DrYogi on Teacher Training
Transforming The Self through Teacher Training
Learning to teach others can deepen one’s practice, allowing students to “shine like a lighthouse and become a safe and steady inspiration for others.”
When I moved to The Bay Area, Dr Yogi Khalsa was highly recommended to me. I have been involved in various styles of yoga for ten years and when I ventured to one of Dr Khalsa’s classes I was pleasantly surprised by his bright, extensive and encouraging teaching style. Also, his use of the sacred gong in meditations broadened my world.
Dr Khalsa has been teaching Kundalini Yoga for over 30 years. And, he travels internationally leading teacher training programs, therapeutic applications and healing (Sat Nam Rasayan). Dr Khalsa is a professor at Life Chiropractic College West. In an interview, in Berkeley, with Dr Khalsa, he explained the depth of teacher training and how the process of teaching can facilitate great change in human consciousness.
L.R. I understand you have been involved in teacher training programs for quite some time. What were they like when you started as opposed to how they are now?
Dr. K. Sometime in 1980 I met my first teacher. I knew he was my teacher, because he didn’t agree with anything my mind said, but spoke the language of my soul. Within a few weeks of practicing, I noticed significant changes in my life. My attitude and communication improved, my physical stamina increased as well as my ability to hold a focus. Soon after, I was taking a teacher training course; and in the next nine years I took the same course eight times from a series of different teachers.
In the early days, teacher training was twenty-four hours a day for forty days. There was certainly time for sleep, but it was a total immersion in self-development, community development and spiritual awareness. Even the food we ate was specially designed to facilitate such an intense practice. Teacher training looks a little different now. It has adapted in such a way that people with jobs, families, and busy lives can still participate in a program of 220 hours over eight months.
L.R. It sounds like a very intense course, what inspires a student to take teacher training?
Dr. K. It is a matter of destiny. f it is on their forehead and it is time, the course will happen and they will teach. The program has a life of its own. It is powered by the lineage of the teachings, not the personality of the teacher. Yes, it is a very intense, yet enjoyable process.
L.R. What types of people are drawn to teacher training?
Dr. K. There are three types of people who become involved in Kundalini yoga teacher training. The first category is people who want to deepen their personal practice by understanding the details of the specific practices of yoga. They have no intention of teaching, but often find the inspiration as time goes by. The second type of people we see in the program have some interest in teaching, but still have a day job, a family and an active life. They often teach a weekly class and integrate deeper aspects of the yogic lifestyle into their existing life. And, the third group is people who are looking for a career in the business of teaching yoga.
L.R. What aspects of yoga are included in your teacher training course?
Dr. K. We start with breath and the physical aspects of Kundalini yoga. Next we look at the development of consciousness in the Aquarian Age and examine the roots of yoga as well as its goals, definition, attitudes, and varieties. We discuss all six schools of yogic philosophy as well as Patanjali’s sutras, the eight limbs, the three minds and five gross elements. Then we study details of human development, the paths of consciousness, and the five stages of mental refinement. The lineage, history and ways of very traditional teachers are also covered, and an in depth study of sound, mantra, meditation, anatomy, diet and lifestyle is included. We help the student understand the role and identity of a teacher and their own spiritual development.
L.R. What are the changes that a student goes through in becoming an effective teacher?
Dr. K. I have seen many people drop their patterns of neuroses, pain and suffering and become more effective, prosperous and most of all, compassionate.
Dr. K. People not only go back to their regular lives, but their lives become more vital, effective, enjoyable and full of passion. I have seen students become more valuable employees, happier parents, and more compassionate partners. The students learn to expand their tolerance to areas beyond their comfort zone. They learn to respond to opportunities of service and when they teach classes they realize that the powerful techniques can revitalize another’s life as well.
L.R. You mentioned the students take an oath when they graduate. What does this involve?
Dr. K. The students take an oath to get out of the way. They make a promise to drop their personal agendas, issues and attitudes and in the best way that they can, become a channel for transformational teaching; a forklift for inspiration. They live to serve, knowing that the universe will help them if they help people relate to their infinite nature. The graduates practice giving, maintaining and delivering their trust.
L.R. Why do you think teacher training programs are so important?
Dr. K. It was Yogi Bhajan’s concept when he came to America from India to create teachers, not collect students. It is my firm belief that a peaceful world begins with peaceful people and it is the teaching process that can facilitate great change in human consciousness.
L.R. To ring the gong and broaden the scope of this discussion a little more, where do you think the future of yoga is going?
Dr. K. There are many types of yoga, schools of yoga and brands of yoga, and in the end I know yoga will take care of itself. The teachings that are everlasting and immortal will stand the test of time and be humbly passed down by those that have respect for the tradition as well as an integrated sense of compassion. As the stress of life and the pace of information technology increases, the attributes developed through the practice of yoga will become more valuable. Through the steady practice of sadhana, awareness is increased and people become stable in the sense of who they are. Stability means security. As people become truly secure, and more sensitive to themselves, their ability for compassion expands and their tolerance for all people increases.
The future is firmly in the hands of the infinite powers of the universe. Perfection fills every moment. Sat Nam.
Dr Khalsa is a teacher trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be reached at 510-507-0264 and at DrYogi@DrYogi.comLearn More about Teacher Training