Early on a Monday morning, I boarded a bus at NYC’s Port Authority for a three-and-a-half-hour ride to western Massachusetts. My destination: Kripalu retreat, which I like to call “yoga camp” or a sanctuary for body and soul.
This former monastery is located on a hillside in the Berkshire mountains, which are blanketed with lush green trees and dotted with the multi-hues of abundant flowers. Breaking up the green is the serene shimmer of a tranquil lake. The birds’ songs are the wake-up call each day; the crickets’ cadence are like lullabies each night.
Kripalu’s mission is to bring yoga or union to life. It accomplishes this through individual contemplation, regularly scheduled workshops and holistic dining three times a day.
Practicing my yoga
This particular week, I spent with a group of sixty yogis, who came from near and far to study under the tutelage of Yogiraj Rod Stryker. Rod and I have know each other for more than twenty years. I first attended his classes at Yoga Zone in Santa Monica, and I’ve continued to attend programs, conferences and retreats around the world where he’s been the featured teacher.
Now, after my umpteenth workshop with him, I asked myself: “What is it about Rod that makes me want to be in his presence, learn the techniques of his traditions and incorporate them in my own daily practice?”
In my state of heightened awareness, three things came to mind:
1) His knowledge is constantly growing. Rod’s hunger to know more enlarges his information vault and expands his experiences. This makes his students, both new and repeat, stretch themselves emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally.
2) The information he expounds can be studied and memorized, and lived as truth. Rod has a great gift of expression and performance, and his voice is mesmerizing, which makes him a great teacher. But what I also see is that Rod embodies these principles, whether he’s teaching or not. On or off the yogic stage, he’s a genuine and generous model of what he preaches.
3) Rod is more interested in his students learning than he is in being an interesting teacher. At the beginning of each workshop, he invites students’ questions and concerns, and allows ample time to explore each question until his students feel satisfied. His programs are not about him; they are about his students.
On my trip back to the city, I reflected on these three teaching qualities. I internalized them—and questioned whether I provide this same kind of experience for those who attend the programs I host. My conclusion: I’m clearly a work in progress. I live by the mantra, “And there’s more...”
I was reminded of some industry educators who receive great accolades and press, fill rooms with attendees (with an enticing, provocative presence) and lure our industry, in my opinion, in a direction other than upward. How can students learn and grow if the teacher behaves in the same manner as the student? For students who truly want to better themselves, aspiration and growth are key. Good teachers provide both.
My experiences with Rod Stryker have never failed to propel me to desire to live a purer, greater, higher aspiration; one that I believe is a Divine design—to become a force for good and to function at my highest level. Practicing each day makes it easier for me to be happier more often; Rod helped me guide my intelligence to a more constructive way of becoming.
That’s what I learned on my summer vacation, and that’s what I’ll be acting on through fall and beyond. How about you?
bout Ann Mincey
For 35 years, Ann Mincey’s training programs have helped beauty professionals reduce stress, refuel creativity, open their hearts and enrich their lives. As one of the first women to teach motivation, inspiration, confidence and well-being, Ann worked for Redken 5th Avenue NYC, where she advanced to Vice President of Global Communications before recently retiring. She remains a spokesperson for the brand, in addition to developing her own speaking and enrichment business. Having been recognized with numerous leadership awards and philanthropic honors, Ann is a sought-after public speaker and author of “Get Glowing! You are a Star Right Where You Are!”. She can be booked through Equanimity, Inc. speakers’ agency (equanimity.com). Salon industry inquiries should be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.