Swami Kripalu: Pilgrim of Love

These are my notes from Live Call 8: Swami Kripalu: Pilgrim of Love. The video is shared in my Facebook group – request to join to view it.

Tonight’s teaching is about Swami Kripalu. He called himself a Pilgrim of Love. His message was simple: we should all love each other as brothers and sisters. Though his message was simple, it was also powerful, because his practice was deep.

I begin with 4 quotes from the book Pilgrim of Love, which combines his own autobiography and philosophy with memories and thoughts from his devotees. These quotes are from his own writings. They are from a section called The Sadhana of Love. He uses the word sadhana quite a bit in his writing. He uses it to mean spiritual practice.

  1. If there is any power considered the highest, it is love. We can get rid of most of our possessions and still survive. However, take away the experience of love and we’re dead.
  2. One who loves God is imbued with love. Everything he does and everything he is – his movements, his speech – every cell of his boy emanates love.
  3. Thoughts and actions filled with love create love in others.
  4. No sadhana in this world compares to the sadhana of love. (pp. 97- 98)

Now let’s talk about his life.

He was born in 1913 and his name at birth was Haridas Majmundar. He had many nicknames over the course of his life. There are two names you hear for him most often. The first is Swami Kripalu, a shortened form of his swami name which was Swami Kripalvanandaji. That means, the “bliss of god’s grace”. The other you hear a lot is Bapuji, which is a kind of generic term for a guru. It means dear father. I am going to use Swami Kripalu throughout to keep things clear.

His father died when he was young, leaving behind many debts. However, on his deathbed he left young Swami Kripalu with something far more valuable to him than any money. He gave him a blessing of his god’s protection. His father was very devoted in his spiritual practice and his is the legacy that Swami Kripalu chose to take for himself.

Swami Kripalu’s family was very loving though they had little money. He wrote that his teachings arose from the love that he had in his own family. So when he taught that we should all love each other like brothers and sisters, he was drawing on his own family’s experience of care and kindness toward each other.

Like all the yogis that brought yoga to the west, he was Brahmin caste. This is the priestly caste. He was also Hindu and it is impossible to untangle his yoga practices from his religious practices.

He dropped out of school at age 7, but Swami Kripalu was an avid reader. He ultimately became a great scholar. He also had some western education.  He was devoted to reading the sacred Hindu texts and yogic texts.  

Also, though we will not go into that subject here, he was a great musician and teacher of music. So, like Krishnamacharya, he was kind of a polymath who excelled at many things.

He writes that when he was young he was a gluttonous person who loved to eat, and wished to have the material things he felt he was lacking growing up so impoverished.

Due to his misery over his poverty, when Swami Kripalu was in his late teens, he attempted suicide several times. The last time he tried was when he was 19. He went to a temple to pray and had a vision of jumping off a nearby bridge. He resolved to end his life that way. As he was leaving the service, a man came into the temple wearing a towel around his waist and carrying a waterpot. He told Swami Kripalu to come with him and his words were so loving that Swami Kripalu followed him.

The mysterious man knew that Swami Kripalu intended to commit suicide, but when he confronted, Swami Kripalu lied and said that he did not. The man saw right through him and chastised him for lying. He then told Swami Kripalu to meet him for darshan, or worship, the next evening. There, a large group of his guru’s followers immediately treated him as his guru’s chief disciple. His guru had been foretelling to his group that his disciple was coming.

No one knows the real name of Swami Kripalu’s guru. He is simply called by Swami Kripalu Guruji, meaning dear guru, which is a generic affectionate name for one’s guru. Later, Kripalu came to believe that his guru was a reincarnation of Lord Lakulish, a 6th century yogi in the Shaiva Tantra tradition. Lord Lakulish popularized devotion to Lord Shiva.

Lakulish taught that the individual soul enslaved by desires is like an animal and that Lord Shiva could deliver people from this enslavement, making them masters of their animal natures.

For 18 months Swami Kripalu studied with his guru. He was always treated from the very beginning of his time with his guru as a special disciple who would spread his teachings. His guru’s main practice of teaching was various mantras he assigned to Swami Kripalu. He was told to continuous change these mantras.

His guru pushed Swami Kripalu to intense practices to help him recognize the power of love. Under his tutelage, Swami Kripalu fasted for 40 days. He was encouraged to adopt extreme diets with very limited food – just one meal a  day or just milk.

