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!!