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What I learned at Kripalu, by Kristen Skulte

July 22, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

a few (mostly non-yoga) insights from Yoga Teacher Training

 

Many of my friends and family have asked about my experience last month at Kripalu, where I completed my yoga teacher training over 28 intense but amazing days. Some people ask if I am more flexible and pretzel – like (nope, still and always will have short hamstrings), or where I am teaching now (my first real class will be in August, and I have two job offers for the fall which I will share with you when it gets closer!)  The biggest lessons I learned at Kripalu were about myself, human nature, and creating a connection with others in order to teach, and to live in society. It was a crash course in psychology, sociology, anatomy, and yes, how to do some downward dogs; here are a few of the other takeaways. (Warning: I am not a "blogger" so if you are looking for wit and humor and irony, you might be disappointed).

 

  1. Yoga is not just about doing crazy poses and trying to get “flexible”: one of the reservations I had about attending yoga teacher training (YTT) is that I was never one of those “advanced” students in class, doing a handstand for "relaxation" or walking around on my hands. I probably never will be, and that is OK. Because what I learned is that postures, breathwork, and other physical aspects are only one teeny part of living a yogic lifestyle.  What matters more is finding and exploring our own limits, and being more mindful of our thoughts and how we treat others, through observances of non-violence, honesty, respect and the like. Our teacher Devarshi said it best on the first night we were there: “Oh, you can put your foot behind your head? That’s great! But you’re still in as$hole”. Pretty much sums it up. So for all of you who don't think you are flexible enough to do yoga, JOIN THE CLUB!!! Yoga is about exploring YOUR limits, both mentally and physically, not the person's on the mat next to you.

 

  1. The early bird gets the worm, a sunrise, cute bunnies, and two bear cubs:  Because our days were so packed, in class from 6:30am to 9:30pm 6 days a week (and studying on day 7), and included a lot of lecture so we were actually sedentary for a good portion of that time, I would have to sneak in a run by setting my alarm for 4:45am.  It was so peaceful watching a sunrise, and feel like I was really connecting to nature. The Berkshires is a magical, peaceful place, and I would hear so many different birds, spot multiple bunnies (some even played with the squirrels) and yes, even one day saw two bear cubs on the main road (followed by Mama Bear). That was magical but sort of frightening. I know you’re not supposed to act scared and run, but I set a PR that day hightailing it back to campus (no I did not stop to take a pic with my iPhone, for obvious reasons). It is so nice to go out early in the morning, before there is a car on the road, or a person in sight, without headphones, and connect with your surroundings.

 

 

  1. Taking a Facebook hiatus for a month is a great way to unplug and get stuff done!:  After the month of teacher training ended, I extended this FB break into weeks five and six and they were the most productive weeks of the last few years! I can also count the number of texts I sent one two hands and one foot. We don’t have cable at home (but have been watching old episodes of Arrested Development, one of my vices), so not watching any TV or movies at all was a nice break too. Even if you’ve already taken your summer vacation this year, consider treating yourself to a mini-vacation by taking a few days of a digital break, either to mentally get away from it all, or be way more productive!

 

  1. Living in a dorm with 20 other women was not only tolerable, but enjoyable: I was sort of reluctant to share a room with so many other people. Ok, mainly I was scared that I would get a top bunk and fall out of bed, but all the personalities and lifestyles was a concern too. But I actually ended up liking it! My roommates were so respectful and easy to live with. I thought at 34 years old I’d probably be on the younger side in my group, but most of the ladies were young ladies (ie, in college or just graduated). While it made me feel very old (a few I was almost twice their age!), it was great lesson in being open-minded and open to new experiences. I met some amazing people which was only enhanced by sharing tampons and talking about boyfriends (um, this doesn't apply to me).

                                                     (me and a few of my clearly-much-younger roomies)

 

     5. I CAN survive without wine and caffeine for a month!!! : I’d consider myself a moderate drinker, but I do usually imbibe in a nightly glass of wine with dinner. Kripalu forbids consuming alcoholic beverages on the premises, and I was wondering what this month of forced detox would bring. Again, like the no-Facebook-rule, I actually enjoyed it and was much more productive! Ok, I did have it once, the one time I went into town for dinner, and DID really enjoy the wine flight at Alta Wine Bar in Lenox, but I enjoyed the abstinence. Kripalu also doesn’t serve coffee in the dining hall (you can only buy it in the gift shop), so I was not about to pay $3 a day for coffee. After a long first day with a major headache, the withdrawal subsided and I saved a lot of money! Of course I drank loads of tea from the wonderful selection they have, but I can still say I survived without coffee—another success!

                           (what happens after 1 glass of wine. I am attempting a Downward Dog. The fuzzy picture quality is appropriate)

  1. We are not as comfortable with ourselves and others as we’d like to think we are: On our first day we were blind-folded, and walked around our classroom finding another set of hands to hold, touch, and explore. I like to think I’m open-minded, but I felt it to be a little uncomfortable at first. Exploring a stranger’s hands feels very intimate, wondering who IS this person I’m touching? A guy? Girl? What is THEIR story? And have you ever looked, I mean REALLY looked into someone’s eyes? How about for a minute? Try it! Eye contact has always been something important to me, but to really gaze into someone’s eyes for more than a few seconds feels vulnerable. We should really look not just at, but INTO eachother more (and probably talk less. We had a full day of silence one day, but that is another story).