At the end of the 18 months, his guru took him on a spontaneous journey. With little food and no preparation, the began a pilgrimage of 90 miles. Tired and hungry, but proud, he walked with his aged but remarkably strong guru for 30 miles the first day. His sandals broke and he walked barefoot thereafter. On the second day, they walked another 30 miles until he was completely exhausted. On the third day, he tried to keep up but finally he sat and cried with frustration. I’m going to read what he wrote next about that trip because it is very beautiful.

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He then became initiated as a Swami or yogi with another teacher, Swami Shantanandji Maharaj. For the rest of his life he was like a monk, adhering to strict vows.

At this time, Swami Kripalu also began a lifelong vow of silence which he broke only on rare occasions. He eventually became a well recognized yogi. When he broke his silence and spoke, thousands of followers came to hear him speak. He wrote, “Silence has been the means to devote myself wholeheartedly to yoga sadhana, so that now there’s no more attraction for money, fame, or fortune.”

He took a vow of celibacy and later he encouraged his followers in America to follow celibacy if they were single or moderation in sexuality if married. In Stephen Cope’s book Yoga and the Quest for the True Self you can read about how that worked out for people in America. Many of these traditional practices did not travel well overseas.

As was traditional for a yogi, Swami Kripalu begged for his food. Although he feared he would not be provided for, he found that he was always treated with great love by people from whom he begged, and in this way he learned that God will always provide. As you can see, through these vows renouncing material things, he learned intense discipline and he learned to rely upon the love of others and not money.

He writes of many lavish gifts and expensive projects that he was involved with, yet as a renunciate he was careful not to be swayed by these, seeing them only as signs of his followers love for his teachings.

Swami Maharaj gave Swami Kripalu mantras to recite and only two physical teachings: lotus posture and alternate nostril breathing. After practicing alternate nostril breathing and lotus posture, Swami Kripalu began spontaneously moving into yoga postures. He had an extremely advanced asana or posture practice. He began doing flowing meditative movements out of his divine intelligence. (show postures)




It seems odd that he ended up coming to America, given his lifestyle which seems thoroughly Indian. One of his devotees, Amrit Desai, was a merchant involved in textiles. He had grown up in India where he taught himself some yoga postures from a poster. He also had a short but moving private session with a very advanced yogi when he was 15. He continued to practice yoga on his own. He then moved to America to study art in Philadelphia. In the early 60’s, he began to teach yoga. A big community formed around him in Pennsylvania.

In the 1970s he, too, began to channel yoga postures spontaneously. Interested in learning more about what was happening and what to do, a small group of people went over to India to learn more about yoga. This small group studied Swami Kripalu’s very intense practices that he gave to them as a book, but no one was able to do these extreme things. These people were not renunciates who could practice for hours on end with no food. They were householders. They needed to learn how to ground themselves. Swami Kripalu pushed the edge intensely; these followers modified his practices to adapt to our lifestyle here in America.

From 1977 to 1981 Swami Kriplau came to America, where he stayed at the Kripalu Yoga Center in Massachusetts. It was created by Amrit Desai’s followers in his honor. He maintained his vow of silence and intense, devoted practice during his time in America. He returned to India at the end of his life when his health failed and died there in 1981.

The Kripalu Yoga Center is still there in Massachusetts and I have studied there many times. Following a sexual scandal with Amrit Desai, they changed from a more traditional Indian model and thoughtfully modified the teachings and their structure to one more appropriate for Americans., They teach many classes in social silence in order to give people an opportunity to explore silence for themselves. They teach people to use prana, or energy, to sustain postures and to move out of their own divine intuitive guidance. But mostly, they teach that the most important thing is love. You can feel it in everything they do. It is a beautiful, powerful, and healing experience to be at Kripalu.

Swami Kripalu was a man of a very particular time and place, and yet he gave us a beautiful message and a challenge to us to find our own path of devotion.

Tonight I close with the traditional closing of Kripalu yoga. It means, the same thing as Namaste.

Jai Baghwan!


Pilgrim of Love Swami Kripalu’s autobiography and philosophy, with additional commentary by his nephew and disciples. Available as a free download, too.

Lord Lakulish (Word document) written by Swami Kripalu

Asanas and Mudras by Swami Kripalu – the book that shows his physical practice. More free downloads of his writing are available on that website.

Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope. In this book he shares the dissolution of the Kripalu guru model after Amrit Desai was deposed as head of Kripalu Yoga Center. This is a nice book in many ways and I recommend it.

What is an Awakening Experience?

These are my notes for the Facebook Live video to Yogi Sadhana group on 6/27/2016.

I hope you will join me for Jann Forde’s workshop on September 10, 2016. 

