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Reigniting the flame:
KYTA Conference 2007

Fall 2007

by Tresca Weinstein


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 warmth—both literal and figurative—and 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 up—these 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,
pointing the way to an
unmarked path that not
one of us can walk without
relinquishing the past.

Uplifted by a living
lineage, willing to risk
anything that isn’t real
in the search for what
is true, we are bearers
of the torch of
transformation.

This is the day to plunge
into the midst of challenge.
This is the hour to say yes
to the expression of our gifts.
This is the moment to live
the change we wish to see,
and dare to make a difference.

—Danna Faulds

Complete list of articles by this author:

The 1999 KYTA Conference Fosters Excitement and Growth

KYTA's Teaching for Diversity Program

Scenes from a Conference: More than 300 teachers attend KYTA Conference 2000

Snapshots from KYTA Conference 2001

Bindu Source Johnson shares her experience

Coverage of the 2002 KYTA Conference, Oct. 24-27

Tides Foundation awards KYTA $50,000 for yoga teachers serving diverse populations

Yoga on Tape: Reviews of yoga products created by KYTA members

Yoga on Disc and Tape

KYTA Conference 2003 in words and pictures

KYTA Conference 2004

Yoga on Disc

Kripalu implements new approach to program assisting

Complete guide to Kripalu Yoga hits the shelves

Coverage of KYTA Conference 2005

Enhancing your teaching with yoga's sister science: Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist training begins in January

A sneak peek at KYTA's 2006 Yoga Teachers Conference

Yoga on Disc

Green warriors: Laura Cornell's Green Yoga Association blends yoga and ecology

Yogagaia tells the story of the universe

The yoga of laughter: Keni Fine's Sleeping Swami brings giggles and guidance to the world

Yoga on Disc: Reviews of new yoga products created by KYTA members

Changing the world in memory of a daughter: The Rachel Greene Memorial Fund

Yoga on Disc: Reviews of new yoga CDs from our members

Yoga on Disc: Reviews of CDs by KYTA Conference 2007 presenters and entertainers

Reigniting the flame: KYTA Conference 2007

New member discounts are here! Save every time you visit Kripalu

Flow states: Questions for Ed Harrold

Yoga on Disc

Yoga on Disc, Tape, and Paper

Yoga Ed. trainer awarded $150,000 grant to bring yoga to Pittsburgh public schools

Yoga Everywhere: Spotlighting our Teaching for Diversity grant recipients

Yoga on Disc and on the Page

Green Yoga Association takes new form

Yoga on Disc and on the Page: Reviews of recently released products

Yoga and the Imagination: A Q&A with Randal Williams

Yoga on Disc and on the Page

How we got to the KYTA Conference, and what we found there

Yoga Everywhere: A column spotlighting our Teaching for Diversity grant recipients

Yoga on Disc

Profile of a Cross Trainer

Seva CD 2008: The Soundtrack of Kripalu

Restorative Yoga: The Yoga of Meditation

News from the Professional Trainings Office

Deep Green Yoga

Yoga on Disc and on the Page

The State of the Training

Yoga + Ayurveda: The Perfect Formula for Balance

Edi Pasalis and the Institute for Extraordinary Living pioneer a standardized Kripalu curriculum.

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