We hope you enjoy this new section as some of our Directors share their first meeting with or a special memory of Yoganand. Although Tra is moving on to pursue other avenues at this time, she is still part of the PK family and shares her story here.
A painstaking five-year decision-making process preceded my introduction to Yoganand. I knew I wanted to become a yoga teacher but there were many roadblocks along the way. Some were real, like a demanding career, and many perceived: I am not a good enough yogi, I don’t have a “yoga teacher body;” the list could go on and on. Despite my hesitation and reservations, I knew that if I ever mustered up the courage I wanted to go through Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training. Periodically I checked their training calendar to see if one of the program sessions would align with my work schedule. (At that time, Kripalu offered either a 30-day intensive or three 9-day training sessions, neither of which I could participate in due to my work schedule.) Then, one day in 2004, divine intervention occurred. Kripalu was offering a special training session in Charlotte, NC, (just 4 hours from me and much closer than Lenox, MA, where Kripalu is located) in a format of nine 3-day weekends over nine months. The real obstacles to YTT dissolved right before me on the computer screen and there remained my stories. It was time to face my truth. It was time for me to stop stalling and finally apply for YTT.
That initial 4-hour drive to Charlotte from Atlanta felt like 12, or maybe one, I can’t be sure because I was so filled with anxiety, uncertainty and fear that time escaped me. When I arrived to the training location on Friday night of weekend one, I was welcomed by a vibrant, warm woman whose studio was hosting the program. Nervously, I laid out my mat and took a seat, settling into this space of comfort in the midst of unfamiliar faces and self-doubt. As I waited for something, anything, to begin, I noticed the studio owner conversing off to the side with two people: one a petite woman with a warm-hearted smile and the other, an austere looking man standing underneath a diametrically opposing mullet, who was small in stature yet huge in presence. Although I did not know for certain, I suspected that one of those two individuals was going to be my teacher for the next nine months. I was hoping for the woman with the friendly eyes and the gracious smile.
“Good evening. Welcome to your yoga teacher training program. My name is Yoganand Michael Carroll…Tonight we will begin with a yoga practice so get any props you might need and tissues for pranayama.” The next thing I remember is doing fire hydrant for what felt like 20 minutes. On each side. I quickly learned that the tissues were less for Kapalabhati and more for my torrent of tears. The yoga mat, once a space of solace, suddenly became the pit of Hell. Flames of anger, shame and unworthiness ignited with such fury that even the high-pressure rush of a fire hydrant hose could not extinguish my pain. Had I been been able to move my legs, I would have run screaming out of YTT and away from Yoganand forever. So much for the warmth, nurturance and openness I sensed earlier that evening from the woman who fleetingly played the role of my imaginary yoga teacher. Instead, the Universe placed before me a teacher whose abiding calm and reassuring presence demanded nothing less than that my true self show up on the mat, in all her glory and her mess.
And thus early in 2005 my journey with Yoganand began. Truth be told, during my YTT I really had no idea who Yoganand was other than some guy from Kripalu who was one of their many teacher trainers. But night one revealed that Yoganand’s yoga was not the same “Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow” Kripalu Yoga I had been practicing with my local teachers for seven years; this was something more palpable, more powerful. Yoganand’s yoga terrified me; it asked me to peer into my darkness, to accept that which I did not wish to see, to embrace the fullness of my experiences and the totality of my life. Most importantly, it commanded my awareness and presence. The warm, soothing embrace of the practice I once knew and my first night fantasy teacher trainer eluded me. Instead, I was churned, challenged, and, as a result, changed forever.
It was only after I began my advanced studies with Yoganand that I decided to do a little research to find out more about his background. The more I discovered, the more I was filled with admiration and respect for my teacher who, through his devotion to yoga, holds a prominent place in the lineage of Kripalu Yoga and in the wider history of this ancient wisdom path. And like many of Yoganand’s students, I feel privileged to have been a recipient of his knowledge and experience, as well as his interpretations of Swami Kripalu’s teachings, which ultimately became Pranakriya Yoga (i.e., “Yoganand’s Yoga”). Were it not for Yoganand’s dedication to his practice and Kripalu’s teachings, my teacher training would have been exactly what I wanted – not what I needed. It just goes to show, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”