I had an Awakening experience when I was 19 years old. Today I’m going to tell you about that experience about how it changed my life and some thoughts about how we as yoga teachers can create an environment for our students to come to that moment of Awakening on their own. I want you to pay attention especially to the descriptions of how I experienced time, how I experienced physical sensations, the way that I interacted with people, the way they responded to me, and the way I conversed with myself. I am going to close with one simple exercise you can do with your classes to give them the opportunity to truly listen to another person. It’s easy to set up and a profound experience for many people.

When I had my awakening experience, I was a sophomore at Tulane University in New Orleans I had a private room that year. The private rooms of that particular dorm had a monastic simplicity. There was a bed, a desk, a closet and a few storage bins all in a truly ugly shade of brown. I also had a sliding glass door that opened onto a balcony that overlooked the quad of the business school.

One fall morning I woke up much earlier than normal, before the sun rose, probably around 5 o’clock. I woke up and I was wide awake. It was a familiar feeling. It felt like when I was a little kid and I would wake up and immediately be  wide awake and ready for the day to start. The feeling also seemed new because when I was a little kid I didn’t have an adult consciousness, so I had that familiar childlike sensation of of being wide awake but also a feeling of being completely in an adult consciousness at the same time, which is what was new.

I’m always filtering my experience through language. In my head, I speak to myself in complete English sentences. That day the way that I talked to myself was different. To distinguish my normal way of talking to myself from the way did in that awakened state, I’m going to say that the way that I normally speak to myself was my head voice and the way that I was speaking to myself that day was my heart voice. The feeling of the head voice I think we can all relate to. It’s that sense of almost like that angel and devil on your shoulder. There’s a sense of doubt in how we talk to ourselves, or at least in how I talk to myself normally. When I’m having a conversation with someone, I compare myself to them. I often feel superior or inferior. I often second-guess myself.  This heart voice that was new to me but also familiar was confident, assured, and it felt like the whole universe, something bigger than me, was speaking through me but it also was me. It wasn’t that I was hearing God as something external to me. I was participating, but my sense of me was so much bigger than normal.

So I woke up and there’s a dialogue going on between my head voice and my heart voice.

The head voice is saying, “what’s going on here?” and the Heart voice is saying “This day is going to change your life.” so just imagine it’s 5 o’clock in the morning, I’m in my monastic dorm room, I wake up, I’m wide awake and there’s a more powerful presence telling me this day will change your life. And then there’s that other normal, everyday voice. It’s like “you are so full of yourself.” However this heart voice was unlike my normal voice where there’s a back and forth. It was confident and it was refused to be belittled. It said, “no this day is going to change your life,” and there was no question about it. Then my head voice switched and said, “Why is this happening,” and the answer was a popular beer commercial at the time, “why ask why.” I just went round round with that like that. Why is this happening? How could this be happening? but the confident voice, that heart voice, made it clear that there would be no value to pursuing the question of why and that I was wasting this beautiful opportunity getting caught up in something that would not yield any answers.

I went down the hall to take a shower. It was still quite dark. The hall was lit only by the dim night lights. I remember that all of the sensations that day were vivid, almost like I was on ecstasy or LSD. I took a shower. I was absolutely absorbed in the sensation of water pounding my skin, dripping through my hair, of my fingers touching my scalp as I massaged in the shampoo. Then I came back to my dorm room, and put on a beautiful outfit, of the nicer ones that I had that I could wear to school. I carefully did my makeup. I could feel the feeling of that waxy eye crayon smooshing against my skin as I was putting it on, and the feeling of my fingers touching my skin as I rubbed in the rest of my makeup. It was a  particularly tactile day.

Now the sun was beginning to shine. The day was dawning. I sat on my balcony to watch the sun rise over the business school. Today I would say that I meditated, but at that point in my life, I had no training in any kind of meditation or spiritual practices. I sat down and I watched the sun rise. During that meditation it was her like I downloaded an instruction manual for life and there were a number of specific things that I was, it almost felt like instructed on but I still was part of that, it wasn’t coming from outside of me. It was coming from me, just this bigger, much bigger, sense of me. The one memory that really sticks in my mind as a core teaching is looking up at the sky and watching the clouds scudding across the sky. It was a beautiful day. The sky was blue with just a few of those fluffy little clouds floating around.

