Apr 27, 2015

Swan School .... An offering for Spirits to Soar

Shastras for Swans

Saraswati, the Swan and Superluminal service.

Swan School, An Offering for Spirits to Soar
 Our Swan School, erected in 2007, soon approaches and soars for take off into the sky.  Please enjoy an overview of it's teachings, the "Shastras" that will take place over the course of a 7 month period. The very first Yoga Teacher Training ever in New Orleans, It has inspired over 200 plus beings to participate thus far and the sweet swan Sanga continues to grow, to feel immaculate and to further spread luster and radiance. Whether for personal growth, to brake chains, to move your life forward or to teach yoga classes and serve your community, your "Sankalpa", intention, will activate your surroundings and you too will naturally liberate whomever you meet.

Inspiration and Invocations:

Mantra: So Ham. I am That.  This is the Swan Song.
When a mirror is held up to it, it reads "Hamsa", the Swan, the reflection back.

The Goddess Saraswati, the Sky and pearl white river muse of music and learning, may your bless and Grace our Swan School Teacher Training so that we might more optimally serve the Great and Cosmic ways. Like the nadis of individual consciousness flowing through us, may we bathe with refined eloquence and Grace in places that do not yet swim in Real knowledge. 

Just like the Ganga River is considered the Supreme Shakti consciousness of the world, we too honor the The Mississippi, The Sushumna of our continent in North America and our very own super highway of light within us, as all rivers are channelling and being lead back to the great Mother Ocean and her Divine nectar of Amritaa.

As an aspiring Swan, “Hamsa” in Sanskrit, the vehicle of Saraswati, may I too have personal vows and loyalties to serving with the eloquence of my voice and the Vishhudha Chakra, the medium of a teacher, free of idle chatter or demising gossip so that my teachings resonate with crystal clarity. Like the long throat of a Swan, may I too rise up in wise and bold beauty, swimming  and serving actively in Maya but never bound by mixed motives, emotions, delusions, the need for credit, for attention or pride. Naturally residing in my beauty, may others feel inspired by my presence and moved to actively swim and bathe in their purpose and true Light also, which is always beautiful and never mixed or stained with selfish purposes.

So ham…. I am That, unconditioned, deprogrammed and eternally Superluminal, beyond even light, sound, faster than the concept of velocity to serve, I am boundless and free of the discriminations of the mind while still honoring the discernment and imagination of both of my minds in unification.

So ham is the seed mantra for the throat and related to the Swan. Hamsa is the reflection back to the Divine of our commitment to re-member the Whole by honoring the parts and serving them. So Ham. HamSa. I am That.

Just as a star in the constellation of the sky, may these teachings contribute to lighting up the Whole in remembrance of the Holy in all of the many parts.
May these teachings and readiness to serve inspire, illuminate, spark and shed light in radical radiance as a part of a constellation helping to light up the Sky.

A Swan in the making....A history of Swan School...
Swan School was inspired from the ashes of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and begin 2 years later in 2007. Each year, numerous beings from around the Gulf Region have attended (over 200 to date) and graduated in hopes to better serve their personal purpose, enrich their lives and serve their communities. Swan School was the first Yoga Teacher Training to ever seed itself in New Orleans. Co-directed by Michelle Baker and directed by Grace, this primary purpose of Swan School is to create and activate the importance of Satsang, building and developing like hearted family and relationships in our lives and then to serve others with more of the same. Michelle Baker was a part of making Swan River Yoga Teacher Trainings legal in the state of LA and is committed to activating the dharma (purpose) of all beings that come her way.


Of primary importance in Swan School is that the teachings remain authentic and respected, offering all of the foundational components to what yoga really is in our modern lives. Yogis were historically considered radical beings, as in respecting the roots. The Bhagavad Gita also states that the very first attribute that is to be embodied as a “yogi” is courage. One must have valor and boldly drop all that one has been taught in any conditional way whatsoever to get the unveiling of the Truth.

For this reason, some key components to the teachings of this training are all of the primary “margas” or roads, namely Bhakti, Raja, Jnana, Nada, Hatha and Karma, or practices in devotion, meditation, the study of scriptures, sound, asana practice and service. Each of these paths will be studied, practiced and required to graduate from Swan School.The key books in this training come from the numerous influences and teachers in our family tree, as well as The Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras. The translation most common to yoga is “union”. We will practice the union of each path as a means to delve into the most important Union of all, the union to our Highest Self and to Grace. Very important to this training also are upholding integrity in everything that we do. Integration is yet another translation of yoga, stemming from the root integrity. The Swan School will be a purification process and is met to be integrated into our every day lives, diminishing separateness or mixed self serving motives within us. If you desire the Real deal yet want to be creative and honored for your diversity, this is the goal of Swan School and this is for and calling you. Our swan song is all about community (Satsang) and lifting one another up.

