A joint venture of teaching between Atma Okan, Sankalpananda and Swami Premajyoti Saraswati. Here they share insight into their journey of collaboration.
In 2009, the early days of Ashram Yoga's Ohui Retreat, Swami Premajyoti and Sankalpananda trained in advanced yoga and yoga therapy with Swami Shantimurti and Atma. They have been rich contributors to Ashram Yoga's teacher trainings, retreats and workshops over the years. The three of them connected in early 2021, from diverse backgrounds, areas of expertise and places on the planet. This fostered the Ashram at Home collaboration which they now share online through masterclasses and workshops in ancient yogic wisdom and teachings.
What are the key elements for collaboration?
Atma: The key element is Humility. Humility to show up as you are, to work openly alongside others and stay true to the purpose of the collaboration. This sense of humility is empowering because it’s what allows us to learn from each other. And we know that collaboration is one of the most powerful forms of professional learning. Listening is another key element I continue to refine and practice. It requires more commitment and again humility, plus it strengthens the support and understanding we have for one another. To know I’m being listened to with full attention also inspires more intention behind my words and more thought into contributions I make. This creates an exciting and incredibly enriching environment to work in.
Sankalpananda: I feel the best collaborations are based on mutual respect. A feeling of equality. That what everyone brings to the table is enriching the collaborative project. I Iove that I have a sense of awe and am inspired by those I am in collaboration with.
Premajyoti: I feel that collaboration in the sharing of Yoga and Meditation, in particular, requires a combination of mutual respect, honesty, a commitment to clarity and open communication where each person's ideas and perspectives are heard, considered and valued. Frequent communication, whether it's directly about the topics of the collaboration or just to nurture connection and support each other's growth is also a key element.
What is a successful collaboration based on?
Atma: It’s foundations which in relation to this collaboration, have been gradually developed and allowed to strengthen with no expectation of an outcome. When a natural alignment and trust developed, creating workshops and classes together had an ease and grace, whereby our efforts and energy could be used for this purpose to not mitigate underlying tensions or discord.
Sankalpananda: As mentioned, trust, communication, respect, collective gifts, united vision, complementary strengths and challenges, regular connection, and passion for what is being offered or created.
Premajyoti: Fundamentally, I believe it's based on great relationships, respect, shared intention, clarity, a spirit of 'non-competition', good structure - that also allows space for natural evolution, and a true love of the material, topic or product of the collaboration. Feeling led and guided into the connection rather than trying to manufacture something is also something that fosters success. Stepping into the collaboration gradually, if possible, really supports its strength. Choosing the people you work with wisely is most important. I feel that stand-out collaborations often have an unquantifiable chemistry. It's a vibe!
What are the benefits of working in a collaborative environment?
Atma: When working with yoga, it can get idealistic or fantastical. I appreciate that we keep each other grounded and at the same time expansive in what we are offering, alongside sparking each others creativity. Like doing a regular sadhana, it draws out strengths, awareness and wisdom.
Sankalpananda: I love that it helps keep the momentum going. We draw out the best in each other. I often find I have ideas and inspirations that I am unlikely to get on my own. It is so powerful to bounce off each other. Naturally, all parties bring their brilliance and unique gifts, which makes for a truly magical melting pot of minds and energies.
Premajyoti: When it flows well, as the Ashram at Home Collaboration does, I feel one of the biggest benefits is building divine energy together in support of the broader contribution of yoga to life and in communities. Collaboration allows for a spark that is not always so easy to ignite when we work alone. It creates great pathways for more exponential growth and new ideas to blossom.
How have we built trust and connection in our collaboration?
Atma: Open communication is how we have built trust. When trust is in place we become stronger and believe in each others integrity and strengths. We feel safe with each other and comfortable to open up.
Sankalpananda: Fantastic communication. A respectful place to speak, share, be heard and hear. One vital point is regular contact. Keeping the vision alive. Inspiring each other and sharing the vision.
Premajyoti: Through nurturing the relationships involved and sharing honestly as part of our communication. I feel privileging and nurturing the relationships along with the topics of collaboration has been a big contribution to trust. Also giving the relationships time to grow and blossom along the way - allowing the connections to evolve naturally. It may seem counterintuitive, but I also feel that not being too attached to outcomes and being spacious in the connection is also a way to support the collaboration - Always leaving space for Magic to Happen!
