Jennifer Reis is a senior Kripalu Yoga teacher who has been leading yoga retreats and professional trainings since 1996.
Jennifer is an experienced Registered Yoga Teacher 500, and Professional Integrative Yoga Therapist. Jennifer’s teaching is informed from her skill and knowledge as a Shiatsu, Ayurveda, and licensed Massage Therapist. She teaches weekly yoga classes and R&R workshops at Kripalu Center for yoga and health, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where she has been on the faculty for the last decade. www.kripalu.org.
In this interview we chat about her trip to Australia to teach her 40 hour yoga teacher training in Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra.
Hi and welcome to Yoga Teacher Podcasts. I’m your host Bettina Mitchell, bringing you interviews with revered yoga teachers of our time. Get ready to inspire your inner guru.
Our guest today is Jennifer Reis. Jennifer is a senior Kripalu yoga teacher, who is been leading yoga retreats and professional training since 1996. She is an experienced registered yoga teacher and professional integrative yoga therapist. Jennifer’s teaching is informed by her skill and knowledge in Shiatsu, Ayurveda and as a licensed Massage Therapist. Jennifer teaches weekly yoga classes and workshops at the Kripalu Wellness Center in Stockbridge Massachusetts, where she is been on the faculty for the last a decade. Welcome Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today and welcome to Australia too.
Jennifer : Oh thank you so much.
Bettina: Is it your first trip to Australia?
Jennifer : This is my first trip to Australia, and I am coming back.
Bettina: Oh! Very good, have you enjoyed yourself?
Jennifer : It’s amazing. Yeah but it’s just I got a really warm welcome here, and everybody’s hearts are so open and I am really loving in here.
Bettina: Well excellent. You are born not in Massachusetts, you’re where born in Canada, weren’t you?
Jennifer : That’s right I am Canadian and I have been in the United states for eleven years at Kripalu.
Bettina: Okay. So when you are not travelling the world, teaching your programs, where do you live?
Jennifer : In Lenox Massachusetts so the next town over from where Kripalu center is.
Bettina: So you are here being hosted by the lovely Gena Kenny teaching your forty hour, Devine Sleep Yoga Nidra program. Can you tell us a little bit about your training program?
Jennifer : Sure, so it’s a forty hour teacher training. It doesn’t only, what I am trying to say is everybody can come. So it is you only have to be yoga teachers because everybody can do this training. We go very thoroughly the five koshers, which means the physical body, the energy body, and the mental emotional body. The wisdom witness body and the bliss body because that’s what Yoga Nidra is really based on, it’s essentially a meditation that is for each of these — a series of meditations really that come together to form the whole of divine sleep Yoga Nidra so its relaxes and heals a person’s all of those levels of being. [2:30]
Bettina: I’ve heard of Yoga Nidra before, the Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra is that something a little more unique?
Jennifer : Yes I would say it is, my history as an integrative yoga therapist, as well as an Aryuvedic and Shiatsu therapist, Kripalu yoga teacher, all of those things and elements come in to divine sleep yoga Nidra. Many of the various forms of Yoga Nidra that are popular these days, do not go into a visualization or journey or don’t do any sort of healing, like have a healing symbols that you would place in your body, that would heal you or healing through the different energy points in your body with a Mandala or healing rings of light and things like that or visualizations out into nature like a waterfall or to the ocean or things like that. So it’s a juicy form of yoga nidra. I would say it’s very colorful and artistic. My history before I was a yoga teacher, I was an artist in Canada and the States exhibiting nationally and so this really is also an art form as well as a therapy for people.
Bettina: Beautiful and who can benefit from the Yoga Nidra ?
Jennifer : Anyone with stress [Laughs] and actually everybody because it’s meditation. So if you think of who can benefit from meditation it’s everybody. It’s proven to improve health and wellness and it’s so really good time to for a person to go inward and really get in touch with their deeper levels and deeper layers. Also twenty minutes of Yoga Nidra is said to be equated to three hours of sleep at night. So for anyone who is missing out on any sleep or having insomnia it’s a practice that can help. Teach your nervous system how to relax again so that you can sleep, and also put you to sleep, that can put you to sleep. So I have three Yoga Nidra CDs Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra CDs. One of them has a track for insomnia. So I have lullabiedthousands of people to sleep thus far. And people are so grateful and thankful that they have a natural method to fall asleep to.
