Home base: Davis, CA
Q: How and when did TriYoga become part of your life?
A: That was back in 1987. I was not looking for any yoga practice. One day I went with my girlfriends to a beautiful place in Northern California for a week-end. In the morning one of them played a cassette tape with yoga instructions. I followed her in doing the asanas. When this hour and a half session was over, I felt so good. I felt like I had a massage but I gave it to myself and it did not cost me anything. That Sunday night, as soon as I got back home to Santa Cruz, I looked for a yoga studio in the Good Times paper. There was an ad for Kali Ray TriYoga. So I called the very next morning to find out when I could come. I think it was Jasmine who replied: I will mail the schedule today But I could not wait so long for the mail (laughs), I wanted to come right away. So she told me when the classes were that day. I came to my first TriYoga class, and I was stuck (laughs), I’ve been there ever since and have never left TriYoga. It was absolutely wonderful.
Q: Was it Kaliji who was teaching that class?
A: I do not think so. But she taught if not second then the third class that I took.. I was very lucky, as I was living in Santa Cruz at that time and Kaliji was there all the time, offering a lot of regular classes.
Q: Did it feel much better than the yoga on the cassette that you tried that week-end?
A: Oh, yes. The class that I was doing from the cassette was not flowing, and I loved the flow right away. Of course at the beginning I was not sensitive enough to be able to distinguish between feeling good and feeling really good. My process of understanding TriYoga was gradually evolving, it happened in stages. But as I learned more about TriYoga, and got to really understand the flow, the transistions, later pranayama and other aspects, I was getting into the state of awe—especially when I started to teach. In those days we did not have manuals, we were memorizing from the class, later we had a manual with little stick figures. But it was not until the manuals came with all those wonderful sequences (which by the way were there from the very beginning but it was not so clear for me to understand) that I could realize the whole depth of the system. When I could see the sequencing in the manuals and was teaching it, and teaching teachers, I was amazed by the intelligence of the flows, the depth that is present there, by the way everything builds upon what came previously. It is a miracle. I do not think that I fully understood the depth, the complexity and the beauty, the intelligence of the flows, until I started teaching it.
Also when I started to teach, my students would ask: “How is that different from the Iyengar method?”, or some other yoga styles. So I decided to go and try them, just to get the idea what they are about. And every time I went, I felt very frustrated in the class. I thought: “Well, this is nice, but I would like to flow”. All those styles are good and helpful… but there is nothing like TriYoga. And I think it is important for me as a teacher to understand the options and help my students understand the difference. They often ask.
A: When I came to TriYoga, I was not looking for anything spiritual, I was just so happy to feel good in my body. I had a very stressful job (like a lot of us on the planet), I was traveling a lot by airplane and in the car, driving for hours a day, staying at hotel rooms, always eating out. So my body always had some discomforts. When I found TriYoga it helped me to feel so much better. My body was relaxed and not in pain or discomfort. That was what interested me at the beginning.
Also I remember that at the end of my third or fourth class or so, during yoga nidra, I had the experience of leaving my body, I could see the whole Santa Cruz, its streets, lights and the Monterey Bay. All of a sudden I said to myself: “Gosh, where am I?” and I went right back into my body. That experience made me think: “There is something to that TriYoga.” And little by little I discovered its many aspects.
It is so amazing that TriYoga has every single aspect that we need. All in one package. And what is more wonderful, there is never any pressure of choosing one or all. You can take just one piece, or all of them. For me at the beginning I only liked the asana flow.Â The spiritual part was of little interest to me and in some ways with my scientific training and “fallen-away Catholic” background, I was a skeptic. But what even a skeptic can easily accept are the flows, the part that is very scientific, logical, clear and yet magical! (smiles).
I think that is what draws a lot of people to TriYoga. Even though at the beginning they may not see the big picture, they might see just one piece that helps them. When that piece takes them to a certain level of peace, they cannot but see another aspect that takes them to another level of piece and tranquility…and then another and another… Though, one has to be ready for the Wonder and not run away from it.
Q: What about your relationship with Kaliji? Was it also an unfolding process? How did the skeptic feel at the very beginning?
A: I think from the very beginning I could recognize that there is something special about Kaliji, that she has incredible intelligence, compassion and knowledge. And I was aware that her closest students and devotees were very devotional towards her. I was not like that. I was looking at her as a teacher of this physical exercise. I am not sure at what point it shifted. I think it was an evolution. As I got to know her more and more, I got to appreciate more and more all that she is and all that she has to offer us and the planet.
I remember that maybe a year or so after I started practicing TriYoga, I showed up at the center at 9 am, thinking that it will be a yogasana class—since the time was on the schedule. I was in a hurry I did not read that it said “Chanting”. Kaliji, Mercury and some other musicians were there with instruments. The room was quite full. I said: “Wow, what is that, people’s mats are not down. I decided to stay since I was already there… and from the moment they started to sing, I was hooked on chanting. Maybe it was chanting that drew me into the spiritual part. Then it was the flows and chanting that kept me coming. Some of the simpler mudras would come to me when I was mediating or doing the flows on my own, then later at any time they would come—at work, play or anywhere. When I told Kaliji about this she said not to worry and let them come, that it is a blessing. I was amazed and pleased when the mudras would spontaneously move my hands. Then there was a moment, when I sort of got it, who Kaliji was and what she has to offer.
