Yoga Development Course Testimonials
Here’s what previous Yoga Development Course (YDC) participants have to say about the course.
Learn more about the YDC.
- The Symbol of a Talking Stick July 8, 2018
Sandra Vandenhoff (left), an audiologist who wears a cochlear implant to assist with her hearing loss, reflects upon her time in the Yoga Development Course (YDC) using group microphones. She quickly learned how her technology became a positive symbol.
I’ve had progressive hearing loss since preschool. By the time I graduated from high school, my hearing loss was profound. Hearing loss inspired me to study audiology. It’s been a real gift, in that it is a source of many life lessons.
Going in to the YDC, I was concerned about the impact of the microphones on people’s spontaneity. I’d had situations before where I didn’t feel a part of the group. That’s how I entered – what’s going to happen? I wasn’t sure.
From the first night, the people in the class started to tune into what I needed. It was incredible. People were so accommodating. Somebody said, “This microphone is a symbol: it means I have the floor, so it’s my turn to talk.” Others said it meant a lot to them, like a talking stick. It became obvious to me that it just wasn’t for me – it was for the group too; that made it easier.
About going back home, one YDC participant said, “This is not the end; this is the beginning.” That’s how I really feel. It’s the start of a new life.
I stepped up right away back in Calgary. I’ve offered satsang and I am teaching Hatha Yoga. I never thought I would be doing that. Through the YDC, I’ve learned how to support myself through change and uncertainty. I’m changing how my mind works.
Consider joining the 2019 YDC – our 50th year of this foundational life-changing course.
- A Learning Journey of Reflection April 11, 2018
Christopher J. Starr leapt from the 2017 Yoga Development Course (YDC) to enrolment in the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Master’s program at New York City’s Columbia University – and he is amazed at how well he was prepared by his learning journey at the Ashram. He wrote to update us.
Classes are going exceptionally well; the course content is fascinating. Interestingly, almost half of the assignments have been Reflection Journals where we are asked to reflect on our own theories of conflict, change and other topics. Having written reflections daily for three months in the YDC, I feel especially prepared for these assignments!
I am curious if this self-reflection is part of a global trend in education shifting from teaching people to memorize information and instead to become themselves fully.
I’ve used my Ashram training in other ways too! My family is from Thunderchild First Nation, in Saskatchewan. Although I never went to school there, I feel a deep connection to the community and a vested interest in the health and success of its youth. While home for the holidays in December, I offered yoga classes to the community school. The kindergarteners really enjoyed the Warrior.
I am feeling blessed even amidst the perplexity of university and NYC. I am profoundly grateful for the foundation I have been able to build, and send many thanks to everyone at the Ashram.
The direction I will take after this master’s program is still unclear to me. I feel compelled to work with marginalized communities on environmental disputes and/or focus on education reform.
- Father-Son Connections in the Yoga Development Course March 29, 2017Robert Fincati and Christopher Starr have a unique father-son bond from shared experiences of the Ashram and the three-month Yoga Development Course (YDC). Six-year-old Christopher lived here while Robert took his YDC in 1996. They spoke together while Robert visited Christopher mid-way through his 2017 three-month course.
“Now I’m the small one – he’s taller than me,” laughs Robert, remembering his own YDC experience in 1996 where, in addition to the fullness of the course, Robert took his son to the local school every day and tucked him into bed each night.
“Caring for Christopher was my practice, which became really important. The YDC had a huge impact on my relationship with him,” he adds.
“This time period was incredibly significant,” says Robert. “Many nights at satsang Christopher would fall asleep to the chanting of Hari Om. I just knew that in the Temple, many seeds were being set within him.”
Christopher has only vague memories of that time. “I have a very fond feeling about it,” he says. “As a kid I had a feeling there was something sincere about the people who were here; that really stayed with me.” When he returned a few years ago, he realized he wanted to take the YDC “sooner rather than later.”
“My father doing practices and being influenced by the Ashram teachings had a significant impact on my life,” Christopher adds. “It implanted this idea within me that there was more to life. Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, that wasn’t always apparent.”
“When Christopher and I are together, I feel we have a wonderful connection,” says Robert. “The honest communication from the Ashram has carried with both of us. We have a kind of genuine curiosity for each other’s perspective on things.”
- Surprises in the 48th Yoga Development Course January 30, 2017
The 48th Yoga Development Course (YDC) began on January 9 with 23 participants from six countries. Leigh Cole from Toronto and Karin Shell from Whitehorse, who have known each other since they were teenagers, reflect on unexpectedly seeing each other in the course.
