YTA is looking forward to welcoming Vandita Kate Marchesiello on April 14, for Transform, Relax, and Rejuvenate: A Brief Retreat with Lasting Results.
Marty, who owned a bar and had a great interest in sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, turned me on to a book by Jess Stern titled, Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation (after all it was the 70s …). I read the book, attended a free yoga class at a Catholic church in Schenectady, New York, and the rest is history.
Signing up for a series of ten classes after the freebie was a no brainer. I loved how I felt (without drugs) during a slow yoga flow, deep yogic breathing, and the icing on the cake … yoga nidra. I faithfully attended all ten classes and signed up again for another series with my teacher, Rupa, a devotee of Amrit Desai. Each week I entered the little house that also served as a yoga center and mini ashram and was soothed by the nag champa incense that burned on the alter next to photos of Paramahansa Yogananda, Gurudev (Amrit) and a variety of saints and sages from many traditions. Fresh flowers brightened the clean room as lovely music played and invited me in to sit quietly before class began. Dressed in all white, Rupa was the epitome of a yoga teacher: knowledgeable, kind, and open-hearted. After a year of study with her, she suggested I do a yoga teacher training with her and help her at the little studio and teach in the community. I was so flattered and humbled by her invitation that I accepted immediately. The training lasted about nine months and was an amazing experience. With such an emphasis on character development and the health benefits of yoga, I gained more than imaginable that impacted my daily life.
During this time Rupa took me to Sumneytown, Pennsylvania, to meet Yogi Desai. We attended an Inner Quest Intensive and spent ten hours a day for three days sitting with the question: “Tell me who you are.” Like peeling the layers of skin from an onion, this experience revealed some deep-seated resentments, feelings of abandonment, and ecstatic bliss. Over the years I participated in approximately seven of these intensives. Meeting Amrit at the end of this long weekend experience was joyful. He entered the room as if floating on air and had such a compassionate perspective for all the suffering we had experienced that weekend (imagine 20+ people crying, weeping, screaming, and punching pillows). He spoke eloquently about karma, dharma, and human nature and the power of love and left us all feeling good about our exhausting yet exhilarating weekend.
Returning home I started teaching at the yoga center and a variety of community centers. I also began contemplating a yoga teacher training with Amrit in Pennsylvania. In 1977 I took a leave of absence from my clerical job at General Electric to attend the month-long training. The property at the Summit Station location where the training would be held was nestled among cornfields and farmlands of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Long walks on country roads and hills revealed a patchwork of colors from the various crops that were planted on this ideal land. This city girl was in her glory, as I had longed for a place like this to call home.
Just a short time after I arrived for training I was busily preparing to welcome Swami Kripalu from India. This was a major and long anticipated event. Swami Kripalu was Amrit’s guru, and Amrit had been pleading with him for a few years to come to America and witness the interest in hatha yoga and the love and hunger hundreds of us had for these particular practices. The day of Bapuji’s (Swami Kripalu) arrival was unforgettable. A couple hundred of us all dressed in white with little marigolds in our hands and hair welcomed Swami with song and music that we chanted in Indian tradition. Bapuji, who spoke briefly after his long journey, said he felt so welcomed and loved and looked forward to spending time in satsanga with us soon. He spoke in Gujarati and Amrit translated. After being at the ashram for the month of training, I decided I wanted to stay longer and so quit my job and moved into the community that became my yoga family.
Well, here we are now and I’m still serving at Kripalu Center. The years from 1979 to 2018 have been full of teaching, training, presenting, coaching, directing, mothering, and now grandmothering!
I hope you will join me on April 14th for more stories and heartfelt experiences. See you soon!