Bettina: That must be great too for people who are travelling, people who would busy working, and prefer not to sleep their lives away and just want to catch up on some rich refreshment I suppose, before they get back to work. So it’s not just about the people with high levels of stress it might be people you know, who just want to refresh themselves quickly well I imagine.
Jennifer : It’s very energizing much more energizing then a cup of coffee because you feel that in your adrenal glands at some point but Yoga Nidra is going to re charge you. These days we are so — we are using so many technological gadgets. And our senses are going outward all the time on — and we are hearing all of these mechanical and industrial sounds all the time. So, Yoga Nidra is an attempt to go inward and refresh your senses and connect deeply with yourself and it’s that sort of integrative time that we are really missing I think in our culture. It’s time to go inward and feel who am I right now. How do I — how is my mind and my emotions, how is my physical body, how is my energy. So it’s also a practice of awareness. There is nothing asked of you when you are practicing divine sleep Yoga Nidra except for to become aware and feel what’s already there. So we are not going in to meddle, we are not going in to change anything, we are not trying to transform or shift, that happens all on its own just by you become unaware of where you are at right now. It’s like the reset button that happens naturally just by becoming aware. It’s very powerful. [6:50]
Bettina: And did you get like of response from your teacher training here held here at Ohana Wellness Centre in Port Melbourne, you had fifteen people attend the training and what was their response? [7:10]
Jennifer : Oh they were amazed by it, they had no idea that the training will go to the depth, that it would and some people say oh a Yoga Nidra training that’s five days, what you are going to do with all that time. I really feel like it could be a 200 hundred hour teacher training. It definitely could be a two hundred hour teacher training. So they learned so many things I always teaching Mudras, so they learned a bunch of hand Mudras, with very powerful affirmations. And going through all the stages of a being there is just so much richness, there is so much depth to every layer, that I feel like it we could a have a lot more time to go into all of it. So the response was great they all want me to come back to do part two or something else, and they are really enthused about taking it out into the populations that they work with. So two of the women are massage therapist, they are going to combine it with their massage therapy practices. One of them does Lomi Lomi the Hawaiian massage. There is a women who works in the intensive care unit in a hospital, and so she envisions that she is going to be leading not only the people who have fallen unconscious or the people who are really intensely flipped out because they just they are there in the intensive care unit or the people that she has to give bad news to. But also that she has envisioned, that she will be leading the doctors and nurses. The people who are going to be effecting so many people. Who, when they come with a deep insensitivity to themselves and their patients, that it will be a very powerful thing that.
Bettina: That sounds like an amazing piece of work, I like to — I like to interview her. And see what and how the patients respond to that. I think it’s wonderful. So just a little bit tracking back a little bit your journey in yoga, how did you come about? What was your first yoga class and who inspired you who’s your teachers?
Jennifer : Well I would say I actually remember meditating in my crib. I remember that and then I mediated as a child for many years until I got to that stage where I don’t know if you can remember. But you start to look around and you notice, if you are fitting in or doing what everybody else is doing or if you are doing something different. And I realize that nobody else was doing what I was doing, nobody else was meditating I didnt know it was called meditation of course. I just thought it was this thing that I did, that wasn’t really appropriate for something. So I made a conscious decision to stop because it seemed socially inappropriate or whatever I don’t know. And then when I began art classes, I mean I was taking art all the way through the school, but in the high school we were drawing doing drawing on the right side of the brain, which was a very meditative style of drawing which was very similar to how it was meditating my eyes would follow the surface and patterns of things for hours there is a kind of meditation that’s Mandala meditation, where your eyes follow I think it’s from Tibet. So then I was able to meditate again, and it was very powerful. And that lead into becoming an artist and then my first yoga before I even did any yoga postures, I was lead through yoga nidra. And it was actually on an overnight bus trip with my art school down to San Francisco. And the bus driver lead us through Yoga Nidra to put us to sleep. And I touched places that in within myself, that I did not know existed. And it may, I was feeling very unconfident, about myself and my abilities at that time and when I did this Yoga Nidra I realized that I am so much more expansive and infinite then my personality. Then my like and dislikes. Then this small box, that I was living within. And it gave me a lot of confidence. And so it always stuck in my mind like wow what was that I need that. Shortly, after that I started doing Iyengar yoga in Vancouver. You see that was the only style of yoga and had a really wonderful teacher, and he would lead the Shavasanas very detailed, in a very detailed way. So feel your eyes like warm stones and butter, sinking and go through the body like that. So I was very amazed when eventually I became a yoga teacher at Kripalu center. And nobody guided anything in the Shavasanas. And it stuck in my mind that well I have got a bring Yoga Nidra and Kripalu yoga together because they go together so well and because also it was a special passion of mine. So I spend the next, you know, decade doing that.
