Today I graduated with 15 other women from a year-long yoga teacher training certification. Under the warm guidance of Gopi Sandal, our yoga teacher, and immersed in the deep wells of love and humor we created together in our group, we have sun salutationed and pranayama-ed and anatomy-studied our way through the seasons. The umbrella of yoga we did, were and learned was Bhaktivana Yoga, the yoga of devotion and the yoga of being fully engaged in the world, and along the way we learned about everything from soup (along with how to make all kinds of other things) to nuts (if you consider some of the more esoteric yogic practices). Mostly, we studied the practice of yoga as life practice: a way to continually bend and reach yourself toward the divine in concert with your body, community, thoughts and deeds.
Unlike a typical graduation, there were no caps or gowns, just yoga clothes, and instead of processing, we stuck our butts in the air in downward dog, and then crawled on the ground and arched ourselves into cobra. In fact, we did a whole yoga class, complete with highly-entertaining partner yoga. After climbing, sitting and leaning on one another all year, it was all homecoming.
After class, we gathered in Gopi’s living room with friends and family present for her to present a certificate to and say something about each of us (turns out I’m a warrior of truth and a spunky rebel girl) as we lit a candle and wrapped ourselves in the energy of the moment. Everyone was shining.
Then it was time to eat, and in keeping with our intentional confusion of the words chakra and chocolate throughout this training, we had a chakrolate cake (and yes, I did break my no-chocolate vow because it just would have been so wrong not to) along with much else. As has been the case each month during our meals at Gopi’s together, there were kittens to delight in and bump away from our plates, peacocks staring at us with that wry peacock stare, and the oxen, including one I love so much that I whispered to Becky, “My boyfriend’s back.”
Leaving didn’t feel like leaving for many reasons, not the least of which was that I’ll be heading out to Gopi’s tomorrow for yoga class and seeing these gals around. Yet it also was leaving an intensive study and making of community and stretching our bodies while expanding our hearts together in just this way. Over the year, I found our monthly 16-hours-of-class weekends thrilling and exhausting (although thank heavens we usually had naptime), waking me up in new ways while wiping me out in others. But I know this time we made and had together was precious and is now over in just this configuration of people and intent.
Whatever happens next, I’ve learned so much more about how to bend myself toward it, center my breath, and lean into the beauty of life however it unfolds — like a lily in the center in the my heart or thunderstorm in the center of the sky. Thank you, Gopi, and thank you yoginis — I love you all and to paraphrase e.e. cummings, I carry your hearts in my heart.
(Note: Photo of a collaged box? This is what we as a group made for Gopi and gave her, filling it with gifts. The collage holds images we love and also a bunch of pictures of our group over the year.)