Happy New Year, Pranakriya Community!

As we embark on this new calendar year, I want to share something I have been rolling around. For so many of us, the past couple of years have been fraught with the feeling of a sense of loss: of loved ones, of work, of identity, of freedoms, of traditions, and more. As this era drags on into our second year, many of us have started to be able to see how going “back to normal” isn’t even really all that desirable in some instances. We have been forced to pivot and adapt; to innovate. And that ability to adapt has changed us; empowered us. This, in turn, allows us to see some things differently. For some of us, perhaps this happened quickly; for others, maybe we are just starting to shift. In any case, it has become clear that everything changes, whether we are ready for it (or open to it) or not.

Last year, when Yoganand Michael Carroll moved to Panama and said he was looking to ease his way into retirement, there was some nervousness about what would happen to Pranakriya. After all, he is the School’s founder. He is our connection to Swami Kripalu and our lineage. But, if you have spent much time around Yoganand, you also come to understand very clearly that he has had to adapt (more than once). He has had to pivot. And in doing so, Pranakriya was born. Yoganand has passed the teachings and techniques on to Pranakriya Program Directors who have studied extensively under him, and they continue to convey the lineage in each program and class they lead. He, and they, pass all of this down directly to each of us who have had the opportunity to learn from them in program and practice with them in classes.

We hold the lineage every day when we engage in self-observation, share the teachings and techniques with others, check our egos before making a judgment, and live as fully alive as we can that day. You hold the lineage every time it guides you in your teaching and in your life. Yes, each of our ways of living and presenting what the lineage teaches probably looks a little different. But the principles are the same. If your teaching had to go online these past couple of years, imagine how much of Swami Kripalu’s teachings you have been able to share with new audiences. You pivoted and introduced others to our lineage. If you started leading private sessions instead of group classes, you have been able to go deeper into the techniques and theory (and probably threw some philosophy and history in there, too) and you became more of a master as you intensively brought subtleties of the lineage to your one-on-one students. If you took courses online to which you would not have otherwise had access, you deepened your connection with the teachings and lineage, and others in the Pranakriya community.

Personally, something that I regularly pass along to my students stems from this thought:

Seekers who believe they must practice yoga only in the meditation room are under a great illusion. They must practice yoga in society as well. Practicing yoga in the meditation room is easy because there are no external disturbances. But one encounters many disturbances while practicing yoga in society, which makes it very difficult. The true yogi is one who can successfully protect their mental steadiness while in society.
– Swami Kripalu

I don’t tend to read to my students (quotes or otherwise), but every time I paraphrase this thought, Swami Kripalu is right there with me. Guiding me to know that this is not some out-there, out-of-tradition yoga teacher-speak. It’s real, it’s important to us, and it’s our tradition guiding me and my students. I had to move my teaching outdoors, and have a very different community now than I did 3 years ago. Because I needed to adapt to the circumstances, I have had the opportunity to extend the beauty of our tradition to people I might not have otherwise met in a yoga class setting.

So, I would challenge each of us to think about our place in the lineage a little more expansively. Of course, with this comes, perhaps, a greater sense of responsibility. It’s always much easier to look to someone else to be that leader than to take it on ourselves. But perhaps this also gives us some extra guidance. This period has left a lot of us feeling a little rudderless. What if we can turn to the teachings once again, to help guide us? To help us grow and expand and come understand that we are the lineage holders.

Perhaps you want to be mindful of the teachings in our lineage and the yoga traditions, and bring them to your classes in a seamlessly integrated way. Or, perhaps re-establish a daily practice hailing from our tradition. Perhaps you can become a Program Director, and take that leadership role; really delve into the history, find your place in the lineage, and be part of passing it down to future teachers. Our Directors bring the lineage to others in so many ways that I hope you will experience this year: leading teachers in how to use Pranakriya kids yoga in their classrooms; translating ancient texts and teachings into modern day classes; facilitating a diverse offering of yoga classes, all with underpinnings from the lineage and tradition; leading discussions on the intersection of ethics, social justice, equity, and holding sacred space; and so much more. In her end-of-year letter last week, the School’s Board President, Lee Furey, extended to the Pranakriya community, the challenge of learning from as many Program Directors as possible in 2022, and this is why.

The values, principles, and techniques of our yoga tradition hail from Swami Kripalu and those who came before him. Yoganand brought what he learned from Swami Kripalu and his students and founded Pranakriya. Yoganand’s students, and their students – all of us – are part of this rich lineage. Let’s keep carrying it by studying it, teaching it, living it, sharing it. Let’s find our place in the lineage, and then we know it will continue. Will it look a little different as it adapts? Probably. But we have recently learned that sometimes that’s not such a terrible thing. When traditions adapt to circumstances, they are often able to welcome in new participants and opportunities, but the heart and soul behind them remain.

I look forward to seeing you in courses and classes this year. Please watch your inbox for our offerings. We are staying online for most 300-hour level courses in 2022, starting with a new course being offered by Yoganand near the end of this month, followed by the first of a series of workshops on integrating the ancient teachings and texts into modern-day yoga classes . We will be starting to work through the revamped Director-in-Training program in the first quarter of the year, the blog is back (and submissions are welcomed!), yoga classes are in the mix once again; there are a lot of new and exciting things happening. I invite each of us to think about how we are carrying the lineage in our teaching and in our daily lives, and how this helps it grow in reach and rich meaning. Happy New Year, everyone!

Jai Bhagwan!
Betsy

Betsy Marzahn-Ramos
Executive Director, Pranakriya School of Yoga Healing Arts

“What does it mean to hold the teachings of past masters? Links in a chain that stretches back in time, we walk the fine line between honoring what came before and birthing a new vision as vast as the dance of the deities.

 

What keeps a lineage vibrant, enlivens practices with the energy of truth and transformation? What weaves individual souls into the whole cloth of tradition, and a great work moving forward through the ages?

 

It is remembrance and the willingness to let go of form. It is bold dreams and fearless action. It is taking the teachings into the fray of everyday life, saying yes to what the moment holds. It is intractable chaos and creative commitment. It is blazing a trail, bushwhacking in the dark without a flashlight. It is riding a wave of truth with the power to change the landscape and the lives of all it touches.

 

Whether we chose the path or it chose us, we can shake the dust from our feet and walk forward without looking back – each step a part of the lineage unfolding.”

 

(Dana Foulds, p. iii, Sayings of Swami Kripalu: Inspiring Quotes from a Contemporary Yoga Master; ed. R. Foulds, 2004.)