BLOGraphy of a Yogi
By: Justin Mckibben
October 18th, 2015- Day 1 of Yoga Teacher Training at Anuttara Yoga Studio in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
This is a day I’m told will definitively transform the rest of my life, and judging from the size of the class the lives of dozens of others as well, in ways I can’t even begin to articulate. The diversity of those lives can be seen as other students start to fill into the classroom, and I am suddenly struck with a sense of awe at how important these next few months could truly be; to us and the lives we may ultimately impact.
Looking into the classroom surrounded with mirrors and decorated with numerous beautifully painted statues and symbols you can already feel the kinetic energy building. This is the room where memories are to be made, discoveries about self and about life will catalyzed, and we will be blessed with greater understanding of what exactly we are here in teacher training for; what we always come for whenever we practice; Truth.
The laughter begins almost instantaneously with lighthearted and warm exchanges of names and smiles. Happy yogis swap stories and jokes as introductions lead by Philip Christodoulou, our most happy guru, bring us a glimpse of the characters we stand to spend so much time with. In these moments I come to realize that students and teachers, novices and veterans are all equals under the roof of this Shala. A mother of three can sit next to a student and waitress and be connected.
Before you know it the excitement of being back in school is blended with the stimulation of studying the practice, and the class moves to the Kula Room taking notes on poses as Philip directs each pose in detailed descriptions. He talks of Hatha Yoga heritage, humorously telling stories and inviting the class to ask questions and inspire conversations.
I learn that Hatha Yoga means forceful yoga, and that we practice to engage the muscles, using verbs to speak life into the action.
I learn that yoga is a dance that tells a story, and through meditation and intention we use this dance to find our true self, asking that divinity for the answers we all seek in these stories.
Then come the warm ups, and Philip says something I never would have expected,
“The teaching of BALANCE is the Law. All else is commentary. The warm up is the prerequisite. No heat, no fire, no Yoga!”
I had no clue the ‘warm up’ is as essential as it is. Then again, setting intention for this dance seems like a pretty important part. Philip dives into the essence of each basic warm up pose, breaking down why posture is so important and expanding on poses such as:
• Child’s Pose
• Diamond Hero
• Spinal Twist
• Downward Facing Dog
Even talks about the feeling of Bhava we find when heating the body through the breath, and about the Gods that were originally intended to be honored in this action. We dabble in the concept of Sanskrit, and though initially thought I would be overwhelmed I was pleasantly surprised when several students who spoke other languages cross-referenced the same words for numbers 1-10 and revealed the subtle similarities in the dialect.
Woven into the lecture were stories about philosophy and as the class evolved in discussion suddenly I found myself smiling; I am actively seeking the truth of what yoga truly is. The healing we students stand to experience together on this journey these next few months is without a doubt something incredible and indescribable, although I will do my best to describe it in these blogs.
A recovering addict like myself seems to blend right into the fold of this compassionate and curious collective of people from all walks of life looking for the knowledge stored in the laws of divine geometry. Through my recovery from drugs and alcohol I was lucky enough to be introduced to yoga. Someone took me to a class, and I thought I would never survive to end of that first hour, but something woke me up.
A few months later I never expected Philip to inspire me to take the teacher training, but I could not be more grateful for the enticement. Already yoga has changed the dynamic of my recovery from addiction, while I learn it has done the same for countless others all over the world. Through the unification of the mind, body and the spirit we have limitless potential to be healed, and holistically we recover more successfully.
When Philip tells us as yogis in teacher training our purpose is to help heal others I only become more conscious to it; this is a place I can truly engage in change.
I thought I would be overwhelmed by the work ahead, but honestly the only thing I can think about is how soon can I get back to class and back on the mat. Thankfully, tomorrow I will be having Bhava for breakfast.
Until the next class- Grace and Peace