Two days after Teacher Training programs were consolidated under the Ashram, our first program began — Foundations Review, leading to YTT Level 1. I knew the “Sakti shift would affect the students, so I had to set up a system that would make it seamless. It’s like the astronauts blasting off from Earth; how do you subject them to all those G-forces and still make it easy? That’s what Grace does: makes the hard easy. That’s my job description.
The challenge was that I couldn’t add more teachings nor remove any poses, not if I wanted them to get the comprehensive education that a Svaroopa® yoga teacher needs. What could I do? I wove japa into their day in two short segments, one before lunch and one before dinner. Five minutes of out-loud mantra repetition together, honoring your own Divine Self by repeating the mantra… It’s been amazing!
I also added a daily candle ceremony (arati). At the course opening, we honor the Divine Light within each student as well as in the Masters of our lineage. One of the Teacher Trainers performs this traditional ceremony during the course opening mantras. It only takes about 90 seconds but it transforms the room and everyone in it.
We also open with an arati every morning, with the YTT students getting the chance to sign up and learn how to do this.
Reports on How the Changes Are Working
Teacher Trainer Vidyadevi Stillman says, “I have noticed that the practice of japa before meals helps the students in a number of ways. If stuff comes up in the classroom or in their lives (hearing from family and friends from home), they handle it with more ease and Grace. They are experiencing more equanimity — mentally, emotionally, and physically. There is a new level of support for the internal process they go through, the inner clearing of the stuff that gets in their way. They are more inwardly settled. It’s truly amazing to see them completing their japa before their meal, and sitting with hands together in Anjali Mudra. They keep their hands much longer at their hearts and sit longer in their own Self all day!”
“The japa pulls them away from whatever they are caught up in as we approach their meal breaks,” describes Teacher Trainer Karobi Sachs. “They are caught up in their bodies or minds — engaging with a new, challenging pose, worrying ‘Can I do this?’ Japa pulls them back to the Self so easily, so quickly!
“After the Newcomers Class, our group went out to eat at a local restaurant and one person asked, ‘Shall we do Japa before the meal?’ It was clear that these practices are beneficial and meaningful to them! It’s nice for us Teacher Trainers to do japa before lunch and dinner, too, to also settle into ourSelves.
“In the mornings, the arati to our Guru photos and murtis brings a cohesiveness to our day’s practices in a new way. I’ve heard students say that their meditations are much deeper, and they are getting so much out of the chanting and meditation.
Many have told me, ‘I’m really enjoying the meditation; it’s really working for me.’ In the most recent training, they saw Nirmalananda on the first day, instead of closer to the middle of training as in the past. I could see that her presence shifted them/settled them deeply from the start.”
Prakash (DavId) Falbaum took the recent YTT Level 2, and he recalls, “As I drove into the Exton parking lot, it literally felt like driving up to the Ashram. I could feel that same flow of Grace, now at Exton. I began my week with Vidyadevi’s “Deeper, Deeper” Half-Day Workshop. Through my 10 days of training that followed, the biggest thing I noticed personally was a change in how I handled my resistance. When I hit resistance, I didn’t care; every time I hit my resistance, I expected to get upset, but I didn’t. I was able to deal with it and stay internal. I feel that has a lot to with the flow of Grace.
“For example, after working on Navasana most of one morning, I couldn’t just muscle through it. I finally had to use my abs, and I needed extra props. Normally I resist extra props, which I had to accept from Vidyadevi. In the past I would have gotten angry at myself. But this Level 2 had an atmosphere that was so very light. I just accepted where I was, and moved through the process. Also, I found that four hours of sleep per night was enough, and didn’t get tired.
“It was wonderful to see Swamiji three times instead of twice as in Level 1. With the MYF-SVA Consolidation she has the freedom to visit and offer teachings in programs more easily. I can see they will just get better when they become residential.”
This Stuff Works – in a Wonderful New Way
With the “bookends” of japa and arati happening morning, noon and night, no one ever gets far away from their own Self. The bootcamp approach to Teacher Training, so well known in every Western style of yoga, has been softened. It’s a warm-hearted approach, a deep-hearted approach, a tail-lengthening and core opening way of learning core opening. The interweaving and consistency, outside and inside, is a true joy to behold — tangible in the eyes and the breath of the teachers-in-training. They’re a whole new breed.
 Pronounced shak-ti; this is the Sanskrit transliteration form I’ve been using for the last three years as it is computer friendly and easy on the eyes. Read more about the Velthius transliteration here.