Yoga Teaching in Santa Barbara – Santa Barbara Independent

Posted: August 30, 2017 at 4:43 am

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Yoga Teaching in Santa Barbara

Paul Wellman

Jivana Heyman instructs a course at Santa Barbara Yoga Center.

A Mecca for Training Programs andPractice

Santa Barbara is a yogic place. Its not uncommon to see someone unfolding gracefully over a seaside bluff in dancer pose, or bending their back upon the crowning boulders of Lizards Mouth. Yoga is in our shared lifestyle and our worldwide brand. Our coastal city, whose mountains were likened to the foothills of the Himalayas by famed S.B. yogi Rishi Singh Grewal, has for more than a century drawn mystics, healers, and mind-body enthusiasts. [Santa Barbaras] splendid natural beauty arouses the desire in the individual to stay deeply connected to life, said Yoga Soup founder EddieEllner.

Now, with yoga more popular nationwide than evera joint 2016 study by Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance counted more than 36 million practitioners, a roughly 75 percent increase from the 20.4 million tallied in 2012Santa Barbara attracts more and more prospective yoga teachers, with at least nine different training programs offered in the city limits. The city is such an ideal location for yoga, in fact, that it is home to world-renowned master and creator of flow yoga Ganga White and his wife, Tracey Rich, whose influential co-teachings are felt in established studios such as Yoga Soup, as well as newer ones such as DiviniTree Yoga & Art Studio. And the citys instructors arent ones to sit on their laurelsthey continue to invent and innovate on the yogic front, with studios such as Santa Barbara Yoga Center and Let It Go Yoga teaching accessible yoga for the differently abled or branching into onlineteachings.

By PaulWellman

Yoga Soups Eddie Ellner hopes to free teachers from limitations. The more you can grapple with the attachment you have to your ideas of yourself, the less you indulge them, hesaid.

The origins of yoga date back more than 5,000 years, with philosophical roots grounded in a collection of sacred texts and songs developed in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. Over thousands of years, the spiritual practice evolved to integrate physical movement; most of what we know as yoga is extremely recentlydeveloped.

It turns out yoga is really the result of the global brain, White said, adding that the British Armys occupation of India in the 1800s hugely shaped the practice. Before it was connected with the West, yoga was very rudimentary and simplistic. There is a pretty strong likelihood that many asanas [or poses] came from British burpees, and many of the poses in yoga have been shown to have come not from well-being practice but from circuscontortionists.

In the early 1900s, gurus such as Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda advocated the spiritual benefits to U.S. audiences, and by the psychedelic 60s, many Americans gazes were fixed firmly on the Eastern Hemisphere. Still, yoga wasnt popular the way it is now. You were always the black sheep in your family or neighborhood, recalled Rich of thatera.

In time, however, yoga became commoditized and is now a gigantic and growing industry. The aforementioned survey found that, in 2016, Americans spent $16 billion on classes, gear, and accessories, far surpassing the $10 billion counted four years before. This current era of yoga is also likely the first in its multithousand-year history that has a nonprofit overseeing the nations teaching community. The Yoga Alliance requires any prospective teacher to be certified through the organization, which entails a minimum of 200 hours of training. Thats where the teacher-training studios comein.

One of the first of its kind in Santa Barbara, White Lotus Foundation serves as the origin story for many area teachers. Opened in 1983 by Ganga White, the sprawling site, located on San Marcos Pass Road, encompasses a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole, quietly rustling bay leaves and chaparral, and sweeping views of the city and sea. The Chumash called this area Taklushmon: the gathering place. The ashram offers multiple retreats, and their training programs are intensive, where teachers-to-be liveonsite.

White was drawn to yoga long before he knew what it was. I definitely had the innate inclination to explore things and learn things, and thats why I was so attracted when someone told me yogis were making flowers out of thin air in the Himalayas, he said. But it wasnt until the turbulence of the 60s and everything melting down and the Vietnam War [that] it came into my consciousness that I should really look into this yoga that I had heard about. Whites studies began in 1966; by 1968, he organized and led what is likely the first yoga teacher training in the U.S.: The In-Depth Yoga and Teacher Training. Soon, he became a world-renowned yogi, appearing in Hollywood films, embarking on national lecturing tours, and hosting yogi gurus fromIndia.

By PaulWellman

Pictured sitting at one of White Lotus Foundations swimming holes, Ganga White and Tracey Rich offer a training based on their jointly developed flowsequence.

While he was a teacher in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, Ernst and Ruth Haeckel, two yogis from Santa Barbara, were among Whites first students. The German-born Ernst approached White and said, Young man, I have been doing yoga since I was a child in the 1920s. Use me as a resource. White took him up on his offer and visited the Haeckels at their 40-acre site, then a yoga ashram replete with bomb shelter (which is now a kiva for prayer). White one day dreamed of opening a yoga retreat center on a land likethis.

