Neel Kulkarni created a style of yoga called Authentic Yoga System (R). He had a fortune of studying with B. K. S. Iyangar, who was his teacher as well as next door neighbor. One of the personal touches he incorporated into his training included the following: happy face, soft neck, mouth closed. As I teach my classes and use Neel's concepts, I realize that the 3 points he stressed allow me to know if a student is straining, or forcing their body to complete an asana, beyond their capacity.
Another thing Neel stressed was, leave your ego at the door. I have realized the significance of this idea as I train. Students often see someone who is able to perform an asana in a superior manner and they want to equal that effort, which is dangerous. Many of my students have had negative experiences in various yoga classes, because they attempted to maximize an asana, which caused pain and muscle damage. I know when a student is not completing an asana at their comfort level, as they have excessively rapid breathing, trembling, their neck is taut, and often they breathe with their mouths open. As I observe my students, and notice they are attempting to perform beyond their capacity, I often meet with them to discuss the importance of performing asanas at a level that is sufficiently challenging, and reassure them that with time and steady effort, they will almost perfect a pose.
He taught me to read my students, and to evaluate them to reasonably judge their capacity. Neel stressed that perfection of a pose is most challenging and seldom are we able to truly perfect a pose, as there are so many finite elements involved in doing so.
Because of Neel's training, I am a confident yoga teacher. I know that I should read and research as a standard requirement. Neel provided me with resource material from his library that has helped me continue my yoga education, and serves as a guide for my classes. I know that I am blessed to have had the opportunity to be trained by a classic yoga teacher such as Neel.
I just returned from a cruise to Panama, Costa Rico, and Belize. I heard your phone message, but was not available. during the cruise, I provided a yoga lecture to the Tuskegee Veterinarian Medical Alumni Association. It was successful. Many of the attendees are now inspired to join a yoga class. Thanks to you, I have been given the training, and resources to feel comfortable presenting information based on my knowledge. I constantly read the books you have given me, and have purchased additional books to continue my yoga education. I am eternally thankful to Iliana for telling me about your yoga teacher training class.
I hope to come to one of your classes between now and the end of December. Additionally, I will be inviting you to a yoga party at my house between now and the end of December.
I am Elsie T. Neely, a yoga student and teacher trained by Neel Kulkarni, the following is my testimonial about Neel Kulkarni as a yoga instructor:
Classes with Neel were an honor because of his superior knowledge of yoga. He possesses the skill of knowing where to start a student when they first enter his class. This is an important step, because many new yoga students are freightened or turned-off when they initially start a class because the teacher doesn't differentiate instruction for each student. When I was a new student, my goal was to learn the yoga headstand, which I had never attempted, and thought was impossible for me. Neel began to train me giving me suggestions to concentrate on as I was attempting the pose. He would add another major suggestion, at each class. I was a diligent student with my home practice, so I eventually learned to do the yoga headstand. Teaching the headstand is difficult, because their is a potential for serious injury. However, Neel was able to teach me in such a way that I never experienced any difficulty in my efforts to conquer the pose.
Neel uses props with precision. Students are able to assume a variation of a particular pose with the use of props: this allows the student to develop confidence and strength before removing the props. His instructions are sequential, and direct. His students know they are to constantly seek perfection of the pose with his gentle and patient prodding.
Yoga philosophy is basic to the student who aspires to make yoga a part of their life. Neel is the consumate yoga philosophy instructor. He uses Pantanjali, Ayangar, and many other ancient and current thinkers interpretation of yoga philosophy. However, his knowledge is so very astute, that he creates yoga aphorisms, and philosophy. As a philosophy teacher, he methodically introduces concepts and ideas in such a way that understanding is facilitated. After each of his presentations of yoga theory, students are encouraged to seek clarification, or futher interpretation. During my classes with him, he has been able to answer all of my questions to my satisfaction.
I am a yoga teacher trained by Neel, and I can say that I feel that he trained me to be a good teacher, because he informed me that I will never know all their is to know about yoga in my lifetime. Consequently, I constantly read material by the ancients and current yoga philosophers. As I read, I learn many new techniques and ideas that help my students and strengthen my teaching skills. If ever I need help with an issue related to yoga, Neel willingly provides the help for as long as it takes for me to grasp the concept (at no charge of course).