I watched these clouds and I thought, “We are like these clouds. The little clouds appeared to float separately, but really the force of the wind pushed all the clouds along together. Just like the clouds, we think that we’re responsible for our own selves, but in fact we’re we are more connected than we think. We are part of something bigger.” Those of you, who are students of Erich Schiffman probably think that teaching sounds very similar to his teaching about the wave in the ocean where he talks about how we think that we are individual waves looking at each other from an attitude of separation, and then we sink down and we can experience our deeper, more connected  ocean nature. It is  a part of the reason that I was attracted to his teachings was that he was restating in a different way what I had been given as a teaching during my Awakening experience.

I stayed in an awakened state for the entire day. After meditating, I went to class. Whenever I go somewhere, I am always worried about whether I will make it on time. That anxiety was gone.I knew it was taken care of. I did not need to control my own time. So every person that I met along the way, I gave them my full attention. I didn’t check my watch. I wasn’t trying to come up with something clever to say while I appeared to be listening to them. I knew that I didn’t have to plan my conversation. I would know the perfect to say when it was my time to speak. I gave everyone my full undivided attention. Even if I was with them just a few moments saying hello, I was fully present. The word that really sticks with me is LISTEN. I just listened and that was another theme of the day, a theme of listening

I went to this class that I hated, which was a class on Milton. I was at the time an English major. The English department at Tulane was filled with people from the Greek system who were cheating their way through. I’m the kind of person, when I go into a class I like to be the best. I’m that  student who sits in the front row and raises her hand and I know the answer. I’m stuck in this class with a bunch of people who are not reading the book which is one of the greatest books ever written, Paradise Lost. I’m in the classroom in an altered state that is whispering to me, “Listen.” No, they aren’t saying wise things about Milton. But, they are expressing themselves. They were expressing their human feeling. I did not feel smarter than them, and therefore I did not feel distant from them. I felt connected. I felt humbled. I listened. And I also did not feel less than them. There were a lot of kids at Tulane who grew up with a silver spoon in their mouths, and I did not.  I often felt inferior to them. But on that day, I saw they were all just people trying to connect.

At the end of the day, I went back to my dorm room. There was a string around the quad to prevent people from trampling the newly seeded grass. As I was walking back to my dorm was trailing my hand along that rope. As I said, it was a very tactile day. I was feeling the rough rope under my my fingertips. When I got back to my room, I had not been there very long before there was a knock on my door. There was a girl Jenna who lived two doors down from me and she said, “I have never thought I wanted to be your friend ,but I was watching you walk toward the dorms, the way that you were trailing your hand along that rope that made me think that I wanted to get to know you. She and I spent the next hour talking. This is another aspect of being awakened, your presence is perceived by others. People are attracted to you. As a teacher, you have a responsibility to be a presence to your students. Meditate before class. Get big. They can see it.

After Jenna left, I thought I would talk to my boyfriend who was at Columbia University about my amazing day. But I’m still in an altered state of mind, so instead of telling him about my day, I’m listening. As I’m listening to him I’m I’m hearing that he he doesn’t love me. I mean he’s not saying that, but he is talking about things that I’m not interested in. I realize he doesn’t care about my day, even though it was remarkable. I broke  it off with him and I never got back in touch with him again. I mean I saw him again later on in my life but I never was attracted to him or got back together with him. Sometimes I think that is why I had that experience, in order to break up with him, It was one of the first times in my life where I was tuned in to myself and my feelings without feeling like I was being judgmental about them. I wasn’t angry at him. I just knew that he could not be what I wanted at that time in my life.

After that first day, the feeling diminished and by the end of the week, it was gone altogether. It did eventually change my life, but not immediately. When I started taking yoga a year later, I could feel a milder version of that awakened state after every class. It was the first time I had some ability to create an awakened state consciously. And because my experience was so clear and so strong, I knew that I was supposed to practice yoga and become a teacher, a very good one.

So let me unpack some of the things that happened during my awakening. Number one is that there was a new voice of voice that seemed larger than me. This voice had a sense of confidence and a sense of humility. Number two, there was a feeling of connection to other people and to the universe. A sense of being plugged into a bigger system and a sense of familiarity with every person that crossed my path. This is what yoga literally means, union, to yoke. That feeling. Three,  there was an altered sense of time. I did not experience my actions as a timeline, but there was a more a global sense of time. I was moving through time there, things were things that were happening sequentially, but I did not need to worry about taking care of that movement. Then fourth and last thing was other people can see it. People are attracted to it. You have a presence

I rarely spoke about this in my life. It is new for me to speak about it openly part of the reason that I never did I thought I was worried that I would lose that sense of humility which was the fundamental thing I felt. I was afraid that people would think that I was better than them because I had this mountaintop experience that I’m sure many people have never had. However, I’ve met a lot of people who have had similar experiences. What happened to me was a totally normal experience even though it is an extraordinary experience.

