I have described getting certified as an Anusara yoga instructor being like doing a Doctorate in yoga. However, it’s probably more accurately akin to entering into a Mastery Program.
There are many honourable and rich paths to the heart of yoga; truly, there are limtless ways to practice, study and teach yoga, so long as intent is pure and skill is cultivated.
I chose Anusara yoga because it completely aligns with my own truth and has helped me inspire others to live authentically, be happy, and feel good.
It is with bubbling excitement and humble gratitude that I can now call myself a certified Anusara yoga instructor. It has been a journey of many years and incredible growth, and so I offer you this story…
My First Taste Of Anusara Yoga: Finding My Teacher
My first Anusara yoga class was a weekend workshop with the founder, John Friend. I had no idea what the Universal Principles of Alignment™ were, or what order the 3 A’s are arranged in, because I didn’t know the concepts existed. I had been teaching for all of 6 months and a friend told me, from obvious joy and heart, that I absolutely had to try it.
So I drove 5 hours down to Seattle to get my first hit of Anusara yoga from the source. I had no idea what to expect, but I went and put my mat front and center.
That weekend I found my way; that elusive focus of what I wanted to do with my life and how I wanted to live.
John Friend spoke to my heart, in that first class and in so many others I have had the privilege of attending. He used many of the same concepts and poetic threads that had already been weaving in my life. But he showed me a tapestry with big picture colour and order, technique and deep wisdom, wheras I’d only seen small shimmers of the full picture before.
Up until then, I had been asking for a teacher. Although many talented and wonderful teachers have inspired my yoga practice, my teaching and my life, in that first Anusara class ever I learned that John Friend was the teacher I had been waiting for.
Riding The Waves Of Life: On My Way To Anusara Yoga Certification
Getting On The Bus…
Since that day in the winter of 2006, I have ridden the waves of life guided by the Grace of Shiva-Shakti Tantra and the Universal Principles of Alignment. I have sought Balanced Action in the push and pull of being human, and have blossomed into the person I always wanted to be.
I separated from a good marriage because my path and his were headed in different directions. My divorce settlement became my tuition to follow John Friend and the Merry Band all over North America. You can liken it to getting on the proverbial bus and just soaking up as much as possible in a short period of time, though truly it included a LOT of plane rides and car rentals.
I studied extensively with John, as well as many other very skilled Anusara yoga instructors such as Desiree Rumbaugh, Denise Benitez, Elizabeth Rainey, Amy Ipolitti, Jordan and Martin Kirk, Elissa Gumushell, Ulla Lundgren, and my New Orleans Kula, Laura Flora and Cat McCarthy.
Every one of these teachers, and many more, have helped illuminate my path, and they all have my respect and gratitude for helping shape my teaching.
Though I knew I wanted to become certified before I’d finished my first 108 hour Immersion, it seemed an impossibly long way to go. Now I see that the hours collected in my study since then far surpass the necessary 500 credit hours.
Knowing My Path… Finally
At first I was impatient. No, more like I was simply more ambitious for this than anything previously in my life. I got a degree in multimedia design because it seemed like the best subject and the most fun out of the spectrum of choices that didn’t fit. I’d never thought about a Masters or Doctorate because I wasn’t passionate enough about any subject to spend that much time in school.
But teaching yoga, and specifically Anusara yoga, THIS is what I was born to do!
This is my calling; to learn how to live joyfully, with the highest integrity possible in each moment, healing my body and life, having fun on my mat, expressing myself creatively and continually connecting to my highest self.
It is my calling to practice this and share it with others so that they are inspired to find their own way to joy, health, deep connection and creative expression, and so they in turn inspire those around them. In this way we uplift the world. It is a worthy vision and mission, to be sure.
Video Review #1
The biggest elephant-like obstacle for most people who go for Anusara yoga certification seems to be the video. Aparently being accepted for some more traditional Masters Programs isn’t easy either.
First you have to have a video reviewed by any certified teacher (presumably one you have a relationship with and have studied with) so that they can recommend you to enter the certification process. Basically they get to tell you if you’re ready to apply.
The first time I had a video assessed to apply for certification was in October of 2008. The teacher I asked to look at it is one of those who review applicants for final certification.
She sat down with me and gave me some of the best and most skillful feedback I have ever received. And then she told me that she wasn’t going to recommend me at that time.
It was a huge blow to my ambitious pride, but then I have had so many opportunities to find humility on this ride. It was the best thing for me.
The very next day, Thanksgiving in Canada where I live, our house caught on fire.
In the fear and commotion that followed the fire I got to put my yoga into real life practice like never before. I was forced to go one step at a time on my journey, and not be so concerned about things happening on a specific schedule – including my certification.
I was able to use what I had learned from John Friend to penetrate the intense feelings of uncertainty and look for the beauty of each moment, because if I looked forward I found myself drowning in fear. If I stayed with each breath as it came I was okay.
And it all worked out, of course, becoming a cherished time of growth for me.
When At First You Don’t Succeed, Keep Practicing… And Then Give It Another Go.