Bettina: I would actually like to ask you about the Kripalu center, tell us a little bit about the Kripalu centre? [12.25]
Jennifer : The Kripalu centre in Stockbridge Massachusetts has been going on for many decades. I can’t remember if it’s been thirty years or fifty years. And It’s a style of yoga that is very reflective, meditative, based in energy and Prana. There is no set flow of postures. It’s very intuitive to practice. We follow our energy and our prana, and the teacher often does not what they are going to teach. They are really using their intuition it’s a very feminine flowing form of yoga. Of course there is also you know the regular Asana of the yoga, postures and a vibe finding out how much you get the energy going. Swami Kripalu actually was a Kundalini Master, not Kundalini registered trademark mark master. I mean he lived before that era. And Kripalu yoga was developed by one of his student Amar Desai from India, who brought it to North America, and it’s evolved and grown since then. So Kripalu centre is a center that offers a live Kripalu yoga, as well as has a school of yoga. So there is of 200 and 500 hours teacher training as well as the Kripalu school of Aryuveda. And also you can study with many, many other teachers there. That’s where I did my own integrative yoga therapy teacher training and now I am part of that faculty. I teach yoga therapy, and there are many international teachers, who come through. And the biggest teachers from Australia come up there as well Donna Farhi had in years past come, Mark Whitwell and Angela Farmer as well all the most well-known English speaking yoga teachers. [14:25]
Bettina: And it’s a quite a large center I understand from what you were telling me little bit earlier on. How many students do you think there you in here?
Jennifer : Well we calculated and this is a not a completely accurate, it’s probably this is on the low and we are probably see a lot more than fifteen thousand students a year in my classes.
Bettina: Well thats a lot of students.
Jennifer : It is a lot of students when I read that number I thought oh no wonder I feel tired today and I doesn’t always tire me out. It really energizes me as well but sometimes I do need a day away from there. So there is at least forty thousand people who visit Kripalu a year, and we can house about 750 people per night. The food is amazing, the location is incredible. It’s on a lake people fly from all over the place to come to — oh its really an incredible journey to be there. It’s changed my life it really has changed my life. It’s given my life so much focus and direction and a way to be a teacher and to be a student because I keep learning and growing. I am able to study, myself,15:46] there with all the best teachers, and also give back and share what I have learned and experienced with others.
Bettina: Is there at large faulty there?
Jennifer : There is a large faculty there yes, that’s true so we have our yoga teacher is that teach yoga, weekly yoga classes and workshops as well as we have incredible healing arts departments with many angels up there, they are on the top floor and it just like heaven up there. And I practice there as well for six years but not too busy with the teaching. I practiced Ayurvedic body work and shiatsu and massage and other things there.
Bettina: So is it a full time job at the center?
Jennifer : It’s full time.
Bettina: And so you are getting a way and to travel, you do actually travel quite a bit teaching don’t you.
Jennifer : I do, so it’s a matter of balancing between the two because I have obligations to both like them. [16:39]
Bettina: Actually I wanted to ask you about your living as a yoga teacher. I have done some interviews recently with some people to get a bit of perspective on getting right through yoga teachers and just a bit of insight into the business of yoga teaching. I see you and your husband travelling and that looks like the perfect way of, you know, the perfect life to be able teach yoga. And travel it’s obviously thousands of people would be inspiring to that, is it a good life?
Jennifer : It’s a wonderful life I really love it. Because I have a really nice home life. We have two German shepherds they are little angels. And so we have a nice domestic life and it’s very close to Kripalu and also we get to travel which is wonderful and meet all these amazing people from all over the world. In obvious different locations and it’s wonderful that in summer if you are right now because at home I just like two and half feet of snow or something like that. So yes I cant remember what I was answering exactly but yes it’s a good life.