The word Apocalypse can be translated as “the uncovering”. It is stated that if you are even at all interested in the yogic teachings, then you have been a yogi for many lifetimes and may just now be remembering. Congratulations! You have been through so much to get here and now here you are, the luminous one is ready to be revealed after so much concealment.

What you will be TEACHING:
You will learn to boldly and skillfully experience and share Dharma talks, Devotional Mantra, Flow based asana with verbal alignment cues due to your anatomy, safety and therapeutic understanding, physical hands on assists, breathing exercises and meditation skills.

A Swan River Yoga Class by definition is: 
A unique creative fusion inspired by many backgrounds and  teachers. This class is open to all levels and will offer numerous choices for both the beginner and seasoned practitioner. Along with an artful flow-based sequence, specific detailed alignment attention will also be included to bring you a well-rounded, authentic experience of yoga.
Be ready to listen to traditional yogic teachings and personal story-telling, observe the mind in movement and meditation, bring awareness to the breath, sing mantras in Sanskrit and/or English, and optimize the body’s health in challenging physical poses using disciplined strength and flowing movement, with a dharmic theme tied throughout.
A Swan River Yoga class will always have the following:
Theme: a reference to the ancient and modern philosophy of yoga to inspire higher purpose (Jnana Yoga)
Song: mind-clearing mantra to set an elevated mood (Bhakti Yoga)
Physical asana: a flow-based (vinyasa) practice with emphasis on physical alignment and breath (Hatha Yoga)
Meditation and/or breathing exercises known as pranayama. (Raja Yoga)

                                                       Oldie but goody with Shri K. Pattabhi Jois in 1999.

The Family Tree of Guru/Disciple to which you are now connected:
Our personal family tree at Swan River Yoga due to personal initiations, certifications and chosen company at the feet of a Master of which you are a part include:
Swami Shivananda and his current lineage of Swami Swaroopananda,  Ram Dass (initiation in the Neem Karoli Baba lineage), Shri K. Pattabhi Jois ( the direct disciple of Krishnamacharya) and his grandson, Sarath Jois, Sharon Gannon and David Life of Jivamukti Yoga, Anusara Yoga teachings, Radhanath Swami of the ISKON movement ( International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Amma, the hugging Saint,  Jaya Shree, the Sanskrit scholar  and various Tibetan Buddhist lineages and teachers such as Geshe Michael Roach as well as numerous journeys and pilgrimages to India, The Motherland.


 Systems of Yoga: Pre-classcial Vedic Period, Advaita Vedanta, Classical, Buddhism and Modern day overview and history.
·       Family Tree: Profound influences that have shaped yoga as we know it today, as well as the very personal influences of this training and the background of the presenters, such as Ram Dass, Radhanath Swami, Sharon Gannon, David Life, Geshe Michael Roach,  Jaya Shree, and anonymous Sages.
·       Basic Sanskrit history, pronunciation and recitation teachings as per Manorama D’Avilia and Jaya Shree, both renowned teachers in the field of Sanskrit Studies. 
·       The Paths, or Margas, of Yoga: A major part of our training will be devoted to delving deeply into each of these Margas: BHAKTI, JNANA, RAJA, KARMA, NADA and HATHA yoga. These margas form the structure of a Swan River Yoga class. In BHAKTI, you will learn basic devotional rituals, basic harmonium skills, basic call and response chanting, getting comfortable with your voice, the art of vocalization, mantras, and the tenets of Bhakti such as Satsang, Shraddha, and Seva. In Jnana yoga, you will be required to give an appealing and affective dharma talk at the beginning of each class. The means to do this will be broken down. Every dharma talk will be based on the require readings. Discussions about how to transmit the teachings will take place in class. RAJA yoga will entail learning how to offer simple meditation techniques with mantra and japa. We will discuss the both importance of in-class meditation and personal daily meditation. KARMA yoga is often linked to Bhakti and included selfless service and being kind to others. NADA Yoga is the yoga of sound. We will invite you to play music in your classes if you wish and to honor the healing, transformational benefits of sound and healing vibration through the Nada Bramha.
·       YOGA MYTHOLOGY: learning the meaning and the stories of the various deities and their avatars that come from India and are often included in many of the Sanskrit chants.
·       ESOTERIC ANATOMY: Prana, the Koshas, and the Bandhas, The chakra system, including the nadis and the marmas.
·       AYURVEDA: Basic teachings on the constitutions, or doshas, and how this understanding can  give a teacher better comprehension about the students the teacher in order to better counsel them or prescribe for their daily habits, diet and tendencies.
·       ETHICS: Taking your seat as a teacher, upholding your role, finding your voice, remaining neutral, techniques in how to keep your energy clear and your reactions to students optimal, doing our best to never breed contempt, competition, insecurity and fear. Being a pillar in your community with harmonic leadership skills. The art of business in yoga, the yoga of money and your relationship to energy and money, upholding harmony in your community, even beyond your specific location, will be addressed.

                                The location for the Bali Indo Yoga Retreat 1 month course in Chandi Das.

