Hello! Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Kirstin Pinit. I’m an artist, a student of yoga and Ayurveda, and a Yoga Health Coach. I’ve joined the Santosha staff as the writer-in-residence, and am excited to be here to share yoga wisdom and happenings with the Santosha community.
September was the third anniversary of the start of my Yoga Teacher Training (TT) at Santosha. Since a new cohort of teachers in training have just begun their TT journey, I thought I’d make my first post a reflection on what I learned from studying at Santosha and with dina.
Teach What You Are Learning
I remember the first day of TT and dina said we would be teaching right away. I felt the anxiety rise in my body, my mouth got a little dry. Gulp. Teach? But, I’m a student! I’m here to learn!
Turns out that yes, yoga teachers must teach, and teach we did. We got into a circle and took turns teaching the next step of the sun salutation. Then we began teaching single poses. Soon we could teach a little sequence, and eventually, we taught whole classes. Teaching was not always easy, but I never felt unprepared or unsupported. There is so much wisdom in the experience of “teach what you are learning.”
When you teach you:
Whether you are a TT student, or you are acquiring new skills or knowledge in other areas of your life, find ways to teach it, and see how your learning becomes deeper and more vibrant.
Freedom Through Surrender
I am enchanted by yoga vocabulary and the pronunciation of Sanskrit words. One of my favorites of the Niyamas is Isvara Pranidhana. Once I figured out how to say it, it rolled around in my head, and eventually found its way down to my heart.
Isvara Pranidhana is to surrender to the divine, relinquish the ego, and open up to our higher purpose. This was an important teaching for me, for as I was finishing my teacher training, I was also starting a new job. My work became so consuming that my yoga practice all but disappeared. Can you imagine spending 20+ hours a week doing yoga, and then suddenly … not doing even a few hours a month?
My infidelity to yoga made me feel guilty, ashamed, and sad. This did not help me to reclaim my practice! Eventually, I allowed myself to surrender my ego’s expectations for my yoga practice, which lightened the burden I was feeling. In time, I began to practice again. I surrendered further to my higher purpose, and radically changed my work so that I could live in closer alignment to my dharma. This took years not months, and I continue to surrender over and over to keep taking the next step on my path to knowing my true self.
Yoga is Always Here
When my practice is strong, yoga is strong. But when I am out of sync with getting to class or practicing at home, yoga is also strong. Yoga is always here.
When I first started practicing yoga - maybe fifteen years ago - all I knew were the poses. My yoga was tangible: I went to class, followed the leader, rested in Savasana, and went on my way. My yoga practice at this time was building my self confidence and body awareness. Over time, I was exposed to all eight limbs of yoga - so much more than asana! Yoga is a way of life, a guide for living fully and freely. Now my yoga practice builds on that self confidence and body awareness to help me find deeper levels of spiritual awareness and glimpses of non-identification and freedom and joy.
Learning yoga on the mat is a portal to understanding the fullness of yoga - the ethic of non-harming; our accountability to moral behavior and cultivating divine consciousness, nonattachment, and focus; our duty to the practice and refinement of concentration; our path to complete absorption - Samadhi. It has been important for me to find out that asana is not the only portal, and that my time in meditation is yoga. My time with my family or community is yoga. My time in nature is yoga. Yoga is always here.
Learning, Teaching - What’s the Difference?
True teachers are always learning, and earnest students are willing to share what they know. This relationship of giving and receiving is what makes a strong community. Santosha is a place for students and teachers to be together in supportive community where we practice all eight limbs of yoga and support our collective journey toward oneness.
To the new TT class, and to all students - this is a welcoming place for you to learn and grow. May you find moments of clarity, grace, and love within this community.
This or something better.
Author: Kirstin Pinit
Kirstin is Santosha’s writer-in-residence. She is an artist, a student of yoga, Ayurveda, and massage therapy, and she is a Yoga Health Coach. Kirstin practices and teaches the habits of yogis - dinacharya. This is the Ayurvedic practice of daily habits that are essential for leading a vibrant, healthy, creative life. Find out about her upcoming courses and collaborations at kirstinpinit.com
I started practicing yoga in the ‘90s in Northampton, MA. I had never liked to "exercise", and my place of business at the time offered to pay for "physical fitness" among the benefits that they offered. I went to my first yoga class at Northampton Yoga Center, and immediately after class, I signed up for the next few months. I went four times a week, and LOVED it. I have been practicing yoga off and on ever since.
When my son was in first grade his teacher asked if I would like to share yoga with the class since she knew I did yoga. It was so much fun finding creative ways of doing yoga with the kids. I have been teaching yoga there ever since.
I was inspired by that experience. When people began asking me when I would offer classes outside of the school, I decided to take my first yoga teacher training in 2009. The program I took was part of a bodywork modality called Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. I was interested in this both as a potential addition to my work as a massage therapist AND to strengthen and give me "credibility" (in my own mind) as a yoga teacher. That training was a life changing experience in many ways, and opened my eyes to the power of yoga as a tool to get to know the True Self.
As time went on, I felt the need to enliven and deepen my own practice, and to further my understanding and ability as a teacher. I was excited to see that there was going to be a teacher training fairly near to me at Santosha Yoga.