It is interesting that Kaliji often says that she can be–for her students, acquaintance and loved ones–exactly what they need. And that is so true. If you need a great yoga instructor, she would be that, if you need a confidant, she would be that, if you need a friend, she would be that, if you need a Guru, she would be that. Through my relationship with her, I think she was all those things for me at different times. Now I consider her my dearest friend and my Guru… I would not have called her Guru earlier. I was a bit skeptical about the way people around were treating her, since we are not used to this in the West. Now..hm.. It is hard to express how I feel about her (smiles). I am looking at her picture right now and I feel so grateful to her for all the things that she allowed me to become, to understand who I am and feel the connection with the Divine.
The times that I am the happiest is when I am teaching TriYoga, teaching teachers. I have the feeling of being in the flow, when everything in life is easy and it is as it should be and I know that I am on the right path, doing my dharma. I see that many people never get to experience that feeling. But in TriYoga we all get to experience the flow at least on some level. I appreciate that so much. And I want to share it with everybody. I want everyone to know that all they need to do is just to start with simple asana flows and pranayama and the flow will take over, healing and leading one into her own true self!
Q: How did you decide to get certified?
A: I think it was an organic evolution. I was doing so much TriYoga and going to the classes so often, many times more than once a day. I was also taking privates from Lynn Andrews (Chandra). Since I was traveling a lot for work, I could not attend all the classes in the center, but Chandra could work me into her schedule.
So I think that I felt like teaching early on, maybe 1990. I just wanted to share this wonderful thing that I have been gifted from Kaliji. A small group of us would meet in my livingroom and each lead the group for 10-15 minutes, then do critiques of each other. It was fun!
We did not have a formalized certification process back then. We had workshops and Teacher Trainings. Many of them would go over the whole week-end: through Friday night, then Saturday and Sunday from early morning till evening–with no break but for a light lunch…. But there was no system with manuals, or list of things that you are are expected to know to get certified through this or that level.Â So it was very organic. When Kaliji knew you were ready, you were certified. Of course there were many fewer of us studying TriYoga in those early days, so Kaliji could be more directly involved with each of us.
Q: Is teaching your main job right now?
A: It is for the moment but that is very prone to change, I may go back to my work at University. I have always combined teaching TriYoga with a regular job. Right now I teach at a health club and I rent a space for most of my classes in a very beautiful Art Gallery in downtown Davis. Ond day we will have a proper TriYoga Center in Davis.
Q: Obviously, TriYoga and Kaliji have become an integral part of your life, what transformations and inner changes did it bring?
A: As I said earlier, I was not looking for spiritual life. But as I guess it is true with many people, once you start to practice the flows and pranayama, a whole new world opens to you. So the spiritual component was a pleasant surprise to me, I did not expect it, I did not think I needed it or even wanted it. But I just felt so full of bliss and wonder through the practice of the flows and my association with Kaliji, that I just walked into my spiritual being. And speaking about life changes… once you recognize that you are a spiritual being and you can be happy all the time… at least almost all the time. That is what I became – happy almost all the time. And for me it is happening through the blessings of Kaliji and her teachings.
Many year ago I wrote a poem, and the part that repeats itself is so representative of how I view Kaliji. She opened the doors for me to experience: “I am and I have all that I need to be joyous, peaceful, content and to know bliss”. It sums it up, what Kaliji has given me and how it transformed my life.
It was such a blessing to live in the same town around her for many years, as one gets all this wonderful energy by just being in her presence. I feel so happy that I had this in the early days, because it gave me such a strong base. Of course I missed her, when she moved, but I did not really feel lost. Because I knew that I always have the connection with her, and I have this connection with inner Guru.
Kaliji was always there for me when I was going through rough times. What is so wonderful about her that she is able to give undivided attention and unconditional love. That is very healing and soothing, it is such a blessing for all of us.
I have so many stories of how Kaliji helped me to move through painful times.
Once my relationship fell apart. I thought that it was the end of the world and I could not go on. She could see and understand my pain, but she did not relate to these things from our little tiny perspective. She decided to help by distracting me, by introducing me to another TriYogi. This TriYogi and I were e-mailing each other and talking on the phone for a while and I was feeling better. Finally, we met… to realize that it was not meant to be, it was not a good connection. By then I could manage the pain and loss. Though through Kaliji’s helping in this way, I was able to make this transition, to live through the pain. She does things like that all the time.
She has such a wonderful perspective on the world and each of us. She sees our tiny little problems in a bigger context. She has the compassion. She has a good sense of humor. And she just sees it as part of the leela (game) of life and she always helps anyway. She teaches us to view our lives through a wider lens, helps us see a little humor in what life presents us. A major transformation that she helped me to accomplish was to get over a long time addiction.