When I write, whether it is a play or story, I often find that unconsciously I foreshadow what is to come. It is as if deep within I know the future and it emerges as a hint here, a gesture there. For example: a story in which a child plays in the shadow of the mountain that she will eventually climb as an adult to meet her soul-mate. But when I begin to write all I know is that there is a mountain and a child. The rest comes together like a puzzle that presents itself one piece at a time. I have no idea where the story is going, yet if I listen to the characters, their lives will emerge and in retrospect I will see that it was all there right from the beginning.
I had lived a long and satisfying 65 years when I took my first TriYoga class, so it’s in that context (65 years!) that I answer your questions. What was I looking for when I walked into that class? I simply craved some relief from the experience of having moved to Los Angeles. (Why we moved to Los Angeles is another story…) My husband Bob and I had lived for the previous 32 years in relatively rural environments. I was unused to incessant traffic, and for the first time in as many years we were without a home of our own. I noticed a sign for yoga in the gym of our temporary housing and I thought a yoga class might offer an antidote to the combined stresses of house hunting and learning to make my way around the LA urban wilderness. I had tried one or two yoga classes over the years but never felt drawn to the practice. I didn’t think it was my thing. What attracted me to this class was proximity. It was right in the building where we were living.
After the first TriYoga class:
Basics with Kashi. I reported to Bob that I thought I had just experienced something profound, perhaps even life changing. I felt as if I had come home to myself. Of course I went back for more. Having nothing else to do at that time other than to find a house, I took classes with Kashi wherever she offered them. Within weeks I had begun a personal practice, and was sharing what I was learning with everyone I met. Sometime that first month in the middle of leg lifts in the privacy of my living room, I found myself doing plow rolls. I didn’t know the name for the kriya, In fact I didn’t know what a kriya was. I just reported to Kashi that I had suddenly found myself with my legs over my head, as if some energy had been released and was in charge of my body. Amazing, I thought. This new practice was fun.
Over the next few months Kashi mentioned Kali Ray and the Ashram in Malibu. The word ashram set off an alarm in me. In the early 1970â€™s I belonged to a transpersonal psychology organization that developed into a cultâ€”a group of people who surrendered their personal responsibility and their own connection to spirit to a charismatic leader. Being a part of a group that slowly became a cult was something akin to how frogs are killed. Slowly, ever so slowly the heat is turned up and before they know it they have been cooked. I thought that the last thing I wanted in my life was another experience of being a frog dead in the water. Bob encouraged me to go check out the ashram and the “guru”. “You don’t have to buy the guru with the yoga classes you’re taking,” he assured me. So I did. I drove out to Malibu to take a class with the beautiful yogini who I described to Bob that night as the most radiant being I had ever met. “The vibes were good,” I said. “I don’t think there’s anything to be afraid of.” And of course, I encouraged him to come see for himself.
Kashi moved to northern California and Bindu took over her classes. By this time we had found a home and it turned out to be walking distance to the studio where Bindu taught! I took all of Bindu’s classes, even following her out to Pacific Palisades where she was teaching at the Y. Finally Bindu suggested that I take the teacher training in Santa Cruz. I assured her that I had absolutely no interest in becoming a yoga teacher. She assured me that the teacher training was a way to deepen my practice and I didn’t have to become a teacher to take the training. Since I had good friends in the Santa Cruz area, I signed up.
The basics teacher training was intense for me because although I was still sure I had no interest in teaching, I was enough of an achievement junkie to want to succeed. Suddenly I had to “know” the flows, had to be able to assist others; I had to read the manual. It was a terrible ten days of hard, hard work. Hard because I was ambivalent about teaching and constantly questioned why I was bothering to struggle to learn to speak the yoga I love to close my eyes and flow into. I was saved by the fact that Kashi came down to Santa Cruz from her new home in Sebastopol and Kali Ray came up from Malibu to teach the weekend intensive. Kashi introduced me to Kali Ray. We shook hands and she said something about how nice it was to finally meet me. We laughed about something, I don’t remember what.
Not the end of that story. That weekend, Kaliji experienced a laughing kriya during the pranayama following yoga nidra. Afterwards she asked me who it was that was laughing. I said, “You were.” “No,” she said, “That was the Devi laughing through me.” Whatever, I thought. Why did she ask me who was laughing, if she knew? Foreshadowing? More later about laughing kriyas.
Occasionally I’d go to Malibu for a class. I followed Bindu around like a puppy dog. Some days we’d meet and walk to the beach for a couple of hours of pranayama. Often I was the only student who showed up at the little yoga studio she managed. Then one rainy winter day Bindu slipped and injured her shoulder. She asked if I would demonstrate for her classes, “Why not,” I thought. I was already attending the classes, I knew everyone, demonstrating didn’t seem like much of a big deal. Not a problem I told her. A few months later Bindu said she was moving to join her husband in South Africa and that Kali Ray had given her approval for my taking over her basics classes. Which I did. I was terrified. But the students all knew me and after the first class one said: “Same yoga, different voice.” I relaxed.
The following spring I got an email announcement from TriYoga about a trip to India with Kaliji. I told Bob that I wanted to go. He was shocked. Generally speaking, I hate to travel, but I knew I wanted to take this trip. My friends thought I was joking when I said I was going to India. It was a choice that although I felt sure was right, was not one anyone could have predicted I would make.
In India, Kaliji certified me in basics. I came home a legitimate TriYoga teacher. But more importantly, one afternoon at a river’s edge, one of our group asked Kaliji to anoint and bless us with the water. Everyone got on line. I could feel my anti-cult, don’t-join-anything fear but a voice inside said, you came all this way… just participate. I knelt down and came up laughing. The laughter bubbled up from my toes. Kaliji and I laughed and laughed. In a split second, I knew I was her devotee. I had come home.
One afternoon at the Co-op market in Santa Monica I reached into the poultry case to buy skinless, boneless chicken breasts and my throat closed. I pulled my hand back and my throat relaxed. I did the rest of my shopping and then circled back for the chicken breasts. My throat closed again. That night I told Bob that I didn’t think I could ever eat meat again. The next week I went to the Santa Monica fish market, walked in one door and out the next. I was dizzy. “No more fish either,” I said. So for a year I was a vegetarian when I noticed I was no longer eating any dairy. I never made becoming a vegan a conscious choice, but my body did. Later, I embraced the rationale for this amazing diet that allows one to live lightly on our planet. But the transformation came effortlessly, like an eating kriya.
Bob and I moved back to the Bay area where we had begun our lives together almost forty years ago. I teach two days a week. I became certified in Level I and Continue to study with Kashi who teaches in Sebastopol an hour+ north. I try to flow with Kaliji where and whenever possible. I continue to practice for about an hour every day, more on my teaching days: Pranayama, asana, concentration, and meditation. What began as a little ten-minute practice now extends into the morning. I have returned to school to study for an MFA in creative writing (play writing.) I mark discovering TriYoga with finding my path, the flow for this life. How do I know? Well, it’s something about looking back and seeing the inevitability of this story, of seeing the effortless effort, how it was foreshadowed. I laugh just thinking about it.
My name: Mantrini
Kaliji gave me my spiritual Sanskrit name on the occasion of my 70th birthday. Knower of Mantras.