“It felt like a dream,” says Karin. “I looked over and thought that looks a lot like Leigh Cole. You must be a bit tired, Karin.”
“I’d never been so surprised in my life,” says Leigh. “It was at the beginning of a Hatha class since Karin was late to the course, and I had to wait for two hours before I could go over and throw my arms around her.”
They met at 1975 in Carcross Community Education Centre, a spiritual community in the Yukon. Over the years they ran a business together, lived in a tipi in the bush over the winter and reconnected at a reunion in Carcross in 2014. There they found out each had been to the Ashram — Karin for a 10 Days of Yoga and Leigh for a Karma Yoga Retreat.
“I really appreciate having Karin here as a reality check for me,” says Leigh. “We’ve shared important parts of our lives and now we get to share this.”
“Being here together creates some integration,” says Karin. “At the beginning of our lives—at 17 and 19 — we were searching, looking for change. Being here now is a continuation of that exploration. When I saw Leigh it was an affirmation I was in the right place. I’d been concerned because I was late arriving and wondering if this was the right thing for me right now. Divine Mother got us both here and now I know this is where I need to be.”
- Musical Renewal Through YDC – Kathleen Wood June 16, 2016
- Yoga Development Course 2016 Begins February 24, 2016
A wonderful blend of twenty-one participants came together on January 8 to begin their three-month journey of self-inquiry through the Yoga Development Course (YDC). Our community of teachers and karma yogis welcomed them with words of encouragement and support. We listened to their inspiring stories of the knowing and synchronicities that brought them to the Ashram for healing and growth at this time.
Natalie Chromec of Sweden said a previous one-month Ashram stay turned her life around. “For the last four years I’ve been working really hard to come back. I want to become a better me.” Jane Aldiss of England related, “I’ve studied and worked for a long time and don’t feel I can go any further by myself. By coming here, I’m getting the support I need to progress in my life and be of more benefit to others.” Lisa Sadleir-Hart of Alaska reflected, “I have a deep connection with earth justice and spiritual life and feel I need to strengthen myself to do the hard work that I know I’ll be called to do.”
Now in its 47th year, the YDC continues to attract a diverse group of seekers. This year’s participants travelled from Scotland, England, Sweden, the United States and across Canada to gain powerful tools for transforming and enhancing life. Seven are brand new to the Ashram; three were interns last year and three participated in our Young Adult Program. Another three – all Yasodhara Yoga teachers – are taking the course for the second time.
Consider the YDC 2017 for your own personal and spiritual development. The 10 Days of Yoga, offered in May, July, August and October 2016, is a great first step toward this amazing journey of self-discovery and renewal.
- Constructing a New Life After the YDC January 28, 2016
Greg Shkuratoff returned to the Ashram in early January to mark the one-year anniversary of his entry into the 2015 Yoga Development Course (YDC). He reflects on the changes it is making in his life.
I work in the construction industry, and emotions can run high when the pressure is on. Before taking the YDC, there was a point where I couldn’t handle the environment and the stresses. The YDC came forward and I thought it would be the perfect foundation to help me navigate the stormy seas of the construction line of work.
I use the Ashram’s yoga tools – like bringing in the Light – to keep me centred. Then I can see with the eyes of compassion and better understand what someone’s day has been like; have the courage to ask questions rather than assume; be confident and clear about what I need.
My company just finished a high profile job in Minneapolis. I had a new task that was a pivotal part of the project and I was able to do it correctly. I would silently chant Om Namah Sivaya; I even wrote the mantra on a beam! I was able to communicate with my team and keep a positive attitude that brought a flow throughout the project. We finished my part of the project one month ahead of schedule.
On top of that, I was given the opportunity to lead morning stretches with the crews, putting my Yasodhara Hatha Yoga teacher training into action. Stretching exercises were mandatory on the jobsite, as a way to prevent injury. Even the ironworkers were open to it! This helped bond everyone together. We stood at the worksite in a circle together, clearing the energy.
Back here at the Ashram, I can feel the feminine energy. Spinning a bit of that feminine energy into the construction work – kind of softening the work because of my own attitude – helped everything go so much smoother. My crew had more women than most – seven out of 25 – which was positive.
I used the Light if there was anything on my mind after work too – to give it up and not hang on, knowing the Divine was helping me on my path. This was different than years past when I carried the burden of stresses all the time.