After my first meeting with Dina Lang, ERYT 500, I was sure that the training she offered was exactly what I was looking for to fill in more of those pieces.
Yoga is obviously so much more than a "fitness program"; it is a path to self-knowledge unlike anything else that I have found. It can be healing, joyful, energizing, and relaxing. It can be a deep internal or external experience. I practice yoga more now, (including at home), and enjoy taking classes at a number of local studios.
After the training, I’ve continued reading and studying more about yoga, from the sacred texts to other Yogi's biographies and teaching tools. I have discovered an abiding love of Yin Yoga, and plan to take a teacher training in that soon. I am continuing to teach yoga at City View, and have subbed at Yoga Hillsboro and run my massage business.
Carole Cotten-Figueiredo, LMT #13383
Honoring the Stillness Within
To be authentic as a yoga teacher, for me, it is important to walk the walk and practice what I preach. After seven years of teaching, I continue to believe strongly in svadhyaya (or self-study) and work to keep myself accountable and learning. Even though I completed my first 200-hour training seven years ago, I jumped at the chance to continue learning when Dina opened up the modules in her teacher training to established teachers.
I met Dina while we were both getting our initial yoga teaching credential. The 200 hours we spent together revealed to me that Dina had a true gift for sharing yoga.
After that training, she went on to complete not one, but two 500-hour teacher trainings with two of the most revered yoga teachers in the country: Dharma Mitra and Tiffany Cruikshank. It was fun to watch her process as she wrote her own teacher training.
The truth is, long before she wrote her training, she was a teacher of teachers. Dina has been my go-to resource for all things yoga or questions about teaching for the past seven years.
I knew her training was going to be much more comprehensive than that initial training we did together. I was able to join her larger group for both the Sacred Text and Anatomy modules, building on my knowledge in these areas.
The anatomy lectures with Janci Butler were an invaluable addition to my teaching repertoire. Even six months after completing the module, concepts and ideas she presented are a part of each and every one of my private yoga sessions.
While many people shy away from the sacred texts (the Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita), to me, it was the perfect thing to explore with Dina. Primarily because the lessons and teaching we explored underscore so much of what I’ve been learning from Dina all these years already: service, generosity and love.
Service: With yoga, there are no economics. The knowledge that we gain, the learning from teachers we encounter, the gift of yoga (and I believe physical health) is truly ours to share and to give away. To students and to other teachers, we give away and use our learning for the good with hopes that they will reach someone else who can feel the impact of this great practice.
Generosity: There is no one more generous than Dina Lang. To be around her is to understand that you will learn and see first hand what selfless service really means. We explored at length the important aspect of doing the right thing because it is simply the right thing. Not because of the fruits or positive accolades for our “rightness”. To me, this is the most authentic version of generosity.
Love: Studying the Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita we had many long discussions about karma. An idea that really stuck with me was the tenant that each of us has the chance to live a lifetime in (and learn the lessons of) all the various forms or challenges of humanity: homeless person, murder, widow, the list is endless. So no matter where we are today, it’s just today. God or whom or what ever you perceive that to be, lives in each of us. Take notice of this presence when you look in anyone’s eyes. And understand that whatever circumstances are, they are just today’s circumstances. Everyone’s doing the best they can. And a little love can go a long way towards peace and understanding.
Lee Carson teaches private yoga at Hyatt Training, the Portland personal training studio she co-owns and operates with her husband.
The 2014 Yoga Teacher Training with Dina Lang was my second 200-hour teacher certification program. I had completed a training in 2013, however, it was a 30 day intensive program. While it met all the 200-hour requirements and I did take away some positive learning experiences, I felt like I wasn’t quite prepared to teach. Due to my experience of practicing at Santosha and taking classes from such fabulous teachers, there seemed to be a gap between what I experienced as a Santosha student and what I took away from the intensive training.
I had even met with Dina seeking input on how to fill the gaps where I felt like I was missing information. She graciously provided guidance. And then came the opportunity to participate in her teacher training program. (Based on all of the knowledge she provided, I am quite certain this program exceeds the 200-hour requirements.:)
The training is structured in such a way that it builds your teaching confidence over time and provides a framework to create a yoga flow for classes. And if you’re not interested in teaching, it provides an opportunity to really immerse yourself in a journey to deepen your own personal practice.
I work for the Beaverton School District as an instructional assistant supporting kids on the autism spectrum. My goal has been to make yoga accessible to the special needs population. I wanted to take my yoga off the mat and with my background as a sign language interpreter and working with kids I established Yoga Visual to serve the special needs community, provide a supportive environment, and support accessibility.
Yoga is a powerful practice that can benefit everyone – and everyone should have access to a yoga practice. The completion of Santosha’s teacher training program and Dina’s guidance has put me on a path of pursuing my goal of teaching yoga to the special needs population.
The practice of yoga is so much more than the asanas and ongoing I will always be a student of yoga. Santosha’s four month program provides the opportunity to thoughtfully explore all eight limbs. While the program provides all the tools to be a successful teacher, I found the most important take-aways are related to service and the other seven limbs of yoga.