Can you share a challenge you've come across in your collaboration and the way you overcame it?
Atma: Being stretched and encouraged out of my comfort zone within the knowledge and experience of teaching yoga. There is not an urge to overcome this, more a gratitude for the support that exists in the collaboration to move through it and assist each other in the learning and understanding that is required to deliver with a sense of trust in oneself and the yoga.
Sankalpananda: I haven’t really felt a challenge with this particular collaboration, other than sometimes time commitment can be an issue. I have had challenges in other collaborations. Sometimes feeling that the contribution offered wasn’t equal or that one or two of the parties are bringing ‘more to the table’. However, it is always resolved with ease through open and honest communication and assessment of overall benefits.
Premajyoit: One challenge that sometimes comes my way in collaboration is to make sure I don't lose sight of how valuable it is to spend time meeting face to face with my fellow collaborators. I easily drift towards being very task oriented and I can sometimes tell myself I don't really have time to meet so often. I keep overcoming this with the help and divinity of my partners in the process - who consistently demonstrate to me how valuable it is to spend time with them. I come away from each and every meeting inspired and uplifted, personally and 'professionally'. It is an investment, not an expense to meet, and I try to take note of this as much as I can.
What drew you into the Ashram at home Collaboration?
Atma: Letting go of a big chapter in life and finding I had the space to connect with two amazing yogini’s on a level I hadn’t before. It was a nice surprise, like opening a wonderful gift. The timing felt very supportive as did our shared humour, life experience and ability to connect in a real way.
Sankalpananda: It was a wonderful opportunity to co-create with people I admire greatly. Sharing something we are all passionate about. An opportunity to delve deeper into areas of interest through the preparation phase and regular meetings.
Premajyoti: I was originally guided by inspiration to connect more regularly with Atma and Sankalpananda in a satsang capacity. To 'be in the company of the wise' builds energy and supports growth and expansion. It also fuels and supports how we can be of service to others through Yoga. Once we began sharing again about life, Yoga and our more individual paths, we noticed how enriching this was. It then became clear that we should start offering classes together.
What are your top two tips for collaboration in yoga and why?
Share knowledge. It has been invaluable to partake in each others classes, workshops or teachings outside of what we present together. It enhances the respect we have for one another and I find it incredibly inspiring. It also supports a seamless experience when we teach together.
Listen. Active listening is inclusive, helps expand ones perspective and keeps discussions open.
Respect. I feel having admiration and or respect for the people you are collaborating with is key.
Communication. Staying open and clear about the end goal and what each person's contribution is along the way.
Premajyoti: My tips - of equal importance, are:
Make sure you feel an energetic alignment with anyone you are considering collaborating with. If the teachings or teachers come from streams of knowledge or practice that are not harmonious, no matter how much you like or admire each other on a personal level, the ongoing true depth of alignment required to share Yogic and Meditative practice in all of its beauty and power can be very difficult to achieve.
Stay open to evolution. This involves not getting too attached to any one idea. Keep your dialogue creative and open until it is obvious that the hearts and minds of those involved are settled with one way forward. This is most important when drawing through a new idea. It is not the same as being wishy-washy about planning and commitment. Clear planning and commitment are vital once an idea is settled upon. Being spacious at the creative phase of a project is really important to let the right idea at the right time reveal and develop its own chemistry, and in turn - its own magic.
Atma currently resides in Napier, New Zealand with her family where she continues to teach yoga and build workshops and trainings for Ashram Yoga.
Swami Premajyoti spent time living at Ashram Yoga's Ohui Retreat, teaching on retreats and teacher trainings, and leading workshops. She is currently serving at Yogini Ashram, and lives between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree in California, USA. She teaches classes, workshops and teacher trainings with their primary roots in Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Saiva Sidhanta and Classical Tantra. In 2020, she co-founded the Kriya Tantra Institute online learning platform with Swami Ayyappa of Yogini Ashram.
Sankalpananda's strong background in fitness industry lead her to teach anatomy on our teacher trainings and through her business Prana Bar, you will find her hosting an array of workshops and retreats as well as coaching human potential programs based on yoga, biohacking, mindset and youngering. She is currently based in Mt Maunganui, New Zealand.
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