I want to give you an exercise you can have your students do that is a great way to get them to experience listening in the way that I did on that day. The exercise comes from Kripalu yoga. It’s easy to teach.

You have your students pair of and sit facing each other. You have a stopwatch or use the stopwatch app on your phone. One person is the talker, the other the listening. Set the stopwatch for two minutes. Usually you give them a prompt to talk about, like, tell the other person about your day. You can get more personal and emotional with the prompts as the class gets more comfortable with each other, but in the beginning just keep it very general like talking about your day. The person who is talking has the floor. The person who is listening is practicing just listening with their full attention on the other person. After the exercise is over they cannot give advice, they can’t even nod their head in agreement. They just listen without trying to be an audience for a story. Just listen.

This can be a tough exercise for people. For the talker, there is a tendency to run out of material after about 30 seconds. They think they will talk forever, but it’s so odd to not have someone nodding and responding that often they just cannot keep up talking. You can give them something to say when they run out of material, like, “I can’t think of anything to say,” and tell them to repeat that line until they think of something. They also really want a response from the other person. You have to get them to notice that. To pay attention to how they want to tell a story, how they want to create a response.

For the listener, they powerfully want to give advice. They want to nod. They want to shape the story through their interaction. And they can’t. So you have to get them to just sit and listen without wanting to give their reaction. Usually you switch the listener and the talker after the exercise is over and a lot of times the person who was listening a minute ago is now the talker and will use the first part of their talking time to give a response to the other person. You want them to notice this desire.

Also people will tend to break into conversation and stop the actual exercise, so keep firm control over the room and make them stick with it. Again, get them to notice it.

I invite you to share in the comments for other ideas for creating some of the elements of an awakened state with your class participants.

I hope you liked the post and the Live call. Be sure to sign up for my mailing list!

The Remarkable Mr. Iyengar

Here are my notes from my Live talk on 6/20 to the Yogi Sadhana Facebook group.

Please take a look at the Divinely Feminine Wisdom workshop with Jann Ford on September 10th and my online course in How to Create a Course Like an Educator.

Hi so we’re going to talk today about the remarkable Mr. Iyengar

He has had much more impact on yoga world than we can discuss here, but I will focus on how he impacted the teaching tradition, and in particular the curriculum that he created.

I never studied with Iyengar myself. However, I’m connected to Iyengar through 3 different teachers. Erich Schiffmann and John Schumacher both of them were early teachers that Iyengar trained in a small group setting before he developed his formal teacher training. Bob Glickstein also trained with, I believe after it was more of a structured teacher training program. We’ll talk about that teacher trainer program later on.

Iyengar was born in 1918; he died in 2014 at the age of 96. He was of Brahmin caste meaning he was a member of the Priestly caste. Although he was in a high-caste his family was not wealthy. His father died when he was 9 years old and there were a total of 10 living children for his mother to care for. He was born before antibiotics were available and was sickly as a child. When Iyengar was 15 years old, his brother-in-law Pattabhi Jois took him to the Mysore Palace thinking that it would improve his health. At the Mysore palace he learned yoga from Krishnamacharya. Although we know Krishnamacharya as the father of modern yoga he was not only a master of the physical postures, he was also a knowledgeable ayurvedic doctor. In an interview with the BBC that you can watch on YouTube Iyengar relates that Krishnamacharya became a surrogate father to him. He also talks about the brutal teaching methods that Krishnamacharya used. Iyengar said that he would deprive him of food until he could perform the postures correctly. So when we talk about our great teaching tradition, we do need to be aware that some of the traditional teaching methods came out of another time and place.

At the age of 18 after only 3 years of study Iyengar was sent to Pune India to open his own yoga studio –  not because he was the best student but because he spoke English. Iyengar claims he was not very skillful at this point. However if you look at videos on YouTube of Iyengar and Krishnamacharya, it clear that he was really quite physically accomplished at a young age. Iyengar says that he practiced for hours on his own to teach himself the yoga postures. He also talks in the BBC interview of how he improved upon Krishnamacharya teaching methods.

Erich and many other teachers will talk about how Iyengar would hit them to correct their poses and I’ve seen the footage of that in a movie that was shared when Iyengar toured the United States. During that tour, he said that these corrections were done out of love in order to help people know how to do the postures correctly.