 

  1. If you put yourself in a group of yogis, stuff is gonna come up:  I never got the whole “peak experience” from yoga that I sometimes hear people talk about. One of those epiphanies where you’re like, “Holy crap. Yoga just made my cry because concentrating, meditating and looking inward brought up a lot of old s#it I’ve been holding in." On any given day, you’d see at least three people cry (in a group of 62 that is not an insignificant number). And I feel okay telling you this because a few times I was one of those people. When you’re immersed in a supportive, nurturing environment where it’s okay to experience emotions for 28 days, things WILL come up! And what I learned is that that is okay, it’s okay to feel those "bad" feelings. They are not going to last forever, so they don’t need to be suppressed. Just let yourself acknowledge them, perhaps look at them in a different perspective, and experience them. “It’s not about letting things go, it’s about looking at them in a different way” is my new mantra. Life can be crappy; frankly, it can suck. But I’m trying to take those times and look at them in a different light and believing that they happened for a reason, and if I can take something good away from them, all the better.

 

  1. One can only eat so much tofu: Kripalu is famous for their outstanding culinary selection of mostly vegetarian meals. It is like being on a healthy cruise ship for a month – tons of organic, mostly vegetarian options, and a wide selection of gluten-free food which I was so grateful for. But after a month of smelling continuous whiffs of curries, quinoa, and sesame tofu, I was a looking forward to imbibing in some salmon and sushi when I got home. Below is an amazing gluten-free pizza they made using quinoa as the crust! I tried it at home, and it worked!

9. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”.  I’ve seen this quote a few times before and thought, “Really? Not so sure about that”. But by intentionally putting myself out of my comfort zone, and believing in myself that yes, I really could survive a month without Andris and Zip, that I really AM capable of studying and memorizing Sanskrit words and learning anatomy, and that YES, I really CAN become a yoga teacher is kinda scary. I wonder what else I am capable of? I used to look at people and think, wow, I could never do THAT, I don’t have that much courage, or brains, or strength. That I would be too scared. But when we realize that we ARE capable, THAT is when things get scary.

                                        (me and my teachers, Jashoda and Devarshi, on graduation day. I DID it!!!!)

 

After all that, Kripalu is truly an indescribable experience. I picked out a handful of random stuff because I wouldn’t know how to explain it. And if I did, you’d think I’d completely lost it and joined a cult. I wish everyone I knew could spend a few weeks at Kripalu, connecting with others and themselves, whether they like yoga or not. Since that is not realistic, I can only incorporate the lessons I’ve learned in my life and put them in practice to be a more positive person, patient wife, understanding friend, better daughter, compassionate yoga teacher, and of course, the best dog Mom to Zip.


Pilots N Paws - Lucky Labs go home on St Patrick's day

March 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

When PNP Executive Director Kathleen Quinn approached us to see if we wanted to take part in the making of an original film about Pilots N Paws we jumped at the chance! After a few days of coordination between 5 puppies, 3 pilots, and 1 filmmaker we were ready to roll!

The puppies were coming up from North Carolina to their final destination of Maine through the help of New England Lab Rescue. The trip was broken up into three legs—NC to NJ, NJ to CT, and CT to ME. We took the middle shift. After some strategic packing to fit 3 crates, 3 adults, and a few pounds of video equipment in the Cessna 172, we departed from Hartford-Brainard Airport at 8:30am on a Sunday morning. It was a beautiful, smooth flight that included an aerial tour of the NYC skyline.  

 

As we touched down at the Trenton, NJ airport, we saw 5 little dogs running across the tarmac. We met the pups and their PNP volunteer pilot Chris Galuardi from Maryland, inside flight school building where we had some puppy playtime before loading them back up for the flight back to CT.

 

 

After a lot of leash untangling and some photo opps they were nestled in their crates and quickly went to sleep. I did the same.

Back in Hartford we met up with friend and fellow pilot Jason Archer who would fly the pups to their final destination of Sanborn, ME. Jason reported high gusts, major turbulence, and sweaty palms all the way from Connecticut to Maine. The puppies, of course, slept through it all. They were well-rested to greet the new families eagerly awaiting their arrival.


PilotsNPaws - Nina

January 01, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Nina began her journey 3 months ago in Georgia, and was lucky enough to find a great foster home through the Pointer Rescue Organization in Maine with Lorraine. Emily McDonald, the PRO transport coordinator, posted a request on the PilotsNPaws forum to go from from Maine to Maryland, and we volunteered to fly the first leg.

The morning started with a surprise that our hangar was still dug in from Saturday's snow storm, but the folks at Atlantic Aviation did quick work of clearing the ramp.

Digging out

Bob Roseberry (my instrument flight instructor) and I got our clearance to KIZG (Fryeburg, ME), and off we went. At our intial altitude of 5000', we'd be right at the tops of the broken cloud layer. At one point, we started to get moderate rime ice, asked for a higher altitude, and were cleared to 7000', above the cloud layer.

