There are many wonderful aspects to Samyoga Institute – the program, its philosophy as a community based program that seeks to empower the individual and the community, its mentors, its graduates, etc. In this piece, I am going to focus on what it means to be community based and why it matters to us.
Community empowerment has been my passion for as long as I can remember. When I was 14 years old, I planned on working with migrant workers in California. (It’s interesting that we are still struggling with immigration so many years later.) I am grateful to have vocations in two fields that are all about creating community – social work and yoga.
I began teaching yoga in 1988, and at that time, at least to the best of my knowledge, there were not any non-residential yoga teacher training programs in the country. I had to wait until 1994 before I could do my first training. This realization offended my social work sensibility! I spent many years attending and assisting at trainings around the country and then decided it was time to turn my attention to my community and foster yoga there. This is how the training was born.
I never planned on running a yoga teacher training program (never say never), but my spirit knew it had to happen. I continue to praise Joseph LePage of Integrative Yoga Therapy for his forward thinking and allowing me to develop the non-residential IYT program that continues to operate today. In 2005, I moved away from IYT, and ShivaShakti Synthesis was created. This next evolutionary step came from the realization that a community based program needs to be run by a strong, vibrant community, and as a result, the 500 hour program began and partners joined the organization.
Each time a partner has joined the family, the program has grown exponentially. Some partners have been with us since the beginning, like Connie, Vijay and Michele, and others have moved on. (Thank you Shannon, Lori, Barbara, Angela and Julia). Everyone of these individuals has helped us see who we are, what our offer is, and what the next step needs to be.
In 2014 Sat Puran (Carla) Fox and Emily Arnold joined the team that is now Samyoga Institute. These women spent hours in selfless service, assisting in trainings, serving as apprentices without compensation, and demonstrating their ability for the next step of becoming what I refer to as The Next Generation of leaders for SYI. They have done an incredible job stepping into their roles. This decision that was well-thought and divinely inspired. You will be hearing from these talented women in the next two blogs. Sat Puran is the director of the 200 hour program, and Emily Arnold is director of the 100/300 hour program.
I know some folks think of SYI as my (Janice’s) program, but that is no longer true. We are run by our vibrant community. It is easier to connect one face and harder to create a face for a whole community, so we want to shift that. Over the next few months, we are going to give you individual faces and stories about this incredible community. You will be hearing from old friends, Connie, Sarah, Sat Puran, Emily, Vijay and Kevin, as well as our new mentors, Gina and Nelson, as well as Monica Morris, our newest partner. Monica is taking over the Facebook groups, serving her apprentice year as program assistant for the Level 1, and becoming a teacher of the program in the future.
“Community empowerment refers to the process of enabling communities to increase control over their lives.” This is our goal – to support our student teachers in finding their authentic voice and power so they can do that for their community. To me, increasing control over our lives means that when we stand in our authenticity, we are able to stand in our power, and we do not need to take from another. Then there truly is enough for all, and the disempowered get their power back.
One of the facets of our program that makes us unique is that we are truly community based. What does this mean? It means that while we rent space from a studio for our trainings, we are not that studio. We train community students to work in their communities. We want people out there teaching wherever their passion leads them. We teach our students how to teach with and without props as not all places are “ideal” for teaching yoga yet are deserving of this incredible healing art/science. I can remember teaching on a flooded tennis court after a hurricane. It was yoga that kept people from panicking. We were, quite literally, the eye of calm in the storm. Our students teach as a give back to the community when they are going through the program. They meet and teach the students where they are.
The vision for the future is that this offer will continue to grow. SYI recently moved from the Center for Wholeness in Clintonville to Equivita in Grandview. This new home in a place that is equally committed to integrative care and community empowerment feels perfect. Our graduates have gotten the recognition they deserve, teaching at places such as Children’s Hospital, The Ohio State University, numerous fitness clubs, the YWCA/YMCA, Nationwide, mental health facilities, and non-profit organizations that realize our graduates are trained to meet the needs of various and diverse communities. Our graduates are relational. They have the ability to meet their students wherever they are and support student growth by fostering and modeling community.
We are family. We are community. Join us in standing in authenticity.
Shanti, Janice George Director Samyoga Institute