Tim Feldmann on Miami Life Center’s One Month Ashtanga Intensive

by: Monica Arellano


So, I recently asked Tim Feldmann if he would tell me in his own words what it is he, Kino and Special Friends (yes that’s what he calls it) intend with the yearly One Month Ashtanga Intensive at Miami Life Center – and I got him rambling (or at least that what’s he thinks of this transcript) about patience, self pity and anger, TT’s in america, how yoga education ideally works and more. I wanted to know more about his intention behind referring to it as a ‘student immersion’. Here is a transcription.

Yoga Teacher Trainings have become so popular and normalized that almost every yoga studio offers one. It seems to me there is often limited consideration to whether these courses are actually useful to the applicant’s spiritual, physical, professional or emotional well being; not to mention the tradition of Yoga itself. I question the usefulness of these courses, anyhow, don’t get me going on that subject, hahaha.


At Miami Life Center we also have a one month course, no kidding! Sometimes I hear it called a 200hour training, which makes me cringe a little due to all the unfortunate stigmas that word has come to carry in the yoga world. But don’t consider it a teacher training course. We consider it a month of study towards understanding and embodying true yogic values. We call this course ‘The One Month Ashtanga Intensive’ and the course runs mostly during the month of July and sometimes a second course in the winter period (next year, 2018, we run one in January too). This course is the second most in-depth learning experience which we offer on our educational pallet at MLC (along with three daily mysore style classes, guided classes and shorter workshops with varying focus, such as asana technique, yoga sutras and other yogic texts, occasional fun/pop type events, restorative classes, monthly conferences (we call it ‘chat&chai’) and much more. Our most comprehensive study is the 2-year apprenticeship program which we offer to a select few yearly).

But I’d like to emphasize that our Ashtanga Intensive is a practitioner’s immersion and not a teacher training course. There is no difference with what we are doing with the 2 year apprenticeship except it is shorter and therefore less in-depth. The sole intention is an attempt to inspire wholesome people to embody yogic values. Not from principles but from realization. Not through ideas but through action. Not from reading about it but from experiencing it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Let me give you an example: During this one month course, you go in and practice everyday and quickly realize that e.g. patience is not only a useful tool, but a necessary tool which you need a firm grip on to live well, to not mess around with this thing called your life. You quickly realize that it’s not like reading a book on patience where you forget about its application everytime you talk to your brother, mother, spouse. Nope, in this case, you come out on the other end having truly experienced the value of patience, having begun to cultivate a personal understanding of patience and knowing how to apply patience. What we intend with this one month course, is beyond what you can read in a book and hopefully a serious supplement to that daily yoga practice of yours. To our daily sadhana. It is a kinesthetic method of learning life skills. You are guided through a process where the only way you’ll get through gracefully is if you bring in a real application of patience. You come to know how to apply it and how to use it. It’s not even that you pick up “50 ways to practice patience”. Rather, you come out being skilled in patience. You have wisdom of patience and when you speak to others, they look at you “ahh that was really smart” but it was not smart! it was simply speaking of that which you have cultivated and now embody. It sits within you. What you think about comes out through your words because its yours. It’s a kind of knowing. My philosophy professor in Mysore, compares this type of knowing to being a millionaire with a millionaire’s bank account. if you truly are a millionaire you can write a check for 1 million dollars and everyone will honor it. but you see, I too can write 1 million dollars on a check but since I don’t have 1 million dollars in my bank account no one will honor it. It’s just a fake check that means nothing. It has no value and is good for nothing. When principles take root things get simple and we ‘become’ it. You will feel it, and when you speak about it people understand it. if you only read “50 ways to practice patience” you have no authority. No root. No guru. no heaviness to teach it with. This course intends to help you begin the long and vigorous journey to first understand and then embody the spirited principles of real yoga.

Another example: When you go to your mat to practice you can have a moment of fun or disaster with yourself. when you go back to your mat to do it again, that’s when it all starts and now, you get to learn about yourself. You get to learn about the world and how you react to things; things that are difficult, easy, boring or whatever; and you begin to gain awareness and knowledge. You get to know yourself better. You get self-knowing, self-understanding. And you realize that understanding is often universal. You find good stuff, great stuff and sad stuff. E.g. you likely find out that two significant aspects in the mind’s operations inside us are self-pity and anger. Yup, no kidding! Not very pretty but true nonetheless. We start to get our hands on these realities. We realize that it’s not ‘the others’ who are angry, the anger is inside of us and, hahaha, we are full of self-pity too. And by accepting this fact and feeling its presence daily over some solid time we begin to be OK with this unflattering state within us. And by doing so, we simultaneously cultivate compassion and contentment beyond what is yummy and heroic and the next thing over is that we become more relatable humans with more honest and satisfying relationships. And this is all can be realized, embodied and practiced starting on the mat!


We are teaching life skills .. let me re-phrase, we hope that we are teaching life skills. This ancient method of yoga through the lens of Pattabhi Jois and Sharath helps the student not only learn the skills, but also the confidence in putting those skills to work. We begin to feel we’ve learned something and that we now know something. Sacred information inferior only to the student’s ability to find trust in him or herself, honesty in him or herself, connection to lineage, respect for elders, respect for the knowledge. We hope we can help a well intended student find a relationship to these golden strands of life and to other mechanisms which have the capacity to bring happiness into our lives, such as, service and the desire to be a part of this whole parampara paradigm of learning and passing on true information. Exchanging information from human to human. wow, that was quite a mouthful! not sure we are able to accomplish these noble principles but we do consider that the basis of our course.

 

And yes, of course one month is too short of an inquiry to think that a student is near ready to claim knowing. By the end of the day we can of course only teach what we know, and to know you must have gone through the process. What we hope to attempt with this intensive is to build everything mentioned before and to build a thirst and a hunger in the student so they genuinely want to keeping going through their own internal processes – by learning more and experiencing more. That they want to understand more, try more, go to Mysore/India, keep digging. Deeper. Learn more asana, spend more time with one asana, practice breathing and pranayama, chant and read. Sit in meditation, sit longer in meditation, sit longer and then longer.

We hope to cultivate yogic thirst.

PS: If you are interested in this course, here is a link: http://miamilifecenter.com/ashtanga-intensive/

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