Iyengar’s personal practice was innovative and creative, but what he taught his students was how to create an exact copy of his own practice. He did not teach how to find the creative expression of that practice for yourself. Roger Cole, another Iyengar teacher, said that Iyengar always taught that his way was correct, but he was always changing what was the correct way of teaching a pose.

Because of his command of English, he was was involved in spreading yoga to the west.

Among other well known people, he taught Jiddu Krishnamurti and violinist Yehudi Menuhin. He taught the queen of Belgium to stand on her head. Through these connections to influential people in the in the west, he was enormously effective in spreading the practice of yoga all over the world.

Although he wrote some great books on yoga philosophy, he really stripped yoga down to just asana for the West. I saw him speak and he pretty much used asana and yoga interchangeably.

You can read Wikipedia for the rest of his life story. Here, I want to talk about what interests me that I do not see in many biographies.

To my mind, there are a couple of really great contributions that he made to yoga.

The first is the way he structured his yoga classes. He set up a complete curriculum. Currently In Iyengar yoga there are three levels. In level 1, students learn symmetrical postures such as mountain pose and spread leg forward fold. Inversions are introduced. Standing poses are the main focus. By the end of level one, a student should be able to sustain a headstand for 5 minutes away from the wall. In level 2, inversions, asymmetric postures, and backbends are given more attention. By the end of level 2, a student should be able to sustain a headstand for 10 minutes. In level 3, The student is moving into sustaining inversions for a long period of time and advanced backbends. They are doing arm balances.

What’s great about his program is that a student who wants to move up has a way to advance without moving into teacher training programs. A learner has a way to gauge their own progress and has a sense of where they are in their own learning. If you are in level 1 class still, you are still a beginner. If you are in level 3, you’re getting somewhere. When we look at the issues we have now about there being so many teacher training programs, I think we should look at his system as a model for a way to create an actual curriculum before the teacher training program.

The other thing he did that was really revolutionary was his teacher training system. He has very fine gradations of teachers in the system, and there are evaluations at every level of teacher. There are only a very few teachers who have the rank of master teacher. He created a system of life long learning.

Facebook Live Episode #1 Notes: Introduction to the Yogi Sadhana Group

These are my notes for Facebook Live Episode #1: Introduction to Me and The Yogi Sadhana Group.


I’m Suzanne Dulin. Welcome everyone to the Yogi Sadhana group.

Today I am going to introduce myself and explain what we will be doing in this group.

Next week, I will share with you some ideas from my corporate work designing online courses about how to set and assess goals for your class participants and particularly about how to set and assess spiritual goals. Look for that next week.

So, I’ve been doing yoga since 1990. I started when I was in college at Tulane University in New Orleans.

A year prior to that I had what Tantric texts call a Bhaijara experience. Zen Buddhists call it a Satori experience. In English it’s usually called an awakening experience. I will tell you about that experience in full in another Live call so that I can give it the proper amount of time. However, for now, suffice it to say that that one day changed my perspective on the world in deep and profound ways. Because during this awakening experience it was so clear to me that achieving states of high consciousness is what I am meant to do, it has been the goal of my personal path for me as a student of yoga to learn how to enter states of clear awareness at will. Similarly, It has been the goal of my teaching to learn to communicate to my class participants what a state of spiritual awareness feels like and to teach them the skills to enter those states at will. I really believe that it’s a teachable skill. So much spiritual teaching is shrouded in mystery, and of course that is what makes it so compelling, but I think it also creates separation instead of unity consciousness when spiritual states are treated as something mystical that the average person cannot achieve. I think we can all of us become Saddhus.

So I started yoga when I was 21 years old in college. I made a C in my first class. I just dug up my college transcript and I was so surprised to learn I had made a C. It just goes to show you that you never know who is being affected by your teaching. I bet that first teacher of mine has on idea she made an impact on me.

After I got out of college I moved home to Birmingham, AL because I had no job and no money. Back in 1991 there were no yoga studios in Birmingham, AL, so I took classes in a church basement. That’s when I started studying Iyengar yoga, which I fell in love with.

Shortly thereafter I moved to the Washington, DC area where I continued my yoga studies at this studio that I just recently discovered had only opened a year before, which was John Schumacher’s first space, Unity Woods in Bethesda, MD. If you aren’t familiar with the name, his studio is now the largest studio on the East Coast and he is one of the top Iyengar teachers in the United States. 25 years ago he was already a deeply impressive teacher; one of the teachers who were trained directly by Iyengar early on in his career. I studied there for a while, then moved away from the studio and fell away from formal yoga study for a couple of years.

