The State of the Training
by Tresca Weinstein
Questions for Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga
Devarshi Steven Hartman, E-RYT, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga (KSY), has been a yoga student and teacher for 30 years and is a former longtime Kripalu resident. Devarshi is the creator of the best-selling audio series The Essence of the Bhagavad-Gita. He leads workshops and retreats throughout the country and, in addition to teaching yoga, is a healing arts practitioner and a teacher of A Course in Miracles. Yoga Bulletin Editor Tresca Weinstein spoke with him recently.
Yoga Bulletin As we come to the end of 2009, can you share with us some of the highlights of the past year in the School of Yoga?
Devarshi One of the best things that has happened in 2009 is that we have been able to further refine our curriculum, allowing us to stay on the cutting edge of yoga teacher trainings offered in the marketplace. This has been made possible due to a number of factors. One is the restructuring of the school, allowing resources to be focused more strategically on curriculum development, faculty and staff training, and admissions and recruitment. Two is the foundational depth and stability of the existing yoga curriculum. Over the past five years we have worked hard to strengthen and deepen our program content, and this year we’ve been able to capitalize on the work from the past years and take the training to the next level. The third reason is the solidity of the KSY faculty team. Our teacher trainers are always excellent and, with the restructuring, we have been able to make it a priority for them to share their knowledge and experience with our KSY interns and program assistants. This has allowed us to have a comprehensive core staff of highly knowledgeable, personable, mature, authentic people teaching and supporting our students. I believe all of these are major reasons why our enrollment is exploding—it has expanded to such a degree that for both our November monthlong and our December 2 by 12 trainings we had to add a second YTT group.
It’s nice to see our long-term investment in our program over the past years paying off so impressively—what we see happening now is that our graduates have experienced the benefits of our training and have gone out and embodied the teachings. As a result they have their own committed and inspired students, and now those students are coming to our YTT to also become yoga teachers. We’re attracting a wonderful, professional, dedicated, passionate group of people—of all ages, and many more young people. We are teaching yoga to a group of people who are really passionate about the difference yoga can make in their lives, the lives of others, and the world. The transformation that happens in our immersion-based trainings is extraordinary. People come out of both our 200-hour and 500-hour yoga teacher trainings, and their friends and family go: Wow, what happened to you? You are different. You’re happier, you’re clearer, you’re passionate, and all of that because of the yoga teacher training.
The incredible support of having Holly [McCormack] as the Director of Professional Trainings, so that I am able to focus solely on the School of Yoga, has been an infusion for the curriculum, for the teaching, and for the consistency of the training. I also want to mention the staff members in the Professional Trainings Office, who have been placing an amazing emphasis on coordinating the unbelievable amount of details that go into producing a YTT and on admissions and recruitment-tracking where and how our students come, what they need, what they want, what their feedback is, marketing to a wider audience, and being much clearer in our marketing materials about the quality that we offer and the hard skills people learn in Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training. All of this effort supports our students in having the highest quality experience from the moment they inquire about a training straight through to graduation.
YB What’s coming up in 2010 for the School of Yoga?
Devarshi The goals we’re working on are many. In 2010, we will be taking the necessary steps to remain the premier location for yoga teacher training. I believe we are one of the best yoga teacher trainings in the country because we don’t allow ourselves to rest on the success of past years. We are always looking ahead, thinking about what our current and future graduates need to have the edge in this booming industry. As such, we will be revamping the 200-hour teacher-training manual so that it can better support our students both in their training and as a resource after graduation. We’re retooling parts of the 500-hour teacher-training curriculum to create greater consistency among the modules, and to provide students with more of the hard skills that the industry is requiring as it grows.
We’re also developing a 750-hour training, which we plan to launch in 2011. The 750-hour certification will most likely be comprised of three modules consisting of an additional 250 hours of training above the 500-hour level. More information about program content will be available in the coming months. This 750-hour training will be open to students who have completed their 500-hour teacher training with us or with other Yoga Alliance-approved programs and who are eager to deepen their personal and professional inquiry into yoga. It will be a unique opportunity to explore and experience what it means to be an effective, transformational, and cutting-edge yoga teacher.
If we look at other complementary health markets, we can safely assume that in the near future more training is going to be what the yoga consumer demands and what yoga professionals will need and want in order to maintain their competitive advantage. As such, we are also in the preliminary stages of developing a 1000- to 2000-hour advanced training-similar to a master’s and doctorate certificate for yoga teachers. The 750-hour training will pave the way to this advanced 1000- to 2000-hour program by completing the necessary foundations.
There are a couple of other exciting developments coming in 2010. For anyone thinking about taking the 500-hour training or who is currently in the training and hasn’t completed Module 2, Pranayama and Practice: The Cultivation of Prana, there will be a unique opportunity to take this module with Dinabandhu and Ila Sarley, Kripalu’s CEO and President, respectively. The next upcoming date for Module 2 will be November 12–21. Also in 2010, in the 200-hour training, we’re drawing new, highly experienced yoga teacher trainers onto the team. We recently welcomed Jovinna Chan and Jurian Hughes as yoga teacher trainers, both of whom completed an intensive two-and-a-half-year YTT faculty apprenticeship. They are extraordinary teachers, with many prior years of experience, who have infused our team with their high energy, professional expertise, and dedication to the yoga teacher training curriculum and study.
YB What do you hear from recent graduates who are going out into the world with their new skills?
Devarshi So many of our young students, so quickly after graduating, have incredible websites and successful classes, are starting centers or working in centers, are creating strategic collaborations with corporations, schools, and health-care organizations, and are doing service projects-teaching yoga to people in prisons, people who have MS, children, people in Rwanda, and many different underserved communities. Every day I’m getting letters from graduates, and what they’re doing is remarkable and inspiring. They help us to further our mission by bringing the art and science of yoga to the world in so many creative and wonderful ways.
YB What unique role or niche does Kripalu have right now in the world of yoga and yoga teacher training?
Devarshi We’re seeing a larger draw of people coming in at both the 200- and 500-hour level who have graduated from other traditions or schools of yoga and are seeing Kripalu as a place for higher yoga education. This is one of the reasons why we are committed to offering more advanced tracks in the future, positioning Kripalu as the place to come to get the equivalent of a master’s- or doctorate-level education in yoga. Because Kripalu is a place that houses the inquiry of yoga in a nondogmatic, immersive, and interdisciplinary way, and because the best of the best teachers in the world come here, depth practitioners who are living yoga as well as teaching it recognize Kripalu as a very exciting place to study.
No doubt, especially in these stressful times, more and more people are turning to yoga, and as much as people might think yoga has saturated the market, I’m still convinced that yoga has just begun to make its mark on our global society. The scientific research on yoga that senior Kripalu teacher Stephen Cope is conducting with Kripalu’s Institute of Extraordinary Living, in partnership with a team of Harvard researchers, is going to prove to the medical community and the scientific community the undeniable positive effects of yoga on health and well-being. That evidence is what’s going to get yoga into mainstream society through the schools, the hospitals, the insurance companies, the corporations. As these institutions become familiar with yoga and its benefits and recognize Kripalu’s industry-leading commitment to validating the effects of yoga, the prestige that the Kripalu name has built for itself over the past thirty years will only strengthen. Our graduates want to be a part of that legacy and are proud to be affiliated with the Kripalu name. This is something no other training in the world offers.
Kripalu is always on the leading edge of what yoga in the modern world is. The way we look back now at the ancient yogis, I think there will be a time a couple hundred years in the future when people will look back and see that Kripalu was the birthplace of much innovative integration between yoga and modern science.