I led my first Rocket Vinyasa Immersion this weekend and it was extraordinary. Feeling seen and heard and like you are a part of something, combined with learning to balance on your hands - something most adults view as impossible - creates a sense of self-empowerment that is remarkable. I know, because I've been there. Every time I take a training, I feel this, wholeheartedly. So being on the other side as the facilitator is special in its own way.
I took my first Rocket Vinyasa Teacher Training in November 2015 with David C. Kyle. From that moment, I became a dedicated practitioner and teacher of this style of yoga. I offered my first Rocket Workshop almost a year later in October 2016, taught hundreds of classes, sometimes with just one person in the room, countless workshops and fought hard at studios to get a Rocket class on the schedule. In a city that loves hot, fast-paced power yoga, that's where the money is, so it hasn't been easy.
That's part of why this weekend was so bizarrely special. I sat in disbelief in front a room full of people who wanted to practice and learn and join the global collective of Rocket teachers and practitioners. It's still wild to think about as I write this.
The Rocket is a unique style of yoga. It's not for everyone, and can be somewhat polarizing. It's physically challenging and has longer holds (compared to your typical power flow) which inspires some and overwhelms others. It's a remix of classical Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, so there's some Ashtangis who love the idea of a remix and those who don't approve. Larry Schultz, the creator, was affectionately known as the ‘Bad Boy of Ashtanga’ because after spending time with Pattabhi Jois learning Ashtanga Yoga, Larry became frustrated with not being allowed to move onto the Second Series and practice other poses besides the Primary Series. So he broke away from the ordered system but took many of the elements with him in his practice that became one of the main roots of Power Yoga.
Although I transmitted a great deal of information about The Rocket sequencing and transitions this weekend, we also had discussions about why Larry shifted the Rocket series for more ease and accessibility for beginners and more creativity and fun for teachers and advanced practitioners. Two of my favorite quotes by Larry, who is no longer alive:
"We do the practice to love ourselves so we can learn to love others more."
“You should be practicing in a way that encourages you to practice the next day.”
As someone who has spent her entire life trying to be everything to everyone, weighed down by perfectionism and irrational desires for flawlessness combined with harsh self-criticism, I needed to be told that my yoga practice can be imperfect, dynamic, and whatever it needs to be that day.
My teacher, David Kyle, continues Larry's legacy by passing on this philosophy in a very real way. Four years ago, at my first training, I expressed to him my overwhelming, sometimes paralyzing fear of being the only Rocket teacher in a new city without a mentor, without a strong Ashtanga background. "What if I misinterpret the teachings? What if I mess up the breath count? What if I bring this new style of yoga to a city and I do it all wrong?"
Sensing my panic, he said, "You said you've been teaching yoga for several years now. What is your background?"
"Power Yoga and Prana Vinyasa," I answered, sure he would tell me I wasn't Rocket teacher material.
He nodded and smiled, knowingly. "Shiva Rea is fantastic. You will teach Rocket in a way that represents your background as a teacher and practitioner. You will have creative arm variations, influenced by Prana Vinyasa. You will make it yours. That is what we want Rocket teachers to do - to show students the beauty and individuality of the Rocket. It encourages students to practice from that same place."
It was the first time a teacher told me, in so many words, to let go of trying to teach perfectly and instead, to teach from a place of personal experience. It was, to this day, one of the most empowering moments on my path as a yoga teacher. And to be clear, it wasn't a sit-down, yoga teacher conference or a lecture. We were all sitting outside on our lunch break in Washington, D.C. having casual conversation. This is one of the many reasons I find David to be a masterful teacher, as he's done this multiple times. I go to him for answers, and he reminds me of what I already know.
Now back to this weekend.
In The Rocket, we give advanced postures to beginners. We don’t view postures as “intermediate or advanced,” that is up to the practitioner. The pose changes according to the student, not the other way around. There is an actual feeling of magic in the room when you witness a student move their body in a way they previously didn't know was possible, especially when it comes to floating and flying.
On the last day, we went around the room and everyone introduced themselves. There was a wonderful mix of new students, yoga teachers, and Rocket teachers. People from Charlotte, Greensboro, High Point, Burlington, D.C., Georgia. Michelle and Gurveer, now certified Rocket teachers, stepping into leadership roles. Students from my early days of teaching in Virginia, new friends I made as a guest teacher at their studios, graduates from my past 200-Hour trainings, even people I only previously knew from Instagram. They shared what drew them to yoga, why/where they teach, how yoga has helped them heal. Some even shared how this specific style has empowered them.
Everyone listened attentively. I swear I could feel the connections happening from across the room. The assuring nods and knowing smiles when someone was vulnerable and shared something deeply personal.
In one of my favorite books, The Heart of Yoga, T. K. V. Desikachar defines yoga as:
Movement from one point to another, higher one
The bringing together, the unifying of two things
Action with undivided, uninterrupted attention
I was overwhelmed with emotion by the end of the weekend. Partly because I love being surrounded by so many people who inspire me and have been a big part of my own evolution. We get to witness each other growing, moving from one point to another, higher one. Because what started out as a group of individuals turned into a community. And knowing that my relentless action and drive to study and teach something I believe in with (mostly) uninterrupted attention helped create this collective.
Ah. Yes. This is yoga.
Building a solid foundation takes time. Learning to trust yourself takes time and a lot of hard work. I'm finally starting to witness and understand this firsthand.
You can join me for the next Rocket Weekend Immersion May 17-19. The Weekend Immersion is a prerequisite for the a 50HR Rocket Yoga Teacher Training/Practice Intensive - I'm excited to host David Kyle aka @babarocket in Charlotte for the first time August 9-13, 2019. This is one of two trainings in the U.S. he is leading this year so it's an incredible opportunity. All are welcome. You don't have to be a teacher to join us for the Weekend Immersion or the 50HR Training. Check out my website for more details.
To everyone out there in the trenches, building a solid foundation - don't give up.
"Adults these days aren't having that much fun. This is a place where you come and if you fall, you get back up, you have a good time. You get back to your childlike self where you don't always have to be achieving to feel like you're moving forward. You just walk-in, you have fun, you breathe, you do what you can, you walk out, you pay attention to how you feel. Because the practice will always make you feel better when you leave than when you arrived. And that's what you come for: you come to feel better, happier, more at peace, more alive.
That's The Rocket."
- Larry Schultz