Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The History and Birth of the Anusara Yoga Immersion

The very first Anusara Yoga Immersion took place in the fall of 2002 in New York City at Virayoga with myself and a group of 52 eager yogis. When we finished, the idea quickly caught on through out the DC area, and in California, until John Friend made it an official pre-requisite for Teacher Training in Anusara yoga. Now the Immersion is a household name not only in Anusara yoga but in many schools as a way of fully immersing students in the method before learning to teach it. It was always my intention for it to spread like wildfire, to shift the paradigm of huge teacher trainings (with unqualified trainees) so that ultimately the students of yoga would be served with the finest teachers, and have the opportunity to experience the most comprehensive dip into the yoga lifestyle one could imagine!

I have never published the letter I wrote to the NYC community the day I decided to cancel the upcoming and long awaited Teacher Training and replace it with this new funny thing called "the Immersion". You see, our community was STOKED to start teacher training, and I had it on the calendar. But now I was "negging" on them and offering them this thing they had never heard of, and they wanted a certificate! So this was a BIG deal.

I offer this letter to you now, as it was originally written, after all these years as an offering of history, and to relish and reflect on where our kula (community of the heart) stands today from having shifted a paradigm that was firmly rooted, but now has been reborn!


The TT graduates (a.k.a, the Banyans!) who made it through the very first Anusara Immersion.

Top row, left to right: Me, Sara Thorson, Tracy Toon, Christy Nones, Chloe Gottlieb, Lizanne Hinkle, Lynn Hazan, Nancy Mercado.

Bottom row, left to right: Christina Hatgis, Beate Chee, Kiriaky Binihaky, Julie Dohrman (assisting!), Hilary Weissberg, Dana Covello, Anne Libby, Adriana Araiza and Cat McCarthy.

October 25, 2002

Dearest friends,

I am writing this letter as an expression of some recent contemplations and insights I've had about the future of Anusara Yoga in our community and the way in which we think about learning this yoga, and ultimately teaching this yoga. I realize that this letter may disappoint some of you and for some it might be sensational news. However after thinking seriously about what is possible for myself as a teacher, and what is best for the long term education of our community, I have made some significant shifts in what VIRAYOGA will be offering for teacher training.

In the last few weeks before the weekend workshop "All About Anusara", in late October, I sat with myself and mulled over a growing feeling I was having, consulted with friends, past trainees and both John Friend and Douglas Brooks. With guidance and full support from John and Douglas, I came to the very pivotal decision that a paradigm shift is necessary in how we all as a yoga community approach teacher training. Based on the urgency of what my heart was feeling, in 48 hours we came up with an entirely new program to offer. Thanks to Lynn Hazan's programming expertise and Elena Brower's support, the Immersion came into being. At the weekend workshop, as some of you know, I made the announcement. This letter is a summation of what I told the group.

The great news is that I believe this change will very positively affect the future of learning at VIRAYOGA in the sweetest of ways. I believe that this will benefit each one of the rapidly growing number of yogis who have shown such tremendous interest in learning Anusara yoga and becoming teachers.

In past trainings I've offered, the emphasis was on a beginning a middle and an end. When the end had come, there was an idea that now the graduates would teach Anusara style yoga and would receive a certificate to do so. Most of the participants would inevitably realize that they had in fact just completed an immersion into yoga and that the journey of yoga had just begun! Others, who had simply wanted to take their practices deeper, found themselves in a teacher training, learning to teach others, when in fact they really just wanted to learn more about yoga.

What has become clear to me now is that somewhere along the line, the process of cultivating a practice of yoga and teaching it has gotten reversed. Rather than immersing ourselves first more deeply in Anusara, in the yoga, in the process of really imbibing these teachings, and then going toward a teacher training, we have been starting from the teacher training! Then we try to teach from a place of knowledge, but with out all the wisdom and experience behind it!

This is not to say that the past trainings I have offered were of no use, far from it! It is simply to ask ourselves, what is it that we really want?

My proposal is that we start from the most basic and sweet desire to first immerse ourselves into this yoga, a yoga that because of its sophistication takes time to discover and absorb. Even after 5 years of literally parking myself next to John Friend, I will always be in a state of amazement at how much I don't know. I have learned from Douglas that there is such a beauty in not knowing, in ignorance, because it means that I am OPEN. In contrast, arrogance is where there is a fear and insecurity in not knowing. When we admit that "we don't know", the possibility of what we are capable of is truly endless and the opportunity for huge transformation presents itself.

So, rather than doing a teacher training in a yoga that is still in reality quite new, I am asking that you each take this opportunity to step into the process of commitment and practice and really deepen the yoga before thinking of teaching it. To immerse yourself in the experience of this yoga means being seen and seeing, it means allowing yourself and the community to embrace your gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses and for you to step into these strengths and weaknesses and hone your skills. With this shift in thinking, I realize that it would be a disservice to accept any one of you into a TT program with out first having spent the time building a lasting rapport. I am committed to being around to get to know you and learn about who you are and for you to get to know me. This, I believe is the way to truly create professional yoga teachers and meaningful relationships that will withstand the dance of life's many offerings.