In the meantime, White taught yoga to hundreds of people across the country and on his journeys met his future wife, Tracey Rich, on Maui. We had a mutual respect, not only for each other, but for the importance of what yoga was in our individual lives, and that it was a very full-spectrum, deeply personal path of living, she said. We are both into the inquiry of the human mind and consciousness and living, and that remains something we teach and share. Together, filming on VHS in L.A., they developed a series of partner yoga videos, which further expanded the practice for manyyogis.

By the 1980s, the Haeckels yoga center had fallen into disarray, with squatters on the land and financial troubles rumbling. In 1983, White and Rich offered to take over the land, settle the Haeckels debts, and allow them to live on the property until their death, which they did. The couple passed away on the property they hoped would become something very much like what White Lotus Foundation istoday.


Summerlands Evolation has grown through a worldwide network of teachers, say founders. Mark Drost and ZefeaSamson.

Now, yogis live here among the trees, rocks, wind, and sky, for 16-day in-depth teacher trainings or shorter-term stays. You get to live the experience fully in nature, which we think is one of the greatest teachers, Rich said. Beyond that, they try to avoid teaching any one approach. You have two schools of thought: one that everything was mapped out in the past, and the other that everything is relativistic and evolutionary, White said. Were in the latter. We really try to teach people how to see forthemselves.

Using their incredibly influential flow serieselements of which can be seen in countless yoga classes todayand Whites book Yoga Beyond Belief as guiding points, the pair offer a vision of yoga as a complementary tool to understand and adjust to lifes ever-changing course. A lot of people hold yoga as a particular solidified practice concept or philosophy, Rich said. There is no one path, White agreed. Its relative; its a constant journey; its constantlearning.

White and Richs lessons trickled down the mountains into the minds and meditations of yogis who went on to open some of S.B.s most venerable studios, including The Yoga Studio, founded by Sue Anne and Jim Parsons in 1986. Not [a] very original [name], Sue Anne admitted, but at the time, it was very original, countered Jim. People had weird ideas [about] what yoga was, Sue Anne explained. They thought it was a cult, Jimsaid.

The Parsons family has developed its own style, Let It Go Yoga, a practice done entirely on the floor, and just about everywhere that offers yoga classes has a Parsons graduate, Sue Anne said. [Its] a style of hatha yoga, done lying down. Its all about surrender; learning where youre holding on and then releasing it, she explained. Let It Go is designed to be something you can do forever, Jimsaid.

Within the last year, the Parsons launched their inaugural online training course, which can be done at home over any length of time. The course teaches not only the Eight Limbs of Yoga (the guiding principles, of which asanas are only one facet), but also emotional-release tools such as instructions on how to write a love letter. This is just one way the family is innovating the yogic landscape. Their daughter Jessica Parsons is the first person in the country with Down syndrome to become a certified yoga instructor. Along with her sisters Lauren and Emily Parsons, also teachers, she has released a series of Yoga by Teens videos, among the first teen-focused yoga videos on themarket.

By PaulWellman

With both their Let It Go sequence and their online training course, Sue Anne and Jim Parsons offer yoga for any time ofday.

Another innovator in town is Yoga Soups Eddie Ellner, who is renowned as one of the most creative, distinctive, and even quirky teachers. A White Lotus graduate, Ellner came here, having witnessed the yoga explosion of the mid 90s in Santa Monica, when now-celeb-status figures like Bryan Kest and Steve Ross brought yoga to L.A.sWestside.

At Yoga Soup, Ellners classes sit on the borderland of playful and powerful, segueing from dance breaks to profound seriousness. As he explained, he likes to prod the mind that thinks it knows everything and has its preferences and is stuck in its ways. Ellner feels yoga, like a persons self-image, doesnt have to look any particular way; thats really the environment that we want to create here. When Yoga Soups inaugural teacher training begins in January 2018, Ellner will tell teachers to expect the unexpected. Training shouldnt just be a diploma mill of easy concepts; training should really challenge you and push your buttons and grow you in ways you never even imagined you couldgrow.

Studios such as Santa Barbara Yoga Center (SBYC), on the other hand, are offering yoga teacher trainings to people who, due to physical incapacities, perhaps never imagined they could do yoga, let alone teach it. In addition to its usual teacher modules, SBYC offers a course in Accessible Yoga Training through co-owner Reverend Jivana Heyman. Heyman and Barbara Hirsch took over the studio from founder Las Ribeiro da Silva, who opened the studio in 1992, making it S.B.s longest-runningstudio.

