Santoshi and her husband Rishi are currently traveling around the world sharing TriYoga.
They have taught in Russia (Moscow and Siberia), Ukraine, Taiwan, China, Israel, Europe and Australia.
Q: How did TriYoga and Kaliji change your life?
A: It changed my life 100%. On the outer level, it changed my occupation and living situation. Right now all we do is travel around the world and teach. Internally…with TriYoga in my life I experience myself as part of a bigger picture. Before I knew intellectually that I am part of something larger than myself but now I experience it.
Q: Do you mean being part of TriYoga community or big Universal picture?
A: I mean being part of a big Universal picture. I love being part of this community, but this experience is not particularly new for me. I come from a large family and I have been in communities before, so I know this feeling. But I have never experienced myself as part of the Universal energy.
I think a story will illustrate it best. A couple of years ago I was going through some financial problems that seemed very distressing to me at the time. I asked Kaliji for advice and she said: “Just trust and everything will work out fine”. And I got so angry. I thought: “It is easy for her to say that. Because the Universe takes care of her”. And then a voice deep inside said: “And what about you?” Then I realized that the Universe takes care of me too.
Because I know Kaliji and see that happening to her all the time, I have more faith. It is one thing just to say: “Oh, the Universe takes care of me and all of us”. But to see miracles happening to Kaliji over and over and over again, it provides a greater degree of faith. Since I see that, I have deep conviction that the Universe is truly taking care of each of us.
Q: How did you meet Kaliji?
A: I had been studying TriYoga with Gabrielle Gerard in Norfolk, VA. She had a picture of Kaliji in her studio. I was used to seeing the picture of the blonde lady and I kind of knew that she started the yoga. But I did not realize who she was. I was interested in yoga mainly for the benefits to my body and peace of mind.
Then, in February 2003, Rishi and I left Virginia for California. We were not sure what we were going to do there, but since we were in LA, we decided to go and meet Kali Ray.
Going for a class, we wanted to be good representatives for our teacher Gabrielle. Once we were in the class… we were blown away… we had no idea of what was going on there. There were teachers from Boston, Pennsylvania, Santa Monica. We were amazed to see those people in the advanced postures that we had never seen before. Some of them were having incredible openings; there was laughter and such amazing energy. After the class was over, we left right away and kept silent for a while (laughs). Then one of us asked: “Do you want to go back tomorrow?” and the other replied: “Absolutely!”
At that time Kaliji was teaching 3 hour classes every day. So the very next day after the class, which we enjoyed a lot, we were offered to have some tea. Kaliji was there with us and we were asking her questions for two hours. Questions were about everything: about the pictures on the wall, about her and who she was, about the difference between shoulderstand and inverted bridge – really, everything that came into our minds, we asked.
Eventually, we ended up staying in LA for a year and we studied with her almost every day. We felt like we could not get enough. We wanted to come back again and again.
photo of Stef assisting in classQ: When and how did you eventually realize that you have this deep connection with TriYoga and Kaliji and you want to share it with other fulltime? Was it a one day awakening or it happened gradually?
A: No, it was not a one day awakening. It was such a gradual process. I have no idea when it actually happened, because it happened in such a subtle way. Or I can say that it happened right away but I was not able to recognize it.
I was never looking for a capital “T” Teacher, and I was certainly not looking for a guru. I always considered myself an independent person. So I do not know when this realization happened, I only know that since the time we met Kaliji, TriYoga became an organizing principle in our lives. We stayed in LA for a year for no other reason but being able to study with her every day. Then we moved to Santa Cruz, because Kaliji started to travel more. We knew that there is a TriYoga Center in Santa Cruz, and a TriYoga community that Kaliji visits frequently. So from the time we met Kaliji, she and TriYoga were in the middle of every decision we made.
Q: What does studying TriYoga imply to you?
A: When I just came into TriYoga, it was the flows that were appealing to me the most. I knew that it is good for the body, it feels great. But the longer I stayed the more I realized that there is so much being offered. I learn a lot about generosity, about faith, about community and so many other things. Being around Kaliji I learn so much more than being able to turn myself upside-down. The flows are incredible, the way they create energy is amazing. But I learn from Kaliji so much more than that.
Q: You have master’s degree in psychology, does it help you to teach TriYoga in any way?
