I was introduced to yoga, not in India where I grew up, but at Pennstate University, State College. It was in the fall of 1991, when I left home and India for the first time to pursue post doctoral research studies at this university. As a lone stranger in a new country and place, battling ‘the culture shock and home sickness phenomenon’, I accompanied an old Indian couple (who took pity on me and cared for me) to the one and only Iyengar studio in the heart of Happy Valley run by a Rebecca and Dean Lerner. True to the Iyengar way, I learnt various ‘introductory’ asanas with the help of props and I managed to squeeze in an hour of yoga each week.
Subsequent to this initial yoga exposure spanning less than two years, migration to the Bay Area, full time employment, marriage and children interrupted my pursuit of yoga for a decade. During these years, I did attempt to attend a few yoga classes at another Iyengar studio in the Bay Area and at some local gyms. The effort that had to be invested in driving to these classes, the stress of finding a ‘yoga mat’ sized space in the class room, the crowded classes, varying teaching styles and the ‘aerobicsizing’ of the yoga sessions in the form of power yoga, flow yoga, ‘heated yoga’ etc. proved to be a huge barrier that prevented any ongoing commitment to yoga.
Eventually, out of desperation, I decided to sign up for the free classes offered in the local (Sunnyvale) temple. However, the timing and the commute did not work out and this was a non-starter. Signing up for these classes did lead to another consequence – since my name was on the mailing list, I accidently received a flyer advertising ‘Yoga Instructor’s Certificate Course (YICC) 2006 by Yogabharati”. This was advertised as being a 12-week course with the following descriptor: “Based on over 20 years of in-depth study in the field of Yoga and Spirituality by VYASA. Research behind YICC largely follows the direction given by Swami Vivekananda, who pronounced that we need to combine the best of the West (modern scientific research) with the best of the East (yoga and spiritual lore) to bring a grand harmony and peace on earth.”
Since I was already ‘yoga primed’ and craving for a more in depth study after several aborted attempts, I was more than ready to give this a shot. In addition, the location of the classes and timing was adaptable to my work life schedule and I took the plunge. The registration confirmation and welcome e-mails I received from one of the Yoga Bharati volunteers, following my registration, is quoted below and this eliminated any lingering doubts I may have had regarding this commitment.
“As you might be aware YOGA gives a great boost to your lifestyle and enhances the quality of living. We at YogaBharati take pride in promoting YOGA for the personal and social good. This course offers you more than mere Yoga postures, it gives the gist of Yoga and is based on scriptures and their detailed analysis by realized gurus like Shri N.V.Raghuramji”
It was the most memorable and productive 12 weeks of yoga. Between an overview of yoga practices spanning asanas, surya namaskar, suksma vyayaama, mudras, trataka, and pranayama, in-depth theory lectures by Shri Raghuramji, and teaching instructions and practice, I received much more than I bargained for and I have a lot more understanding of yoga as a whole. The YICC program offered excellent teaching with high standards, organization, and plentiful good food. The YICC coordinators, instructors and volunteers are highly committed and passionate about making the course a rewarding experience.
My YICC experience was transformational for me. I have been practicing yoga every single day since I completed the course. Yoga has become part of my lifestyle now and I enjoy in depth analysis of various asanas and their intricate nuances. I don’t worry about driving to a gym or a studio to do yoga anymore. Since I received all the basic tools and knowledge from the YICC course, I am perfectly content practicing at home. I have begun a lifelong yoga journey and in my own small way, attempt to share and pass this knowledge on to anyone who expresses an interest.
Vidhya Gopalakrishnan lives with her family in West San Jose and works for a pharmaceutical company. She teaches yoga at the local community center