One of the things to let go of when we make this paradigm shift is the idea that getting a certificate is what's really important. I invite you to see teacher training, not as a credential that you rack up, but truly as a practice. As Douglas said, "a practice is not just an activity, it's an expression of who you are". When the time comes for you to take the seat of being a teacher, you will be hired on the basis of what you know and who you are, not what you have on the wall, as he says. In my years of teaching yoga I have actually never been asked to present my certificate to anyone who has hired me, in fact I couldn't even tell you where my certificates are right now because I never use them! I have always been hired based on recommendations from teachers, students or friends, even in the most corporate of gyms!

What we as a staff at VIRAYOGA have decided is best, is for us to offer a totally new opportunity for those of you who have so enthusiastically come forward wanting teacher training in the last year. I realize that this is a shift in what was on our website and emails and that you may very well be disappointed, but I know in my heart that this is what will ultimately bring the most integrity and truth into our community.

Having immersed yourself in Anusara in this way, and with the knowledge that the process will continue on and on, when the time is right, a teacher training will be a culmination of your efforts and study, not the beginning of the journey! Doing it any other way, would be like walking down the aisle with someone you think you love. Or looking at real estate - on paper the house looks great, but it's the feeling you get when you are inside the house and have examined it that makes or breaks the decision.

Immerse yourself in the exploration of this yoga, before you attempt to teach it. What you have on paper (the hours you've acquired, your past trainings, your education) is not what ultimately matters to me. It is the relationship that I have with you, it is the chance for me to see you do a bunch of yoga and the wisdom of time together. The Anusara Immersion will give us all that opportunity to establish a new depth of commitment to each other, and ourselves where ever you are at in your practice.

We are raising the standards, because we believe that integrity and dedicated learning is crucial. The Immersion is a pre-requisite, and simply another way of preparing for teacher training down the road. Other ways to dive deeper, include coming on retreat, making the time to study with Douglas and John, and attending other Anusara teacher's classes here in the NYC area.

We hope that you will join us in this new journey, because your enthusiasm and love is contagious. I feel so privileged to be in your company, it's astounding.

I HIGHLY encourage each of you to call me personally or write me at amyoga@mac.com with your thoughts, feelings, disappointments, ecstatic outbursts or suggestions.

Thank you for your continued commitment and for literally going with the flow (the meaning of the word, "Anusara"), as I myself grow and step into this new change.

Saprema (with divine love),

Amy Ippoliti

To learn more about the Anusara Immersion with me, and the amazing gift of $200 off I am offering until midnight tonight (August 4th!) visit http://www.wildspirityoga.com/Immersion_2010_Amy_Ippoliti.html


Anne Libby said...

Amy, this reasoning is precisely why I decided to participate! (And I also think it is close to the anniversary of the start of that TT, isn't it?)

Thanks for the reminder.


Amy said...

You were one of the biggest supporters, Anne. I remember those days like they were yesterday - it was such a vivid time. Yes, October 2002 - 8 years ago!

Hilary said...

Hi Amy, (and all)

I've been thinking of you and the kula a lot lately, as I have recently been enjoying a very committed and regular home yoga practice. (There are no anusara studios near where I currently reside, and I've finally developed enough self-compassion to get on the mat and be with myself in whatever form that takes). Anyway, sending love
P.S. Could you please make a minor correction to my last name posted under the picture. It's Weissberg, not Weissman. Thank you!

h said...

It is precisely due to the immersion that I am able to have a successful home practice today. The principles are deeply ingrained. And tune-ups here and there through workshops take me deeper.

authentic self yoga said...

Wonderful. I have done a few different teacher trainings in vinyasa and Iyengar yoga. For the past year + I have been studying Anusara and just finished the immersions. I love how Anusara wants their teachers to be students with great adhikara, and to know with their body, mind, and heart the practice and the philosophy. You letter was beautiful.

Beccaroo said...

Thank you, Amy, for having the strength and courage to create this paradigm shift. I have often said that the immersions preceding the teacher training are something Anusara does so right. I appreciate knowing how the immersions were born. I deeply admire your self reflection and the space/time you gave yourself to come to this realization. Truly inspirational!!!

Amy Cronise-Mead said...

Amy, I just want to say that after all the recent publicity (NYTimes) and the following responses across the community, I greatly admire the way you have chosen to respond. I understand the reasoning for a point-on-point response, and believe that it has a place. I also want to say - You are seen - in your choice to respond with a thoroughly positive expression of your experience of Anusara, and its origins. Thank you, Anusara Mama, for teaching and leading by example.
Much Love,
Amy Cronise-Mead

Elena said...

we have come a LONG way, and i'm grateful for this, amy. can't wait to teach with you out east this summer and continue refining this decade-long conversation.

Amy said...

Thank you all SO SO SO very much for these beautiful reflections. It was not conscious on my part to respond to the NYT article in any specific way, so I really appreciate your feedback, Amy! And Hilary - we are on the correction, so sorry! Elena, don't even get me started on how stoked I am for the Hamptons!

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