The fact is, I have an ulterior motive for blogging: After teaching adaptive yoga for twenty years, and leading lots of teacher trainings, I really need to create an updated manual for my Accessible Yoga Teacher Trainings. The problem is that I don't have time to do it. So, here it is, the beginning of my new Accessible Yoga Teacher Training manual, written in weekly sections.
It will be a regular practice. Like my friend Barbara Hirsch, who always writes one article a week for her EcoFacts. That's impressive, and I hope I have the discipline for it.
Interestingly, discipline is really at the core of Yoga. Tapas is sometimes defined as discipline although it's usually referred to as accepting pain for purification...but I'm already off topic. I wanted to focus this blog on my motivation for creating the Accessible Yoga Project, and the Accessible Yoga Teacher Trainings.
If you know me, you've probably heard me talk about my best friend, Kurt, who died of AIDS in 1995. That was the same year that I was certified as a yoga teacher (after four years of training by my mentor, Kazuko Onodera - which is a story for another day). Kurt inspired me to follow my heart, and to be fearless. He found joy in life, and somehow in death. He accepted his illness and death in a way that changed my view of the world, and the way I perceived the human condition.
Through illness Kurt kept a positive attitude, a kind heart, and open mind. I remember visiting him in the hospital on many occasions, and he would be surrounded by nurses and staff talking to him about their problems. It was revolutionary to see him retain his dignity and happiness through the pain and torture of his illness. In the process, Kurt showed me that illness can be a path to healing - deep spiritual healing that transcends the physical body.
These lessons stayed with me as I began teaching Yoga for Healing classes at the S.F. Integral Yoga Institute, and California Pacific Medical Center. I taught these classes for almost 15 years, learning from each of my students how to face illness and handle the challenges life gives you. My students inspired me to create the Accessible Yoga Teacher Training in 2007. I had be leading Basic Yoga Teacher Training programs for ten years, and I saw that many people coming to these programs had very little experience practicing Yoga. On the other hand, I had students with disabilities who had years of dedicated practice under their belts, but who felt that a Yoga teacher training program would be beyond their capacity.
In particular, Patrice Priya Wagner, inspired me to create this program by her sheer bravery and dedication to Yoga. With support from Ian Waisler, and moral support from Swami Vimalananda, we created a program designed to teach people with disabilities and chronic illness to become Yoga teachers. It was a roller coaster ride, but what a great group we graduated.
It was also a graduation for me. I realized that I could give people the tools they need to heal themselves - not always on a physical level, but more importantly, on a spiritual one. Yoga offers these incredible opportunities for us; to bend gracefully when life tries to knock us down; to fill our own hearts with joy and love rather than waiting for someone else to do it for us. Yoga has given me all of this and more. I'm so happy that I get to share it with others. Simply put, the purpose of the Accessible Yoga Project is to share yoga with people who feel like they can't get to a Yoga class, or who have been told that Yoga isn't for them. It's about empowerment, independence, and freedom.