After that initial review and the lessons of the fire I took a much more laid back attitude about the timing of my certification. I decided I’d get there when I got there.
I can’t explain how much pressure I took off my own shoulders by creating that spaciousness.
I kept practicing, living my yoga, and integrating what I had learned into my teaching. By the time I was ready to try again I’d been a licensed Anusara-Inspired™ yoga teacher for over 3 years, on the fast track to certification helped along by my ‘divorce settlement tuition fund’ which saw me on a plane every month or so to train with John.
I applied for certification in April of 2010 and my assessment video was worthy of a recommendation, though the instructor suggested I do a different one to actually send in for certification review.
I wrote my exam as soon as I’d been accepted into the certification process, which was absolutely a beautiful period of realizing how much I actually know and expanding tremendously. My relationship with the Bhagavad Gita, for instance, deepened significantly that week.
The Time Of Questioning…
Between the time when I wrote my exam and I sent in my video for certification review I went through a very interesting 8 months where I seemed to be testing if things were true for me.
My life circumstances changed. I kept shooting videos of my classes and deciding none of them were good enough. I raised the bar for becoming certified so high in my head that there was no way I could jump over it.
I became really hard on myself, a pattern I’ve worked with all my life. I imagined that what I did in my personal life and my teaching wouldn’t be good enough for John or worthy of being certified. What mind games I played with myself!
I even went through a month or so where I didn’t want to sing the Anusara Invocation. Why? Because I’d lost the heart connection to the Kula. The meaning had been buried in my fear of not being good enough.
But all the while I kept turning toward the light, doing my best to create a new pattern and jump the old Samskara (habit) of self-abuse. And through it all my teaching continued to grow with my ability to guide profound, playful, and empowering classes which became more energized and refined.
The Video… (s)…
I got over myself and out of my own way with the help of a friend. I call her my Katrina sister, Katrina Knudsen, who told me to just get a video that was good enough to start. She reminded me that certification is just the beginning of the journey, and helped me get real about something I’d made into an impossibility. It made me feel so much better!
In January of 2011 I sent in a video for preliminary review to one of my certified friends in New Orleans. Once again a certified teacher was to say if it was worthy of actually sending in to a committee reviewer.
It sounds like a complicated process, but really it makes sense because by having the feedback of someone who has been through the process before you, but isn’t going to tell you if you’ve passed or not, it softens some of the intimidation factor. It also gives the person applying (me) a valuable perspective on their teaching, and offers the teacher doing the assessment (my friend) a chance to refine their own skills as a teacher by evaluating someone else’s approach.
Months later, after having sent the video from Canada to New Orleans, LA, and then to Anusara Headquarters outside of Houston, TX, the same DVD was watched in Bryn Athyn, PA.
I received an excellent review when I finally got on the phone with my reviewer. She told me my teaching, language, presence, intention and skill with the Principles and class management was very strong. It was good to know that my ability to display the characteristics of a certified level class was totally there.
She also gave me 3 simple things to refine and show on another video, and it felt very good when she expressed her confidence about that video passing.
The video part of certification was not the impossible thing I’d made it out to be in that doubting time at all!
Because I’d been working on refining my teaching the whole time I’d been waititng to hear about the first video, I was able to shoot another 2 weeks after receiveing the review and send it in.
No worries. The self imposed pressure was gone, replaced by confidence and self acceptance. Whew!
The Short Of The Long Of It…
This might seem a long-winded story, and indeed I’m impressed if you’ve read this far, yet there is so much more I could have shared.
Becoming a Certified Anusara yoga instructor is not a fast process. During all the time in between trainings, your personal expansion and teaching abilities spin a weaving that is not always easy to see along the way.
But when you pause and really assess where you are and where you’ve come from, the journey is mighty and the results brilliantly apparent – there has been radical transformation!
It took nearly 17 full months to complete the certification process once I had officially entered it. I am totally at peace with the amount of time this process has taken and am grateful for the chance to learn how to not be in a rush with this unfolding of my teaching and personal practice.
I still have SO much to learn! I love how yoga is infinite in what you can study and apply to your life.
This is yet the beginning of another journey, or the continuing of the path to Mastery that I have always been walking. The opportunities to deepen my humility along the way have been many, and I cherish each one.
For those of you who are considering certification, the best advice I can offer is to live your yoga, continue to learn and expand, and give yourself the spaciousness of not setting a deadline. Don’t think you have to know it all – you won’t. But if you are a devoted student of Anusara yoga and teach from the heart, you will find that you know enough.
The personal and professional growth I have experienced since I decided to pursue certification, and especially since entering the actual certification process, has been monumental. What I learned is to enjoy the journey, for I am truly walking a path towards mastery.
I offer this story of my experience with deep gratitude to John Friend, all my teachers, the Anusara Kula, my beloved Casey, my family, friends and each and every one of my students. Thank you, from my heart, for being with me on this ride!!!
If you made it this far, please leave a comment and let me know what you think about my journey! Also, you might want to check out my Interview with John Friend.
Most of these photos are by Natalie Anfield (Kamloops Photography) and Casey Kaldal.