·       HATHA Yoga: A major part of Swan River Teacher Training involves extensive work with asana. We will go through an the history of asana, practice memorizing the Sanskrit names and backgrounds of each pose (required to pass), differentiate between Gross form and Alignment, work on “Eagle Eye,” and staging from a micro personal level of each student as well as a global scale within the classroom. Michelle has created a “Holy Grail” Blueprint for Teaching that is a very useful guide for prioritizing and check-listing your efficacy. We will work on proper staging and demonstration of the poses in a classroom setting, and will break down into finite details the alignment of asana, moving safely. Included is a section on anatomical YOGA THERAPEUTICS.

·       ART of HANDS ON ASSISTS: Due to Michelle’s background in Jivamukti and Ashtanga, a great deal of guidance will be given in learning how to comfortably and effectively assist others verbally and physically. This is one of Michelle’s specialties. 
·    THE ART OF SEQUENCE: Learning creative, bold yet safe sequences that keep your classes fresh and new, finding your voice to do so, and shifting from poses safely with breath as the linking mechanism.
·       SPECIALTY CLASSES: Very basic introductions to Pre-Natal, Restorative Yoga, and teaching diverse populations in Beginners, Slow Flow, Rigorous, and Advanced Levels of Hatha Yoga classes.

Because of the nature of the background of Swan School, your REQUIRED READING for this training is:
Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon and David Life
The Journey Home by Radhanath Swami
Paths To God by Ram Dass ( with a suggestion to read a translation of the Bhagavad Gita beforehand)
Yoga Sutras translated by Geshe Michael Roach
  • written papers are required for these 4 books
The Anatomy Coloring Book * coloring this is required.

Suggested Reading for the purposes of Anatomical Understanding:
Yoga Therapy by Kelly Haas
Hatha Yoga Pradipika translated by BKS Iyengar
Yoga Mala by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois
*Any book by our above family tree teachers will highly benefit you.

Suggested listening to hear mantra, Sanskrit and kirtan recordings, a part of your requirement in a Swan River Yoga Class:
Jaya Shree Sanskrit scholar, Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Bhagavan Das, Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits, The Mayapuris, Bhakti Caravan.
Go to the Swan River Yoga Bhakti Club Channel with Michelle Baker on YouTube to view simple and live harmonium with mantras.

Suggested listening for good Dharma Talks, a part of your requirement in a Swan River Yoga Class found on Sound Cloud or YouTube:
Ram Dass, The Dalai Lama, Radhanath Swami, Sharon Gannon.

About your co-pilot, Swan Michelle Baker:
 Michelle Baker is the Founder and co-owner of Swan River Yoga, the director of the Swan River Yoga Teacher Training, member of the musical kirtan group Bhakti Caravan and a co-owner of Good Karma Prasad Cafe. She has been blessed with teaching yoga full time in New Orleans, the entire Gulf Region, NYC, the U.S. & internationally since 1998.

                           Swan Michelle dipping her feet into the Ganga River, the Sushumna of the world.

Her primary certifications are with Jivamukti Yoga, Anusara Yoga & Sivananda as well as being a student of Ashtanga in Mysore, India.  She is also a Reiki Level III Master and has a certification in Ayurvedic Thai Yoga Massage from Sudevi Kramer and from The Sunshine School in Thailand. She also takes numerous trips to India to learn the ecstatic in the form of mantra singing, harmonium & Sanskrit studies.

   Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of love and devotion and practiced by singing, dancing, ritual,art, serving & feeding others is her main path of passion. She is a member of the mantra group Bhakti Caravan with many Krishna Devotees, leading vocals, dance, crystal bowl concerts & gong. She offers lessons in mantra & harmonium.

  She share's her teaching globally, beyond the U.S. to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Thailand, India and Indonesia.

  She honors all of the beings that have influenced her deeply & of whom she has studied with personally & extensively, including Ram Dass, Sharon Gannon, Radhanath Swami, Shri K Pattabhi Jois, Geshe Michael Roach, Jaya Shree, the trees, the ocean, the stars, the sentient beings, the humble ones around the world. It is deeply important to her to honor, live, share, uphold & celebrate the true, authentic teachings of yoga, which is our lives.

                   Photo: Kelly Haas, offering Asana Alignment, Asana Therapeutics, Contra-indications and safety.

Swan School Contributors:
The 3 key contributors of Swan School are Michelle Baker, John DeMahy and Kelly Haas.
Other assistants may include Keith Porteous, Tracey Duncan, Thomas Simms and all of the Swan graduates.

Just as a star in the constellation of the sky, may these teachings contribute to lighting up the Whole in remembrance of the Holy in all of the many parts.
May these teachings and readiness to serve inspire, illuminate, spark and shed light in radical radiance as a part of a constellation helping to light up the Sky.

                                   With Ram Dass, 2006. 

Swan School was erected in 2007. Welcome to the context of the starry teachings. Hari om, Michelle Baker.
  "May you too naturally liberate whomever you meet." Ram Dass

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