Since my first yoga class in 1989, I have taken yoga with LOTS of teachers, each offering something different, each offering a representation of their depth of knowledge from study and from personal practice. Over the years, I have also met many teachers who have IN-pressed on me, and a few teachers who have made me really raise my eyebrows and wonder what the hell are they doing.

In 2001, I read a book called Yoga and the Quest for True Self (by Stephen Cope © 1999) after I made a spur of the moment decision to go to Kripalu to start a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Program.

On Pages 18-19, I read:

“Next, a slender, sweet-looking young man named Yoganand got up to tell us the tale of Kripalu’s yogic lineage. He had pale white skin, a shaved head, and a calm, focused demeanor, and he was dressed from head to toe in orange, indicating his membership in the renunciate order at Kripalu. I had already heard that Yoganand was one for the most serious yogis in the community. He radiated a kind of equanimity, moving gracefully and sitting in a full-lotus posture as he spoke. I watched him carefully. Are these the results of sustained yoga practice, I wondered.”
“The story Yoganand told was riveting, and at different points, I though, altogether to good to be true. I carried on a running dialogue with myself as he spoke. Is this real, or is this myth? Are these people deluded? Am I deluded for being here? An yet I wanted to be open. I wanted to suspend disbelief, at least for today. As I listened to Yoganand, I found myself on an internal roller-coaster ride, from doubt to credulity, from disbelief to awe.”

“Who is this guy,” I thought, and “Will I meet him when I go to Kripalu?” Well, during the third week of the four week 200-hour training, Yoganand joined us for an afternoon, giving us a lecture on the Swami Kripalu, the history of our lineage, Kripalu Yoga. He also lead our afternoon Posture Training Sequence, and then one of our program’s daily 6am Yoga Sadhana practices.

At the end of that morning practice with him, my first thought was ——–. Nothing. No thought. No mentation. Pure awareness. As if I was experiencing myself for the first time, with true, absolute stillness and presence. 

Then my mind reformed, followed by LOTS of thoughts; something, however, inside of me changed fundamentally. Subsequent practices with Yoganand planted many seeds in me, steering me towards what my practice could contain, and where effective, deep, clear yoga teaching can take a any student. I remember distinctly remember thinking , “I want to study with him and figure out how to take myself back to that place,” quickly followed by, “… and I want to learn how to teach like him, to create that kind of experience for others.” 

Now in 2018, he’s no longer a renunciate, wears shorts and t-shirts and has a head full of salt-n-pepper hair. He’s been married, then widowed, then re-partnered. He left Kripalu to form Pranakriya School of Yoga Healing Arts in 2006, and then returned to be the Dean of Yoga at Kripalu from 2013-2019. His passions include growing and studying orchids, reading very esoteric Tantric texts and treatises, and traveling as often as he can to the tropics. After 18 years of studying with many teachers, and loving many of them along the way, no one comes close to Yoganand at interpreting Yoga’s rich philosophy and applying them to modern life and practice. His studies are underpinned with actual foundation of tapas for practicing of pranayama and meditation inside of asana.

Since 2001, I have spent literally hundreds of hours in the program room with him, loving much of it, and churning much of it, too. My time with him has changed not just my practice and my life, but my sense of who I am. By listening to him and by watching how he is with others, I’ve learned that every moment as a human, as a yogi, as a student, as a teacher, I should go as far as I can, to feel everything, to not shut down to my experience, and to allow the practice to happen to me, as best as I can IN THAT MOMENT, and on the other side, to integrate EVERYTHING I have received and learned, as much as I can, in that moment. I’ve also recently learned that over time, the integration never stops. There’s always more layers, that the alchemical development that results from practice lives on in us, our fruit to tend to, just because we had the experience.

Can I learn to see and to learn from the good that I do in the world, and to learn to understand how others may interpret what I have done? 

Can I, also learn to see and to learn from the challenge and pain that I do cause in the world, and to learn to understand how others may interpret what I have done? 

Can I learn to see and understand all of the ramifications of all my actions?

To learn to see myself more clearly, through my eyes and the eyes of others, to me, this is Ahimsa. Non-harming. This teaching has many layers, infinite layers. Like a lock and key, contemplating ahimsa has something unlocked inside me has over my years of practice.

We’ve all been hurt by others, intentionally and unintentionally.
We’ve all hurt others, intentionally and unintentionally.
Healing comes from doing as much as possible, in this moment, to include the hurt to transcend it.

During one Pradipika program, Yoganand talked about Pralaya, a quality that describes how the world is constantly forming and dissolving, and each forming dissolves something, and each dissolving forms another thing. Every dissolving is a forming, and that forming eventually requires dissolving. Over and over and over again, this universe constantly forms and re-forms. This is the natural way of things.

Our practice of yoga aims to support having experiences of what might exist behind/under/supporting/containing/observing the Ahamkara (Ego/Identity) and the Manas (Mind). In my studies with Yoganand, we’ve repeatedly explored pranayama techniques that create both little and big dissolvings of the mind and identity, aligning with the Silence Behind All Things.  And every time, over time, as my mind and identity reform, it feels/I feel a little bit different. Formed differently and the same, eventually to dissolve again. We can always “Start Again.

If I know anything, I know that I have not attained mastery, but I have developed a skill, many skills in fact, based in these Tantric Hatha Yoga philosophies, taught by Yoganand, sourced from Swami Kripalu and the many ancients before him.

In 2017, I posted a blog of Yoganand’s about Sun Salutations and the age of Modern Yoga. “The yoga I learned is ‘a search for truth.’ And, more often than not, truth is not what I would prefer it to be. Again and again, I have the choice to look for what I want to see, or to see what is really there. In the modern world of ‘fake news,’ let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard. Let me know if I am wrong. Yoganand.”

Thank you, Yoganand, for teaching towards truth, for being a renegade by teaching the reunuciate practices, and for lighting, fueling, and upgrading lamps (mine especially)!

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