I recently got back from LA where I spent 10 days at Exhale in Venice Beach doing Teacher Training with Erich Schiffmann. When I did my first Yoga Teacher Training in 2008, Erich Schiffmann’s book, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, was on our reading list. I immediately connected with the clear, easygoing tone and elegant explanations of all the basic asanas.
I finally had the opportunity to take a workshop with Erich at Yogaville in June summer of 2009, and knew I had found my teacher. My yoga teacher training was an excellent program and learned a lot, but in many ways, it was at odds with what my own experience of yoga was like. There are so many RULES! Haha! I remember one of my fellow teacher training colleagues had brought her copy of Erich’s books for her to sign, and next to one of the poses she had written “NO!!!” In big letters because we were told that we should never ever teach that pose. I always did a lot of practice at home between classes and it was easy and fun. No rules. It was really empowering to me at the time to learn from Erich that doing yoga your own way is a totally valid, and in fact, meaningful way to practice.
Erich Schiffmann teaches what he calls Freedom Style yoga. It’s a practice that is based in meditation where the asana practice culminates in an intuitive practice. The idea is that meditation gets you in touch with universal wisdom, so you are living and making decisions in a more inspired way.
I remember that first workshop, I had so many questions... most of them started with “HOW...?” Eventually I figured out the answer to most any question I would want to ask Erich is some version of: “Meditate.” Easy, right?
Meditation and yoga are techniques to investigate the Truth. By meditating, learning how to practice asanas guided be meditation, it is possible to experience peace, love, goodness, God. To realize that we are spiritual beings in a physical world. This is a beautiful, life-affirming philosophy, made all the more beautiful because it is true. The “yoking” that happens in yoga is not joining to something new, it is waking up to the fact that we were never separate from the Divine. Ever. I experience this in my own practice, and it is such a powerful thing that I want to be better at sharing it with my students, which is what brought me to Erich Schiffmann’s Teacher Training.
The focus of the training was three-fold:
- Meditation. Always meditation. This is the primary practice.
- How to practice in a creative way. This included learning and teaching back some of Erich’s asana sequences, as well as freeform sessions where we practiced on our own and took notes about what happened.
- Teaching. This is the bulk of most other teacher trainings... sequencing, adjustments, practicing teaching. We did do some of this, too. I would be happy to give you the Awesome Savasana Adjustment of Awesome, for example.
Two days, Erich’s wife, Leslie, who was a nurse and is a Viniyoga teacher, came in and gave some perspective on therapeutics and teaching beginners.
Erich has been a student of yoga legends BKS Iyengar, TKV Desikar, Krishnamurti, Joel Kramer and Vanda Scaravelli. He’s been on the yoga scene for so long, he predates the recent trend where you get a certificate for showing up for any kind of thing. So our class made a certificate for him since he never got one before. What is amazing about Erich is that while it’s indisputable that he is a yoga master, he is humble, generous, loving, and tons of fun to be around. In short, he’s a gem, and I feel so fortunate to have him as a teacher.
If this sounds interesting and exciting to you, please make sure you go to ErichSchiffmann.com. Remember that part I said about Erich being generous? He records audio of all of his classes and you can download them. Many are available to listen to for free, but I recommend you sign up for the indigo membership because you get unlimited access to everything, including special full-length videos! It's awesome and totally worth it.