Bettina: Is it a good life being a yoga teacher at this scale because I suppose, you know, some people choose to be yoga teacher as a part time thing they’ve got a full time career, and teach for years one or two classes as a week, and there some that are struggling they racing from school to school from one end of the town to the other end of the town to try and get five, six, seven, ten classes a week. What would your advice be for a younger teacher or teacher who wants to take this as a full time career? [18:27]
Jennifer : Well that’s really interesting I have been doing this full time for seventeen years, and I do yoga world has really changed since I was working like in a city in a particular location because in like Kripalu I can just do it all under one roof, which is really amazing I don’t have to go anywhere else. I have been asked to go different places in the community but I just don’t have the time. I don’t know if I have any advice because that’s not really how, like my situation is so different because I am at the centre and all these thousands of students come to — come there. So, I don’t know if I have any advice at all I am sorry. Because it’s a whole different rhythm when I first started teaching I was teaching in Toronto for four years and I was still explaining what yoga was and I am sure people are still needing to explain yoga because there is lot of miss perception, but really back then there was one yoga studio like in Toronto or may be two. And I am sure now there is one on each block.
Bettina: Yeah it’s certainly growing which is great for students because, you know, we all benefits so much from it. Where to now, what’s next for Jennifer Reis?
Jennifer : Well we are going to fly back home and I’ll be teaching at Kripalu center for couple of weeks and then we have a retreat in Mexico for a week which will be really nice. And there is a five element yoga teacher training have also developed, five element yoga which comes out of Aryuveda yoga therapy, Kripalu yoga and it’s a beautiful style of yoga that really helps people tune in with their five elements. So that’s coming up in the summer Kripalu and before that in the spring will be divine sleep teacher training which I also be leading in New Orleans and Boston, and some other locations as well. So pretty busy schedule of a rhythm of being at Kripalu and then being away for week or two and I am coming back for a month something like that. And so we are trying to space that out. My husband helps manage everything so we are just trying to have a livable rhythm that feels good.
Bettina: It sounds great, so how can people find out more about you and your — range of digital product CDs and so forth, how we find that information out?
Jennifer : So I have a web site www.jerriferreisyoga.com so there is ‘r’s’ there Jerriferreisyoga.com. And I send out a monthly very educational news letter which many of the people who receive have said this is an award winning news letter. So many people benefit from it I really see it is one of my teaching tools. I am an artist so It’s also very full of photographs and poems and it’s really one of those things that I do each month that I just love putting that out there. I always interview a student in a student spot light. So that’s a good way of if you look on a website in the top right-hand corner you can put your name in, and receive the monthly newsletter. I do have mp3’s and three Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra CDs have been extremely well received, by people there the three top selling CD’s at Kirpalu and always have been since that happened and also have a five element yoga CD which is movement or mp3 as well which is movement and a Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra at the end. So it’s postures, mudras and that so.
Bettina: Okay so we don’t have to just wait for you to return next year or whenever you are coming back. Have you got any idea when you will be back in Australia?
Jennifer : No not yet. We are hoping to organize perhaps the five element yoga teacher training which is another forty hour teacher training, which people do not have to be yoga teachers to do because you learn how to that do body or self care, body work tune into the elements for you. It’s about coming back into balance at all levels of being all elements. So and of course it seems as though Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra. We are planning on doing it may be in some other cities as well, as well as coming back to Ohana but nothing is set in stone yet just some talking about it.
Bettina: It’s good because I understand you attracted people from as far away as Western Australia to this training. So I’m sure they will be very keen to have it in their own hometown.
Bettina: Jennifer I just want to say thank very much. I will put in the show notes as I always do the links to our guest websites. Is there anything else that you would like to leave us with today?
Jennifer : Take time to rest and rejuvenate because it really is what helps turn on your self healing switch and bring into that relaxation response mode. So the easiest way that I found to do that with this Yoga Nidra. But take the time to rest and rejuvenate.
Bettina: That’s good advice. Well thank you very much Jennifer Reis thanks for being a guest on Yoga teacher Podcasts.
Jennifer : You are welcome. Bye
Bettina: Thank you for listening and I hope you enjoyed that interview with Jennifer Reis from Kripalu. It’s great to have international guests come and visit Australia. There are some great people out there, doing wonderful things, and I think Yoga Nidra in all its forms is a really wonderful therapy for people that might be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) or not sleeping well or they just want to have a recharge it’s great stuff in their busy lives. There is more to come if this is your first time listening to yoga teacher podcast thank you and welcome. There is plenty more at www.yogateacherpodcast.com. And if you have got any comments, if you have got any ideas if you want to be part of yoga teacher podcasts please send me an email or go on Facebook and leave your comments there. Well that’s me Bettina Mitchell wrapping up for another session. I have got lots more coming, I’ve got a really, really special guest coming up, Roma Blair who is one of the founding mothers of Yoga here in Australia. So that is a fabulous story please listen in and watch out for that one, you take care, stay inspired, and I’ll catch you next time bye for now.