kripalu was remembered with a slide show on Sunday morning, accompanied by the chanting of Shivananda and Parul Vakani, and the roots of Kripalu Yoga were also revisited in Shobhan Richard Faulds' intriguing, entertaining, and thought-provoking keynote, punctuated with poems written and read by his wife Danna (see below). Shobhan traced the Kripalu lineage, inviting us to view Kripalu, in its various phases, as a Utopian experiment, a grass-roots service organization, and a contemporary expression of an ancient wisdom tradition. All Kripalu Yoga teachers are the holders of the lineage, he maintained"stewards of a sacred trust [who are] able to sustain and evolve the ancient and important tradition destiny has placed in our hands." His words struck a chord with Murari Brian Healy, a charter member of KYTA. "I’m totally reignited," he said, sharing his vision to open a Kripalu Yoga Studio near his home in Sanibel, Florida.
Jeanne Deignan-Kosmides, who has attended nearly every KYTA conference since 1988, felt exactly the same way. "Magic always happens for me when I come here," she said. "I’m not necessarily a person who gets out in the middle of everything and parties. But it’s like a lotus flower opening upthese layers peel away. I get so reinspired to keep my own practice going and to go back out and teach."
Torch of Transformation
We are change agents,
Uplifted by a living
This is the day to plunge