About 20 years ago I moved to Columbia, MD where I studied still in the Iyengar method with Bob Glickstein and Moses Brown. Moses is still teaching. He teaches Anusara style, which was his interest when I was in Columbia. Bob was at the time teaching both Iyengar and Anusara style with a touch of Ashtanga thrown in. He is now retired. I got really good at the yoga postures while I was in Columbia, and I went through my first teacher training program with Bob and Moses. Because I had gotten involved with yoga because of my awakening experience, I was really seeking as I went into my teacher training program more information about spirituality, but it always seemed like it was something very private to Bob and Moses that they weren’t comfortable teaching about. I got a great foundation in yoga postures with them, but I hungered for something more.

I left their studio to take advanced classes with a local Kripalu teacher, Helen Heffer, who became my first mentor. She taught meditation. She taught breathing techniques. She taught asana in a way that was much more inwardly focused that Iyengar though it was still just as challenging physically. She is still an example to me of a person who has complete integrity as a person.

I also started teaching around that time, which was back in 1998. My daughter was 1 year old. I felt like I needed so much more information in order to teach, and as I was looking for information on the Internet, which had just become widely available to most people, I found this little website with the text of Erich Schiffmann’s book Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness. It blew my hair back. He was putting into words exactly what I had been trying to articulate, how to achieve a spiritual experience in your physical yoga practice and meditation. And even better, it turned out that the author was participating in this teeny tiny discussion board that was on the website. I started participating in the board and it was just wonderful to have access to this fabulous teacher even though he was in California and I was in Maryland.

Eventually I became the moderator of Erich discussion board, and I grew the board into the largest and longest running discussion board devoted to yoga on the internet. In its heyday, we had about 100 posts a day. Because Erich participated, we always had people being unbelieveably well behaved compared to most discussion boards. We had people from all over the world participating, and many many of the people here in this group come from that discussion board. Eventually the people who were talking to each other online got to know each other in person and we have all been friends for years and years now. Welcome MIS yogis!

About two years after I started teaching I moved to Wilmington, NC where eventually I one of nine teachers who founded a yoga cooperative called the Wilmington Yoga Center. That cooperative eventually grew up to become a major studio, and several of those teachers went off to form their own spaces once we saw the absolute thirst people had for yoga in Wilmington. Now I think there are tons and tons of studios there. It’s hard to believe that there really were no spaces for yoga in Wilmington just 15 years ago. So we have some Wilmington yoga teachers in the group too.

Because I was moderating Erich’s discussion board, I ended taking a bunch of workshops with him. I took his teacher training. I also took Donna Farhi’s. I assisted Erich at workshops. I basically was an Erich Schiffmann groupie. I still am. There are very few teachers on the East Coast who have the experience with him that I do, since he is in California and most of his workshops are on the West Coast.

In 2006 I moved to Long Island and I went through a huge life transition. I simultaneously divorced my ex husband and rekindled a relationship with a boyfriend that I had not spoken to for 15 years. My husband I have now been together for 9 years and married for five. There is no way I could have had the guts or the skill to make that transition without all my yoga studies. We made big changes very rapidly. My husband and I bought a house on our third date and we got engaged on our fourth. It took a year and half before he could move to Long Island full time. We went through so much but we still feel blissfully in love.

When I moved to Long Island, I stopped teaching yoga and went back to my day job of being a technical writer in the technology industry. I needed to make some regular income in order to help pay for the mortgage on our new house. I eventually became an instructional designer, and that’s what I do now as my corporate job. I have learned so much during my corporate work that I am now bringing back to the yoga world. Not only do I create online courses, but I lead a lot of projects and I produce a lot of videos.

A year ago I started an online Masters program through the University of Alabama Birmingham. It’s like an MBA program but it’s specifically for people who work in Engineering and Computers. Strangely enough, it is this program that has led me back into teaching. It’s given me the confidence and the support to launch a thriving business as a yoga teacher. So, right now, I am working a day job as an instructional designer and I am launching 3 different yoga businesses with the goal of getting out of corporate work altogether by the time I complete my Masters in April 2017. One of them, Heart + Mind, is a local teaching business, which is mainly a way for me to continue to teach in person. Through Heart + Mind I also teach workshops for yoga teachers about the skills that I use in my corporate job when I develop courses – how to set training goals, how to assess whether your training is effective, and how to adjust what you are teaching to the skill of the students in your class. There are a lot of other ways to assess whether a student is learning besides given them a test, and I think we can use this knowledge to create programs other than teacher training programs to help students advance in their yoga practices.

