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all cartoons by daryl seitchik
In the nineties, I took my first yoga class. It wasn’t bliss. I wasn’t hooked. I didn’t even like it, an alleged intro class full of pretzel-twisting poses that were way beyond me. I did find other classes I loved. In 2003, I completed a 200hr teacher training to improve my practice. I admit that I didn’t see myself as a yoga teacher at all, but I walked into a job in spite of myself (in January 2004) and I’ve been teaching ever since. Teaching makes me happy.
My training began as an undergrad at UC Berkeley in courses on nutrition, phys ed, and the psychology of human movement. I finished my bachelors in NYC, concentrating on history and religion coursework, including Bob Thurman’s Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. My thesis, on new religious movements and health reform in the 19th-century U.S., researched antecedents of the New Thought movement, the progenitor of present day new age “manifestation” beliefs (which are as central to U.S. yoga as Krishnamacharya). I later did graduate work in South Asian Studies, also at Columbia University, and earned a masters there in Health and Behavior Studies/Health Education and a masters in US History from the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
I completed my 200hr training at Integral Yoga New York (2003) and my 500hr training at ISHTA Yoga (2009). My study and practice with the following teachers have been far more important to my teaching than the requisite teacher trainings: Genny Kapuler (Iyengar), Jocelyne Stern (Ashtanga), Lori Brungard (Ashtanga), Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen (Mind-Body Centering), Jon Kabat-Zinn (meditation/Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), and with various teachers at the New York Shambhala Center (Tantric/Buddhist meditation) and Insight Meditation (Vipassana meditation).
Before teaching yoga, I worked as an English teacher in Lithuania, a photographer in Turkey, India and Pakistan, a photographer, editor and writer in New York, and a tour guide in Iran, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
Yoga as we know it (in the US, laden with asana and spirit-speak. While physical yoga practices have an ancient-but-difficult-to-track oral tradition and history, these bear very little resemblance to current practice, which is a deeply transnational product) is a modern tradition created in large part by Swami Vivekananda* and reinterpreted by lineages, teachers, and schools across the globe. As such, it fills many different needs for people, from cardio workout to formal religion, and much in between. As a New Yorker, I try to provide a space for students to move, to breathe, to feel the breath and the body. Our culture constantly pushes against this experience, and simply taking time to feel our physical selves allows for a place to connect with our humanness. Get into your body and be honest with yourself. Drop the stories. Feel your body. Try not to judge. Notice yourself judge anyway. Feel what’s going on inside. That is much, much more interesting than what you have to say about it. We neglect and abuse ourselves constantly, and we numb ourselves to life. Yoga can reverse this habit, and it isn’t all relaxation, or love and light, as often we open to the pain—and joy—we’ve been taught all our lives to avoid. Better to be real and move through the pain and the joy than to be rigid and constantly defensive, or bubbly and fake. (What does it even mean to be real? What exactly is a self?) I’ve found that coming into the body is a remarkable way to explore this.
*Vivekananda revolutionized its philosophical underpinnings in the 1890s and the physical practice, often called “Modern Postural Yoga,” was massively transformed in the 1920s by people like Kuvalayananda, Krishnamacharya, and Sivananda, who were influenced by Vivekananda in one way or another.
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