Amanda Parker Lambert begins each weekly Human Being Training yoga class at the Recreation Center by writing an idea or mantra on the small whiteboard behind her.
Sometimes, the Human Being Training founder comes to class with one in mind. Other times, she will ask students what has been on their minds lately.
This week’s mantra was based on a student’s suggestion: “I don’t know, and that’s okay.” Throughout different yoga poses and exercises, Parker Lambert reminded her students of this mantra. During shavasana, a well-known final resting yoga pose, she spoke to her students with this theme in mind. She calls these her “shavasana talks.”
“It’s funny — students seem to feel the same way about it as I do,” Parker Lambert said. “The most common comment I get after class is ‘You just made my week,’ and I feel the same way. I look forward to this all week. In some ways, I get ready for it all week. I’m always human being training myself, but when I get to come together with students to share it, that makes my week.”
For Parker Lambert, human being training can be difficult to describe. It’s not just yoga; it’s also philosophy. Sometimes, she incorporates exercises from her experience in Muay Thai or from her first-degree black belt in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu. Sometimes, it’s a dance party.
“It’s a yoga-based, music-fueled journey of self-discovery. It’s fun. It’s whimsical. Sometimes it’s profound; sometimes it’s profane,” Parker Lambert said. “ I call it yoga so the public can relate to it. But really, it’s an adventure in movement.”
It all started in 2012 after what she described as her “big awakening” in life. It came after rock bottom.
“At about age 46, I was in a place where I didn’t feel like life was fun anymore,” Parker Lambert said.
Depression and insomnia had lingered for years. She forgot what joy felt like. She had recently moved to the Central Coast, where she met a new friend who introduced her to the ideas of writer and philosopher Alan Watts.
In about a week’s time, Parker Lambert’s way of thinking was transformed.
“I basically learned not to take myself so fucking seriously. Or life, for that matter,” Parker Lambert said. “I talk about this a lot in my class— where you’re so serious about life that you have to laugh at yourself and realize that you’re going to die one day. And what are you doing in the meantime? Let’s have some fun and not get so bound up in the ego and what other people think of us and what we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing.”
After this realization, Parker Lambert felt joy for the first time. She decided that if she had benefited so much from this new way of thinking, there must be others who could benefit from it too.
“[Human Being Training] was less of a business idea and more of an overflowing of the joy I was feeling and wanting to share that with others who I saw struggling with the same things I had been suffering from,” Parker Lambert said.
She first started a website writing about the philosophy behind her idea of “human being training.” She had been teaching yoga since 2004, but it wasn’t until 2012 that she combined her human being training ideas with her yoga classes. The first Human Being Training yoga class was in Studio 2 at the Recreation Center at Cal Poly.
“I’ve discovered that when I can get people sweaty and tired and dancing and happy and doing something different than usual, then they’re usually willing to listen to new ideas,” Parker Lambert said.
Biological sciences alum Lili Gevorkian met Parker Lambert as a student when Human Being Training just began. She was the first student to introduce herself to Parker Lambert.
“Her blunt and genuine presence was refreshing, and her physical challenges were painful, yet transformative,” Gevorkian said. “[Human Being Training] has created a community that will certainly continue growing.”
On Saturday, Parker Lambert hosted her first Human Being Training yoga class outside of Studio 2, expanding the practice beyond the Cal Poly community. The public gathered at SLO Yoga Center at 5 p.m. for “Saturday Night Love,” a donation-based class.
Parker Lambert said she sees potential in the growth of the community. She said Human Being Training is not just for college students.
“Everybody needs this. I need this. Everybody needs a reminder of how to return to their natural state of joyfulness,” Lambert said. “Daily life is really hard if you don’t understand the tricks of how to play the game, and how to think in a new way that makes everything you do a source of joy or inspiration.”
Human Being Training yoga will continue at Cal Poly on Thursday nights, an opportunity for students to practice mind-body health and try a different kind of yoga.
“The class was a lot more free form and lighthearted than traditional yoga classes,” biological sciences senior Elliot Kirk said. “Amanda would add her own flair to classic yoga techniques and that made it truly unique.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Parker Lambert had a black belt in Muay Thai. This has been corrected to a first degree black belt in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.