The last is the Sadhana yoga catalog which promotes the work of my very talented friends that make beautiful yoga stuff. It will have clothing, books, yoga props, meditation supplies like zafus and malas, and eventually I want to showcase workshops and training programs. I realized that I have unique connections into the yoga community. I know people who are dedicated to what they do and I want to help showcase their talented work so they can do less of the boring selling and more of the creative fun stuff they were born to do. In this community I’ll be give this community an exclusive preview of the catalog items.

Mainly, though, this group is about us supporting each other to teach spirituality in our yoga classes. I have talked to too many people who want to teach meditation but feel there is not a market for it. I have heard that right now people only want “bikini yoga.” But I believe that if people only wanted hot bods they’d be out there pursuing CrossFit or Running. Sure yoga can be gymnastics for adults, but there is something there even if you are doing the most athletic practice that is at its core spiritual. I think even the people who seem superficial in their interest in yoga have a desire deep down, a craving, for spirituality. Maybe now they are just wearing that Ganesh shirt because it makes them look cute, but that can lead to a real interest in who Ganesh is and what that god stands for. I want us to help us share with each other how to speak to beginners about spirituality without scaring them off, and I want us to support each other in our businesses so we all magnify each other.

I invite you to introduce yourself now to the group. Please post a little video introduction or type in an intro. Feel free to promote your work as long as you are not spammy about it. Thanks for joining me tonight. I’d love to see every one of us become capable of financially supporting ourselves through out spiritual work.

I ask you to share this group out with your Facebook friends and see if they want to join.  Just share the graphic I posted below.

Thank you!!! Bye!!

Quote from Swami Kripaluananda

Given to my by my teacher Helen Heffer

My beloved child,
Break your heart no longer.
Each time you judge yourself,
You break your own heart,
You stop feeding on the love
Which is the wellspring of your vitality.
The time has come…
Your time to live, to celebrate,
And to see the goodness that you are.
You my child are divine.
You are pure.
You are sublimely free.
You are God in disguise.
And you are always perfectly safe.
Do not fight the dark.
Just turn on the light.
Let go and breathe into the goodness
That you are!

The Great Meditation Tips Series – Part 1

5 Fabulous Tips for Making Space for Yourself

Heart + Mind Yoga honors the wisdom of both the heart and the mind. During meditation, you take the time to observe your conscious thoughts (your mind) and put yourself into a state where you can receive the wisdom of your unconscious thoughts (your heart).

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting up a series of tips to help you to attain a deep,  meditative state.

Stony Brook Yoga

Choose a space to meditate where you feel welcomed and at home

When you meet a friend for a nice conversation, you choose a place where you feel comfortable to talk without a lot of distractions. When you meditate, prepare a space where you can give yourself that same quality of attention you would give a close friend.

Place a pen and notebook, or an audio recorder, or a phone notes app where you can easily reach it

When you take the time to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions, you receive both needling reminders of tasks to add to your to do list and deep insightful intuitive knowledge you won’t ever want to forget. These insights, which are the fruit of meditation, become a barrier to moving to the place beyond thought. Be prepared to record them quickly and with as little interruption to your meditative state as possible so you can move past them.

I prefer pen and paper; devices can bring their own set of distractions.

Use a timer or a set a clock in your line of sight where you can easily check it

Time management is a valuable skill you develop for taking care of yourself and your loved ones. However, letting go of your normal subliminal unease about meeting your next commitment in a timely fashion can be a huge challenge to entering a meditative state. If you set a timer, you know the timer is taking care of time for you.

Turn off your phone … or not

When you meditate, the distractions of your mind’s constant vigilance is far more of an issue than external distractions like ringing telephones.

The theme to all of these tips is offering helpful ideas for minimizing the distractions your mind is constantly throwing at you.

Yes, your phone is one huge distraction device, but sometimes knowing you can be reached by a loved one gives you more piece of mind than solitude.

If you have children in school, or parents who depend on you, or a spouse who is traveling on a dangerous mission, shutting off your phone might create more mind chaos than it reduces. In that case, leave it on vibrate.

If you think you will relax more with it off, by all means do that.

Wrap up in a shawl or blanket, or wear a jacket. Wear socks or cover your feet, too.

When you are not moving, your body temperature drops. If you are taking the time to nurture yourself, being warm and toasty is a necessity.

Now you are ready to tune into yourself…watch for my next post on settling in.

If you would like me to teach a workshop on meditation or yoga and meditation at your studio, please contact me at suzannedulin@verizon.net.