The most valuable trait that I observed in Neel is that yoga should not have money as basis. He always has students in his class who will never pay him. As anyone who studies yoga knows, the ancient yogis were never paid, they were provided with food, clothing and other basic needs by their students. My students pay what they can afford, and if they can't pay, they are still allowed to take my classes.
I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to work with Neel, and I look forward to working with him in the future.
Elsie Neely, Education Specialist, Washington D.C.
Reflections on your teaching of the advanced teacher training and yoga classes for 2002-2003:
1. I liked the idea of designing a program to meet each student's needs. It allowed me to clarify issues that were confusing.
2. The size of the class was ideal. I received one on one attention, which allowed me to refine some of my asanas. Your manner of teaching allows a student to know what they need to work on to approach perfection of a pose. Additionally, following your advice about doing the asana first, as close to perfection as possible, the teachers are capable of before teaching it. When you concentrate on the poses you can better tell your students points to work on so that they can do the poses with ease.
3. I liked the detailed explanations you gave about yoga theory, the asanas and what they mean and how they benefit parts of the body. You also supplied valuable books that provided in depth knowledge about many aspects of yoga.
4. I disliked the idea that you formed the written exams while we were in the midst of class. I felt it implied that you did not plan well, the exam should have been prepared and handed to us. I feel that professionally such behavior appears that it was a last minute process. If a college professor did such behavior his job would be in jeopardy.
Overall I feel that I am better prepared than most yoga teachers in the USA because of your superior knowledge and understanding of yoga. You trained me to notice and listen to my body, to practice to get perfection, and that you usually never reach perfection yet you still try. I must say that in your class I have done things that I thought were impossible for me, as a result my confidence increased. Physically I am much stronger because of your training, more willing to try what seems to be the most difficult of poses, and more aware of my posture at all times. Additionally, I feel that there is much more I need to learn from you.
Elsie Neely 05/17/2003
Critique of advanced yoga training: The major goals I sought as I entered the advanced yoga training class were, to learn how to use yoga for specific therapy, and to improve my ability to perfect certain asanas. I did improve my backbends tremendously, and learned about some theraputic applications, but I would like to learn more. I find Neel Kulkarni to be one of the most highly qualified yoga instructors in the area. He is trained in the classical style of yoga, to which he has made personal adaptations to form his personal style of yoga, known as Authentic Yoga. He skillfully uses props, encouragement, and gently applied discipline with his students to make them do things they never thought they could do. My first class with Neel was marked with incredulity at the idea that I could ever succeed in doing certain Asanas. In due course, and with expert guidance, I was able to perform the asanas that I once thought were impossible. The advanced teacher training involved in depth lectures on health, yoga theory and philosophy. The health and nutritrion classes were very informative and enabled me to improve on my vegan diet. I feel that the health and nutritrion information is as vital as completing the asanas. The healthier the body the more prepared it is to do hard work. Yoga theory and philosophy helped to make sense of the entire concept of yoga. Many people take yoga for the physical aspects only; they miss the essence of yoga. Knowing the theory and philosophy has enabled me to concentrate more, to focus on my breathing, and to begin to explore meditation. I am about to take additional yoga teacher training and I expect to compound my knowledge as an instructor. I look forward to my next class and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn from a master.
Elsie Neely 10/28/02
This is my feedback of the teacher training class: The class was quite comprehensive. I am certain after listening to some of the tapes you could have used more time. That will probably be for advanced or further teacher training. I enjoyed the class and learned so much. It stimulated my brain and activated my body and mind. The lectures were most valuable for me as a teacher and for my personal life. They affirmed much of what I do for well being, and I learned more that I can do. The spiritual goal and mind and body training concepts helped me to improve my poses and meditation. I am reading the book you gave me to gain more insight, since I want to teach yoga. I will seek more training in different forms of yoga so that I will be more informed. On a rating of 1-10 I give the class a 10. You have great command of the material you presented, and you explain concepts in practical terms. I feel that I have had my initial training from a true master. I am very thankful. The only Improvement I have is that it would have good if we stuck to time schedules.
Sincerely, Elsie T. Neely 01/15/02
I will be taking the class on Wednesday. By the way, it is my observation that you are a good teacher. As a trained educator I see you using practices that I teach to school staffs. You are following some practices that are considered vital to the success of students. For each class the students know what material is to be covered. You allow questioning which provides for clarity. You are very patient. The main thing is there is no applied stress. I look forward to the next class.
Elsie T. Neely 11/15/01