Moderate Ice

We left the Bradley approach control frequency to give a PIREP (share the icing encounter so others can plan around it).

Leaving Hartford behind

It was smooth flying all the way to Maine, and when we got the ASOS weather information from the Fryeburg airport, the surprise was that winds were 18 gusting to over 30! So much for the TAF accuracy which forecast 8 knots. We did the RNAV GPS 32 approach with a bit of extra speed to account for the gusts, and were on the ground shortly.Final approach to Fryeburg, ME KIZG

 

N46511 was chocked pointing into the wind at the gas pump, and Bob and I enjoyed a spectacular ham sandwich in the cozy FBO pilot lounge, courtesy of Kristen (thanks honey!).

Welcome to Fryeburg

Soon we met Lorraine, Nina's foster mom of the last 3 months, and then Nina! She's a sweet girl who I'm sure will be a great dog for her new family in Maryland. We put down blankets on the back seat, clipped Nina's harness to the seatbelt, and off to NY we went.

Chilly on the ramp

 

With the gusty winds, we made sure to taxi slowly and had the controls adjusted to keep the Cessna planted on the ground (Dive with the wind!). I also saw my first lenticular cloud ahead, probably from the strong winds crossing Mt Washington.

Lenticular cloud

Soon we were airborne, and picked up our clearance to Poughkipsie, NY (KPOU). Bye Maine!

Bye Maine!

This leg of the flight took a while due to the 40 knot headwinds, but the ride was very smooth above the clouds at 6000'.

In Heaven

There Yet

2:15 later we're doing the VOR-24 approach into KPOU, and greased the landing. Bob thinks I should be flying with a dog in the back every time! We met Dave at the Eclipse terminal, who is the final PilotsNPaws leg taking Nina to her new home in Maryland, took several more pictures, and handed her over. She looked very cozy in the back seat of dave's Mooney. Bye Nina!

See ya Nina

PnP Panorama We fueled N46511 at Eclipse (who even gave us a PilotsNPaws charity flight discount - thank you!), and filed to go direct back to Hartford, CT (KHFD). Unfortunately, the routing was a bit more complicated, first following the Dutchess 4 departure, then to the Pawling VOR, the 111 Radial, BRISS waypoint, and finally Hartford. Once airborne & following NY ATC's clearance, we asked to go direct to Hartford, and eventually were cleared direct. At that point, we got the ATIS weather info for KHFD, and with the wind blowing from the south, we were going to be vectored to a Runway 20 landing. To qualify for the long IFR cross country, we needed 3 different types of instrument approaches, and this type wouldn't count! Thankfully Bradley ATC and Brainard's tower ATC were able to coordine and approve the LDA-2 approach into KHFD, which we did with a small tailwind (no problem with a 4000' long runway). We landed at 6:45, found the Atlantic Aviation ramp guys to top off the plane, and wrapped up a busy day.

Have a great future in Maryland, Nina! We were glad to help.

Link to full picture album: http://photo.skulte.com/PnPNina/


Pilots and Paws - Lobo

February 19, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Pictures: http://photo.skulte.com/lobo

Our flight down was an experience - including my first time in the busy NYC ClassB airspace. Kristen and I took the Hudson River corridor south at 1500' so NY Approach could give traffic advisories. Helicopters below, jets above!

Once through, we climbed back to 4500' and landed in Pottstown an hour later. Ken arrived shortly after with Lobo, who was excited to be on this adventure! I mean, what dog wouldn't?!! (Don't answer that!).

Kristen took Lobo for a quick jog into the field for a pitstop, and we enjoyed our PB&J sandwiches on the bench while Lobo gave us his best puppy look - c'mon, you know you want to share! Nope. Sorry! :) We put on Lobo's harness, clipped him into the seatbelt, and up up and away!

The flight back up the Hudson was incredible. I'd love to do it as a passenger sometime so I can take in all the sights. Kristen some pictures on her iPhone, which we posted to our photogallery linked above.

 By this point, we were seeing a line of clouds north of us with virga, and asked approach for a turn east over Westchester to get home a little sooner. Sure! Climb as fast as possible to 3500', for departing Westchester Airport jet traffic! OK - Full rich & throttle, prop-in, and point the nose to the sky. Slow to 80 mph (Vy) and up to 3500' in no time. Kristen pointed out the departing Delta Airlines flight that passed 1500' directly below us. Instead of going direct to HFD, we turned south to stay out of the lowering clouds, and struggled with getting updated weather from Flightwatch. I think I had to ask for ceilings along the route 3x until the specialist finally understood that I didn't need winds <shrug>. By the time we got to Rt91, the line of clouds had ended, and we turned north to Brainard airport and landed 15 minutes later. We met Liz and handed off Lobo.

Bittersweet ending - In the short 2 hours with Lobo, we loved his personality! We didn't want to give him up! He's an awesome dog, knows to sit, is gentle with food, and loves life (and Ken's kids!). I'm sure the jumping will be trained out with the right guidance. Whoever is lucky enough to get Lobo, I'd love to hear how he's doing.

Andris and Kristen Skulte
N46511


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