A: I think it helps me to understand people who come to Kaliji. I feel that this background helps me see what different people are looking for in TriYoga. I do think that TriYoga is for everyone and there is something to offer to everybody, but I do not think that it is the same thing for every person. For some it is the flows, for others – jnana (philosophy), or devotion, or chanting… So it is good to understand from the beginning what this or that person is looking for, and to help them to find it.
Q: Did TriYoga give you some answers that psychology did not?
A: I would say that TriYoga taught me to deal with the questions that I had with more equanimity. I am less disturbed by things and events than I used to be.
Q: How did you decide that you want to get certified?
A: I never decided that I want to get certified (laughs). When we moved to Santa Cruz we chose an apartment close to the TriYoga center. So we would go to the classes all the time. On the week-ends there were workshops, so we would go to the workshops whether it was Teacher Training, or Prana Vidya or Subtle Anatomy, we would go to any program. I liked being in the Center and if there was a reason to go, I would go. So we ended up going to a lot of Teacher Trainings. Then I started to realize that I knew a lot about Basics and Nandi suggested that we enroll in the intern program, which we did. Then I started substituting classes. I felt it was right time to get certified in Basics, and I talked with Nandi, Tarini and Gina about it and they all agreed. So we schedule a certification exam, and were certified. After that, we still kept going to Basics Teacher Trainings, but now as assistants. The same happened with Level 1 and Level 2. As for Level 3… I was trying to escape it, but it was suggested that Teacher Trainers are certified through Level 3. So I started to attend Level 3. It used to be so challenging and frustrating for me, now I love it. It is so energizing and liberating. I am glad that I had that push to get certified through Level 3, otherwise I would never get to this experience. I would have never done it. (laughs)
Q: What does teaching TriYoga mean for you? Can you imagine your life without it?
A: (Smiles) During our last trip in China I was discussing with Rishi how much we are looking forward to being students again. So now we are in Malibu and we enjoy taking daily classes with Kaliji so much… And just the other day I caught myself thinking: “I cannot wait starting teaching again and share what I have learned”.
It is such a gift to be able to share that with people. Especially when they do not have an opportunity to take daily classes with Kaliji. Traveling around the world, we teach a lot of those who have a rare opportunity to study with Kaliji or other senior teachers on a regular basis. It is so exciting and fulfilling that I cannot see any other job that can be so rewarding.
Q: How does it make you feel when you meet people who see Kaliji so rarely?
A: There are two parts to this. One is that I feel so lucky to have that opportunity, to study with Kaliji and other senior teachers. I have been so lucky to have spent so much time studying directly with Kaliji and with so many of the senior teachers, so I do have a lot to share. The other part is that when I get there and I meet people who have met Kaliji once or twice in a few years, and yet they maintain their daily practice and their hearts are so full of devotion, that makes me feel so humble. I am not sure that I have that strong self discipline and I am not sure that I would be able to maintain my practice without frequently being charged by Kaliji and being surrounded by the community. In Russia there are people who took a video tape of Kaliji doing the flows 10 years ago and were studying with this tape for all these years and teach it. It is so exciting and humbling to see that.
Q: It must be great to share a relationship with someone who is on the same path. Do you think TriYoga contributed a lot to your relationship with Rishi and your relationship contributed to your experience on the path?
A: Rishi and I started to practice TriYoga at the same time that we met each other. So I do not know how it would have been if TriYoga was not there. Of course, I feel really lucky to share a relationship with someone who has the same passions and purpose as me.
I think a lot of what we learn in TriYoga helps to develop a healthy relationship. When we meet challenges we both have a practice of self-inquiry, we have ways and techniques to cope with our emotions. I know that I can always choose to calm myself down by doing some flows and prana vidya.
I think studying together helped us with self discipline in the beginning when we were going to a lot of Teacher Trainings. If on some Saturday morning I would wake up and say: “I do not feel like going today”. Rishi would encourage me: “Come on, let’s go together and then we’ll go out to dinner.” (laughs). Then other days I would do the same for him. Because if your partner goes somewhere, you naturally want to go too, because you love spending time with him. It helps with the encouragement. It is easier to see changes in another person than in yourself. So when I see changes in Rishi and he sees them in me, it is very inspiring fro both of us.
Now that we travel a lot to teach, it is nice to be together. I think we make a good teaching team, what I bring into teaching and what he brings into teaching is complementary. It is really fun. When we teach a workshop together, we enjoy doing it a lot.