Becoming an Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher

I have been practicing with my teacher, Manju Jois, the oldest son of Pattahbi Jois, for between 8-9 years (I can’t remember to be honest) every single time he was on the East Coast with only a handful of exceptions due to baby births and their subsequent care.  I was 8 months along when I practiced with Manju in Chicago, which was actually pretty awesome because, I believe, that means my son got a little of this man’s wisdom in utero!

side note here… Pattahbi Jois (Manju’s Dad) is responsible for bringing Ashtanga yoga and Ashtanga Yoga Therapy to the U.S., and it’s Ashtanga yoga that I have studied in various forms almost since I started the practice.  

Training with Manju is a little different than typical Yoga Teacher Trainings.  It isn’t a training you do with the expectation of anything in return (other than an impartation of knowledge and the experience of learning from someone so close to the source of this amazing practice.)  Traditionally, you didn’t go to a teacher or Guru (Manju does not want to be called a Guru), to receive any paper of graduation–you simply went to your teacher to learn.

It is a little bit like an Apprenticeship: the student practices under his/her teacher for a long time, learning as much as possible and, more importantly, forming a strong trusting relationship-all while working REALLY hard to learn everything possible. Eventually, the HOPE is for the teacher to bless you.

It is the blessing from your teacher after many years of work and dedication that you sought, not a diploma or Certificate.  

My late teacher, Donna Feiner, received Manju’s blessing in the form of a handwritten note she had up on her studio wall right when you walk in.  It was something I used to read over and over and dream about, one day, having of my own. She and I would talk about the letter she had received, and how meaningful it was for her. I remember she said if I worked hard enough, she would bless me like that.  

She passed away early after battling breast cancer, and her teacher, Manju subsequently became my teacher. Manju’s blessing wasn’t something I thought possible anytime soon (insert self-limiting thoughts here ranging from too many children, too much this or not enough that…) It was just something I knew I wanted to work for, and would continue to do so out of love for the learning about this practice and love and admiration for the teacher.

Well, in January of 2019, while training with Manju, he gave me his blessing.

 I am now officially an Authorized Level I Ashtanga Yoga Teacher….and it was basically the single HUGEST smallest moment in all my yoga practice.

I say it’s a HUGE moment, because to get this blessing is a huge deal and takes a TON of time, practice, and effort with the teacher to achieve. As you know, traditionally, certificates weren’t just awarded when you wanted to teach yoga, it was that apprenticeship, that time spent with the teacher, and then, when the teacher said you were ready, you got the blessing and then off you went.  

I say it was a Small moment, because it was just that. I thought you’d like to learn how it all went down:

Towards the end of a long practice day, during the daily Q&A time, someone asked Manju if there was a list of teachers that he recommended somewhere.  (suffice it to say, he’s particular in who he recommends) He pointed to a couple of my favorite yoga teachers that teach in the northeast, and then, the next thing I knew, he pointed to me, and said, “You’re authorized, right?”  

ummm…I think I looked like a deer in the headlights…or at the very least like someone that just ran into their Idol and just completely blanked out–mouth open and all.  (Granny’s manner school totally failed.)

I said, “no, not yet, but I hope to one day!” (score one for at least having the mental capacity to state what I want!)

Manju said, “You will be, soon.”

Frankly, I don’t remember much of the rest of the lessons that day, which is saying something because Manju is a masterful teacher and storyteller (post on that coming soon.) I mean, in my head, I was jumping up and down because I thought maybe by next year, or maybe the year after, he would think I was ready….it was so incredibly exciting! On the outside, I think I sat with a dumbfounded look on my face.

At the end of the class that day, as I was grabbing my shoes about to walk out and grab lunch with one of those amazing yoga teachers he recommends, Manju said, “Jennifer, You are ready.”  

I’m pretty sure other stuff was said, but I don’t really remember because the fireworks were shooting off in my head in excitement and awe and disbelief.

That was it! Such a small moment, but it was HUGE!

Of course, he got a huge hug, and I shed a lot of tears, but that was the extent of my blessing (or so I thought), and here I was, riding high after receiving an amazing blessing and then totally floored as to what on earth I should do with it.

About two weeks after he blessed me, on the final day of training, Manju presented me with an official looking certificate. (something I wasn’t expecting in the slightest!) You’ll find that certificate in the studio, along with a photo of Manju assisting me in a pose called Supta Vajrasana.

This gift, the yoga that Donna and now Manju taught me, is something that is precious, healing, and downright life changing.  It isn’t a gift that is kept secret though. Just like your children on christmas day with their favorite toy, this gift is meant to be shared and re-gifted.

It’s something that I have loved sharing with you every single time that you have walked into the studio for a class, or turned on our Youtube Channel.  Every teacher that graduates from the Thrive Teacher Training School has received the gift from Manju (and all the other teachers before him.)  This gift is for you.

Whether you seek physical strength and stamina, or mental relaxation, or flexibility–this ancient gift is a science that can and will bring you wellness.  Thank you for letting me (and all the other teachers here at Thrive Yoga and Wellness) share this gift with you. It is an honor to share this gift with you, and I hope that you will take the gift and give it to those you love.

I hope this note inspires you to continue working towards your goal–however far fetched it may be, and that it encourages you to never ever ever give up.  Even when the odds don’t seem great, keep trying. Here’s the thing, I wasn’t even sure how I would be able to go to the training this year with everything that happened in 2018, but, I didn’t doubt it would happen, and somehow, it did.  

I don’t know what you’re facing or what you’re striving to accomplish right now, but know I believe in you.  You have plenty of time–whether you’re reading this post the day it was published or 6 months later. You still have the opportunity to accomplish great things.  Set your intention. Visualize that Intention and work towards it, diligently. Even when you have no idea how it will happen, keep working toward it. Let us help you be physically, mentally and totally well, let us help you THRIVE so you can grab your Intention and soar off with it.