If I had to name one thing I’ve learned from the practice of yoga—just one thing—I would have to say that yoga has made me curious. Curious about yoga itself and its long and storied traditions, curious about body alignment and how to grasp concepts such as “arm bones back,” and “pelvic loop” and curious about how to find a way to take the things I learn on my sticky mat into the rest of my life. Yoga makes us all seekers. The deeper we delve into our practice, the more we seek to know and to understand what it all means.
After three years of a steady, three-to-four-day-a-week practice at Yoga Tree, I found myself asking these and many more questions. So, when I heard about the six-month immersion with two of my favorite teachers, Darcy Lyon and Stacey Rosenberg, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to learn more. One weekend a month for six months deeply steeped in yoga; the immersion felt like the right way to help me to move deeper into every aspect of yoga, from myth to asana to anatomy. Certainly there were costs involved, and the promise of reading and homework, but it was all part of a learning process I found compelling and exciting.
Not that I didn’t have doubts. Especially when I found that the first weekend involved driving all the way up in the hills above Guerneville to a rustic resort, sharing a tiny room and bath with someone whom I’d never met, and the rest of the time with a whole group of strangers. I, a bit of a loner and an introvert at heart, was most anxious about the beginning.
But from that first warm afternoon practice with Darcy and Stacey, followed by a delicious communal meal and then a set of slightly silly but genuinely fun exercises designed to help the nearly 40 of us get to know each other, the weekend was amazing. I left with new friends, sore muscles, a bit of knowledge about the Tantric lineage of yoga, and finally the beginnings of an understanding of what really opening my heart to grace might mean.
After that, each weekend of the immersion in the lovely space at Yoga Tree Mission (where in addition to deepening friendships, I also acquired a lunchtime knowledge of some amazing neighborhood restaurants) was something to which I looked forward. Darcy and Stacey took turns teaching; sometimes one would start us off in the morning with a yoga history talk, a chant for the kula and a long morning practice; then they would trade off for the afternoon or the day. There was so much to gain from each of their personal and professional experiences. I welcomed each tweak and correction during the morning and afternoon asana practice just as much as I loved learning about these teachers’ personal philosophies with regard to what yoga had and does mean to them.
Participating in the immersion was a lot like going back to school. During the month between each meeting of the kula, we were expected to read from texts including Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and The Anatomy of Movement by Blandine C. Germain. None of this is light reading! Some of it was technical; some books contained Sanskrit and even a bit of dogma. But there was always just the right amount of reading assigned, even for those kula members who worked full time, had families or both.
And each month included homework, not just based on what we were reading, but also designed to get us to look through our notes and remember what we learned at our last meeting. Still, because everything was thoroughly reviewed during the immersion, along with incredible guest lecturers who taught us history, philosophy and anatomy, everything came together. The homework had to be completed in order to attain 100 hours by the end of the immersion, a prerequisite only necessary to enter the second phases: a 100-hour teacher training. It was not formerly graded but handed back weekend with helpful comments on its content, but no judgment. There were no wrong answers. And we students often checked in with one another online when we weren’t sure of the answers. This was encouraged!
And through meticulous parsing of the sutras and the Bhagavad Gita—kind of like the Bible of yogic history—all of the stories and myths began to make sense. Most of all, participating in the immersion gave me access, both in person and online on the Facebook page created for our kula, to a group of diverse, intelligent, supportive, delightful friends, who even now, almost six months later, are some of the people to whom I am most close. I started the immersion struggling with a difficult life decision—trying to decide whether to end a long-term relationship—and at the beginning I felt stuck, miserable, but unable to take action. A month after I completed those 100 hours, I felt so supported and nurtured by my new, dear friends, I was able to open the door and walk out into freedom.
Of course everyone’s experience was different, some more profound than others. But it was clear from talking with my kula mates throughout the immersion and sharing in the lovely ending ceremony on the last day, that each one of us who attended the immersion with Darcy and Stacey had grown and blossomed in some positive way.