November 30, 2020
My Holistic Yoga Flow Teacher Training With Travis & Lauren (Part 1)
In this 2-part post, we bring you a real student’s personal account of the holistic yoga flow teacher training she completed last year with Travis and Lauren.
Much gratitude to Elaine Kim, student yogi, meditator and author for sharing her story with us!
It was my desire to fix my form that led me to sign up for another yoga teacher training, this time a 200-hour certification program. I found Travis Eliot from A Journey Into Yin Yoga, the book we read in Govind Das’ training. The cover of his book showed a shirtless, tan guy with a toned physique sitting with soles of feet touching and arms outstretched towards the reader. The book had a balanced blend of science, anatomy, and philosophy, and I especially liked that the author seemed like a practical dude. He and his wife Lauren had an upcoming teacher training in Venice, and I signed up.
On a chilly Friday evening, I arrived early and parked off Rose and 5th, in an impossibly hip stretch of streets with a juice bar, athleisure store, and stretch lab. The studio that would become my home for the next ten weekends was located right next to a Cafe Gratitude, where in the coming weeks I would frequently be “Whole” with a macrobiotic bowl of braised yams, sea vegetables, kimchi, toasted almonds, and quinoa for $18.
A kind-looking Indian woman, who appeared to be in her forties, was seated at the bench outside the studio with a black and gray mandala-patterned yoga mat. She introduced herself to me as Shiuli, and I learned that she was a schoolteacher who was taking a year-long sabbatical. She and her family had bonded over Travis’ yoga DVD, and the yoga training was her treat to herself. I was happy to meet someone else who was taking an extended time-out for wellness activities, and Shiuli and I became fast friends.
Govind Das had been Travis’ mentor, but the two could not have been more different. In Govind Das’ yin class, we drifted in sync with the natural rhythms of the sun and moon. Travis, meanwhile, began his class with firm rules for respecting the class by being punctual. He and his wife Lauren were both deeply spiritual, but they also pointed out that we are in the real world where respecting people’s time matters. My new spiritual mentors were down-to-earth, and as they led us through methodical breakdowns of yoga sequences, no one discouraged me when I fired off question after question drilling down into the details of each posture.
On Friday evenings, Travis would have two-hour spiritual talks, where we discussed The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which systematizes the practice of modern yoga. Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga is remarkably similar to the Eightfold Noble Path. It, too, is a roadmap for living purely on the path to enlightenment. Practicing ethics, self-study, and meditation are components. Additionally, I appreciated that the final three limbs break down meditation into three separate stages, instead of lumping samadhi into one element like the Eightfold Noble Path.
The three separate stages exist on a spectrum, where focused concentration (dharana) progresses to total absorption (dhyana), culminating in absolute oneness (samadhi). This gradient acknowledges that there are various stages of meditation, ranging from the preliminary stage of focus, which one can control, to samadhi, which is not something you actively will to happen but rather set the stage for so that it can be invited in. A follower of the Yoga Sutras prepares for samadhi through disciplined practice of the other limbs, which include eating wholesome foods, living ethically, and doing pranayama breathing exercises.
Patanjali’s sutras were interesting to learn about, but my favorite parts of class happened when Travis went off script, his face becoming animated as he shared his passion for Eastern theory and life lessons. He spoke about how we live in a world of duality, but the goal of yoga’s union is oneness, where we can recognize that all things and creatures are the same. Our ego is something we create to function in this world of duality where we constantly compare ourselves to others. This leads to suffering until we can see our interconnectedness, he told us.
The parable I liked best was the one he shared about a Taoist master who instructed his students to practice at the first sign of light. “How do we know that we’ve seen the light?” the students asked, unsure what this meant. “Is it when we overlook the valley and we can see the difference between an oak tree and an olive tree?” “No,” the master said. “Is it when we look out over the hills and we can see the difference between a dog and a sheep?” “No, try again” the master said. “I think we have it! Is it the moment when the dawn of light shoots out beyond the horizon?” the students said, believing they had finally solved the puzzle. “No, that is not how you know you’ve seen the light,” the master said. “You will know that you’ve seen the light when a stranger walks up to you and you look into their eyes and realize that the same spirit that exists inside of them is the same spirit that exists inside of you.”
(to be continued)
*Excerpted from “Meditation-Proof: A Relatable and True Account of One Meditator’s Struggle to Be Present and Find Her Zen – Lesson Six: Yoga, the Path of Love – AVAILABLE HERE