I feel there are parts of me being refined. The YDC’s self-image workshop brought forward my confidence and ability to move more freely in the world. Challenges come and I feel I have the tools to meet them with grace.
Outside of work, I’m attracting people into my life that feel the same things.
I have a lot of gratitude for this sacred space and hope the Ashram keeps growing and stays fertile for years to come. I hiked up into the cedar forest – my special spot during the YDC – and it felt so good to be there. I’m wishing the best for the 2016 YDC participants!
- Diving Deeply Within: The Yoga Development Course August 20, 2015
Pictured here are six Yoga Development Course (YDC) 2015 graduates who took up our offer to stay on after the course. Karla Fuhr (front, right) speaks of her learning in the YDC and after.
I think I’ll always look at my life as “before the YDC” and “after the YDC.” The course was intense but in a gentle manner. Through the teachings I learned to find my own answers, what is meaningful for me.
The YDC offered me an opportunity to dive deeply within, to get really clear about myself and to be able to express it without getting caught in emotions. That’s a huge development. My relationships, especially with family members, are more honest. We approach each other at a more authentic level rather than from our roles.
Also the relationships within our YDC group were special. We learned so much about the truth of each other. The value of listening and being listened to is incredible. And we were supported and held by our teachers and by the community, which contributed to my breakthroughs.
Staying on at the Ashram after the course, I experience the same kinds of situations as I would outside, but here I can go a little deeper because everyone supports my growth.
I would encourage anyone to do the YDC. It’s a gift to yourself – transformational in a very positive way that expands and enhances life.
Our next YDC begins January 8, 2016. Read more about the Yoga Development Course and the follow-up five-month option.
- YDC Before & After Portraits April 24, 2015
By Amy Allcock
During the Yoga Development Course (YDC), participants spend three months working on themselves. As someone who has both participated and taught in this course, I know that change occurs on multiple levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. As a photographer I was curious: Does the inner change that happens also appear externally? What is the nature of the observable changes? How does internal transformation manifest or present itself externally?
Inspired by a similar project, I photographed participants during the first and last week of the course. Keeping the setup identical – using the same camera and lighting gear with the same settings in the same positions – the intent was to remove as many variables as possible to document the visible changes in the participants. The same process was followed as each participant sat for their portrait, including repeating the Divine Light Invocation mantra together before the photo was taken.
During the image selection process, I tried to match their expression between the two photos to ensure consistency.
The photos were used at the end of the course as a tool for reflection. Participants were given their photos and asked to reflect on what changes they observed and if they see themselves differently. Many participants commented on how much lighter, brighter, relaxed and open they looked and felt.
Let us know what you think about the photos in the comments below. What do you see?
A photo from the “After” photo shoot:
About the Photographer
Amy Allcock is a karma yogi currently living and teaching at Yasodhara Ashram. Passionate about the transformative power of yoga and Swami Radha’s teachings, she supports communications at the Ashram.
- The Camera Speaks April 20, 2015
A new program addition to the YDC this year revealed the transformative power of the course in a unique way. The Ashram’s photographer-communicator Amy Allcock captured participants in before-and-after photographs that speak for themselves.
Amy reflects on her project initiative. “During the YDC, transformation occurs on multiple levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – and it raises interesting questions for me as a photographer: Does the inner change that happens also appear externally? What is the nature of the observable changes? How does transformation manifest or present itself?” To explore these questions, she photographed participants during the first week of the course and again in the final week.
Her take on the experiment? “The camera certainly picks up the changes. There is a new lightness in everyone. It is reflected mostly in the eyes.” Amy presented an overview of the project in a fascinating Lunch-and-Learn at the Ashram.
See for yourself by clicking on each photograph in the panel above. You’ll learn more about the project and view the before-and-after sets of photos of sixteen participants who agreed to have their photos posted online. We can all celebrate this renewed Light going out into the world!
- Partners Embrace the YDC April 20, 2015
The Yoga Development Course was a dream of Nicole’s and I supported her participation.
After the first month I visited her at the Ashram and recognized there was a purpose here for me as well. I was open to the teachings and found they helped me with my work situation. I also started going inward, reflecting and taking a look at what our relationship means to me.
In the second month, I came back to the Ashram for the Relaxation Retreat, which opened me up to ways I could improve and love myself more. So it’s been a three-month course for me, too, with a lot more self-reflection than I could ever have imagined.
Many people might feel threatened if their partner decides to take the YDC. But my experience is that when you spend time apart, you actually grow closer together. You begin to recognize what’s missing when that person is not in your life and to value your partner even more.