My vision is about making yoga accessible, Heyman said. He began practicing yoga while working as an HIV/AIDS activist in San Francisco. His best friend died of AIDS in 1995, and he taught me a lot about what healing really is. Theres physical healing, and then theres spiritual healing. When Heyman became a teacher, he wanted to share yoga with the HIV/AIDS community in San Francisco, and he began teaching at hospitals, which soon grew to teaching people with disabilities of all kinds. Now, SBYC frequently offers workshops and classes such as Yoga for Arthritis and Yoga for the Special Child. Heyman likes that yoga is down-to-earth, practical, and not dogmatic; in a way, you could say yoga is like the technology of spiritual practice without thedogma.

In the last decade, Santa Barbara has seen an ever-greater blossoming of yoga studios, practitioners, and teacher-training programs that fill a particular niche, attracting a broader, younger crowd with their variegated approach toyoga.

Yasa Yoga founders Stephanie and Ryan Besler moved their studio from Scottsdale, Arizona, to an astounding church-like structure on Mission Street in 2011, when Stephanie, a UCSB alum, wanted to return to the community she loved deeply. The Beslers style blends the ashtanga and Iyengar lineages, and they wanted to bring something new and different to the community. The Beslers co-teach, balancing masculine and feminine energy in the lessons. You get that mom-and-pop feel, Stephanie said of the training vibe. Beyond equipping their teachers with a tool belt of safe teaching methods and effective marketing skills, the Beslers emphasize a continual willingness to grow. Theres a humble confidence that is so importance in being a good yoga instructor, Stephaniesaid.

By PaulWellman

Yasa Yogas Stephanie and Ryan Besler balance their teacher trainings with a husband-wifeapproach.

Summerlands Evolation is also owned by a husband-wife pairthe word yoga does mean to yoke or unite, after allMark Drost and Zefea Samson, who both have a largely Bikram-influenced lineage. Nestled in a serene Summerland space, their white-walled shelter overlooks the blue Pacific in a mind-clearing oasis. Theirs is a small, hands-on, intensive 500-hour course founded in Bikrams and Iyengarsphilosophies.

The pair take and teach the principles and poses they found accessible and inspiring about Bikrama controversial hot-yoga brand known for its powerful effects, widespread popularity, and litigious founder, Bikram Choudhuryand transform it into something more. What made Bikram so successful its so simple. But we feel like you go in this narrow hallway or doorway of yoga; a lot of people are looking for more; [they want] to keep that simplicity but open a few more doors. Samson said Evolation creates a support system, and the teachers have gone on to spread the practice worldwide, from Madrid to Missoula toMalawi.

For many yogis, its all about the networks and community support, not just as a teacher, but as a resident of the world. At CorePower Yoga, which has locations in Santa Barbara and Goleta among 170 CorePower studios nationwide, owner and director Cara Ferrick said community-building is what keeps yogis coming back400 yogis a day in S.B., 220 in Goleta. At CorePower trainings, teachers learn a foundational vinyasa power yoga sequence, with classes offered on weeknights and weekends so as not to interrupt the flow of regular life. Theres a practicality behind it, said Goleta studio manager Tricia Cook of why she picked CorePowers part-time training schedule. I didnt need to drop everything for two months. You come out with a sequence, how to teach it, [how to] keep students safe intransitions.

Empowerment meets practicality at Power of Your Om, too, where owner Adrienne Smith provides a goal-oriented approach to handling lifes challenges. Smith, who used to work in product development for health-care-products corporation Kimberly-Clark, offers an open, fun environment with a power yoga sequence foundation where unpretentiousness is the key. She remembers her first yoga class giving her a buzzing calm and clarity shed never felt before, and she hopes her teachers-to-be come out clearer not just about what to teach, but about who they are. A lot of it is about personal power, passion, showing up as a yes and seeing whats holding you back from your authenticself.

By PaulWellman

Fostering a fun and unpretentious atmosphere at her Power of Your Om studio, Adrienne Smith provides a practical and empowering curriculum focused on power yogasequences.

Deep truths are all but inescapable to the focused yogic mind, said DiviniTrees Rachel Wilkins; they almost come crashing in. Its a deep churning and peeling back the layers. Youre totally raw, totally bare; you cant really hide when youre up there teaching. At DiviniTree, a very popular spot on East De la Guerra Street that offers teacher trainings this fall, White Lotus graduate Wilkins leads a training program that emphasizes creativity. A dancer whos always trying to channel a little bit of Bowie, Wilkins teaches her teachers a very organic, improvisational flow. Through her, the mountaintop teachings of White Lotus unfold in sensual, musical classes and art projects, with the flow series evolving evermore in electronicrhythms.

Yoga will no doubt continue to expand and to grow in Santa Barbara, a city now forever tied to the evolution of the practice. For yoga itself, as with its poses, there will always be adjustments, White said. The enlightenment of today can become the ignorance oftomorrow.

By PaulWellman

Rachel Wilkins encourages teachers-to-be to get creative in her DiviniTree teachingprogram.

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Yoga Teaching in Santa Barbara - Santa Barbara Independent

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August 30th, 2017 at 4:43 am