If anyone out there is questioning whether this will work for you, I would say just embrace it fully. It will bring unexpected and wonderful outcomes.
- Turning Symbols Upside Down April 20, 2015
Life Seals, one of Swami Radha’s original self-development courses, is offered twice this year, May 8 and July 27. Clare Bateson describes how one of the 27 symbols she drew in her Life Seals course in the Yoga Development Course (YDC) started to come to life and bring new insight.
I put my Life Seals up on my wall and applied every new practice we learned in the YDC to it. I realized symbolism is both universal and deeply personal.
One seal was quiet for the first couple of months but spoke to me when I “headstanded” it and took a fresh, upside-down look. I had drawn it to represent the positive quality of being hard-working. It originally looked like a snowplow and brought the word “horsepower” to mind. Upside down, it became a sailboat.
This perception came at the end of a three-month process in the YDC of learning to be kinder to myself. I realized that not only has my approach to “hard work” become softer and more sustainable, but my own efforts are being supported and carried forward by something else less tangible. What a gift from my subconscious!
- One Woman’s Journey to the YDC November 20, 2014
Char Mustard of Peterborough, Ontario returned to Yasodhara Ashram this summer to start a one-year residency that includes Karma Yoga and participation for a second time in the Yoga Development Course (YDC).
After my first YDC and teacher training, a resident said, “Make sure you start teaching as soon as you get home.” I did just that – first in the church basement, then my farmhouse attic, and most recently at my in-town home.
Last year, when I stated my intention to repeat the YDC, everything fell into place. My son Luke and daughter-in-law Margo – both Yasodhara teachers – stepped forward to look after my Hatha classes and household. I decided to drive across the country to challenge my idea of security and to see this precious land. My courage grew each day of the trip as my faith deepened.
Now as I do Karma Yoga in the Preserving Kitchen and office, teaching and offering satsangs, Divine Mother constantly confirms my decision. I’m entering the YDC with an open mind and a feeling that I’ll be moving closer to my human potential while stepping up to a life of service.
Contact us for more information or to register if you would like to join Char and others on the YDC journey.
- Creativity After the YDC, Karen Pheasant April 25, 2013
It has been nine years since my departure from the Yoga Development Course. Writing every day in the YDC instilled confidence in me as a First Nations, particularly as a first generation English speaker whose parents are residential school survivors. Since 2004 this confidence helped me complete an English Literature BA and to write my first book about the grandmothers who taught me the dance that I share as a Jingle Dress dancer. The inspiration to write our women’s stories came during one of my satsang moments.
Currently I live and work in Edmonton, which has the second highest rate of Aboriginal population in Canada. I work at the school with the highest population of Aboriginal students. When I was hired, the school administrator let me know that regardless of the accolades on my resume, it was the YDC training that captured her interest in retaining me.
I have been truly blessed to be with over 300 children from K-6, who now know the Mountain pose, Cat pose, Eagle pose and other asanas. My care for these students brought me back to the Ashram for spring rejuvenation-to recall that creativity spirit so I can continue my study with the same devotion.
- Checking in with the Yoga Development Course – What is emerging? February 25, 2013
The YDC group is now six weeks into their personal journey through a series of workshops. We asked two participants, Rubina Jamal and Amy Allcock, “What is significant for you at the end of your first six weeks?”
Rubina Jamal, Vancouver
“I’ve discovered an awareness of the quality of my experience when I put my whole heart into what I do. This focus on my whole heart has shown me where the negative voices are in my life, where I hold back. My victories are those moments where my whole heart is present – no matter the outcome – versus the traditional and conventional success checklist. I sense my opportunity to move forward lies in being aware of and understanding my willingness – and moments of reluctance – to bring my whole heart to all that I do.”
Amy Allcock, Ottawa
“At a certain moment, I realized that the value I place on my practical masculine qualities such as intellect, organization, etc. had essentially suppressed the gift of my feminine qualities. As I allow receptivity, openness, intuition, patience, trust and acceptance to enter, my experience has shifted to one where I want to honour what comes up and not judge it. An example of this has been my experience with Sacred Dance. When I approach Sacred Dance from a logical, mind- place, the experience is not fulfilling. But when I am open and receptive, my experience flows and I enjoy it! I am discovering a different way to be in the world.”
If you’d like to take 3 months to concentrate on your development, sign up for the 2014 YDC scheduled for January 8th – April 8, 2014.