Category: My Yoga Path

This posts are personal stories about my yoga journey

A personal story of challenges and wins of teaching yoga in Mandalay

Teaching Yoga in Mandalay: Difficulties and Joys

A personal story of challenges and wins of teaching yoga in a foreign countryAfter yoga teacher training in Bali and teaching yoga for a month in Nicaragua, I decided to return to Myanmar, which had been my home for 2 years already.  I missed the life I had there, but I was also determined to bring my new passion as a yoga teacher to my Mandalay world.  This post is about the wins and challenges of teaching yoga in Mandalay.

 

The Search for a Yoga Shala (Space)

Before I even went back to Mandalay, my friends told me about a new gym that opened in town, “a fancy one,” they said.  They were thrilled about the classes it provided and the caliber of the equipment and the space.  They encouraged me to get in touch with the owners to see if they needed any more yoga instructors (the local Myanmar staff had been given a short training by a guru who had flown in from India).  Unfortunately, the gym responded that they were fully staffed.

On arrival in Mandalay, my next plan was to find a space that I could borrow for yoga classes.  I posted in expat forums and asked around, but no one had any brilliant ideas.  There were a couple of leads that volunteered their hotel or hostel, but they didn’t follow through.

So I tried going door to door to the hotels in town to see if they had a vacant conference room or lawn space.  The receptionists mostly looked at me either like I was trying to scam them or like I was asking if we could do alien seance dances in gold unitards in the lobby.  They each gave me a resounding NO in turn.  I never got the chance to talk to a manager or owner.  I felt so small and so lost leaving most of the hotels.

Mandalay Hills Yoga Leggings and the Mandalay Hills (Myanmar)
Click to see the Mandalay Hills Yoga Leggings

Although I had really hoped to separate my kindergarten teaching/home-life (we lived on the school campus) from my yoga teaching, I realized a fantastic space was sitting right under my nose.  Or directly above my head, really: the roof of our apartment building.  It was a huge flat, empty tiled space.  It overlooked lush green rice paddies flowing into the distance until the landscape climbed into rows of mountains to the East.  The towns’ roofs and treetops to the North extended all the way to iconic Mandalay Hill.  The sun set over the roof and painted the clouds in pinks and golds everyday between 5:30 and 6:30 depending on the season.  Monks’ chants sometimes floated in on the breeze and migrating birds passed overhead in season.  What a perfectly serene and beautiful place for yoga!  I’m tearing up just thinking about it now that I’ve left again.

 

Rocky Beginnings with my Classes

I started out with donation-based classes.  I felt like I was too new to demand money for my class, which I regret in retrospect.  I wish I’d valued my knowledge right from the start.  In the end, it’s a matter of self-worth.  Teacher training wasn’t cheap and the 10+ years of practice I’ve put in to learning yoga myself wasn’t easy.  People asked what charity the money was going to, shocked to find out it was just for the lesson.

A personal story of challenges and wins of teaching yoga in a foreign country

I also wish I hadn’t given myself permission to start simply with flowing asanas, pranayama and meditations; I wish I’d gotten wild and weird right from the start with funky themes.  I found as I grew into theme-ing that I was more invested in the classes and ideas came to me more freely in relation to the concepts.

 

After a couple of months of weekly classes on the roof, I got an email from the fancy gym, Everfit.  They decided to expand their yoga offering and wanted me to come teach.  Myanmar style, they asked if I was free that very day for an interview.  I agreed and we chatted for 20-30 minutes.  They gave me a tour of the gym, asked briefly about my experience and gave me the job on the spot!

I was thrilled.  I started the next week.  I misunderstood how much they were going to pay me, which made for an awkward situation later.  I was also under the impression that there would be a translator working with me to assist with alignment cues, which was not true.  In spite of these misunderstandings, I pushed on with both classes.A personal story of challenges and wins of teaching yoga in a foreign country A personal story of challenges and wins of teaching yoga in a foreign country

 

Because I posted regularly about my weekly classes in an online expat forum, people started to recognize me from my thumbnail sized photo. When I met new people around town, they’d say “OH you’re the yoga teacher!” and tell me about how they’ve been meaning to come to the classes on the roof.  I became “the yoga teacher” instead of Katia.  But I guess that’s good PR!

 

Wins and Joys as a Yoga Teacher

On the roof

With my roof classes, it was fun to see new people come to yoga.  It was good to chat a little and get to know them before we started- feel out a little bit about their personality and their yoga experience.  I tried to remember names so I could thank them personally after class.  This practice helped boost my confidence.  I am used to 5-year old faces staring at me, but it’s harder for me to hold the space for adults, but I’m getting better.  Sometimes I’d use these facts together and try to calm everyone’s nerves with a little humor, saying “if you have any questions, feel free to shout them out at me at any time.  I also teach kindergarten.  Trust me, I’m used to it.”

A personal story of challenges and wins of teaching yoga in a foreign country
Click through to see our malas on Etsy

And people did shout out questions at me.  And I was surprised that I usually had good, meaningful answers.  It was fun to get into the nitty gritty of poses and talk yoga.  I also enjoyed talking through the alignments and seeing people move their bodies ever so slightly to better their pose.  It was also fun for me to try out some more advanced sequences when it was just me and some of the fab girls I knew could take it.

Toward the end, I added some funky themes and made people think about funny things.  I believe we all learned a bit more from that.

I stopped giving the classes a little before I left and I got some great feedback from some of my favorite students about my growth.  They also asked if there would be more sessions.  That was a boost for sure.

At Everfit

At Everfit they essentially left me alone to do what I pleased.  The owners touched base a couple of times about how many regulars I had and if I had any suggestions for the space.  I passed on some comments from the students too.

The classes were fun- a really unique and intense experience.  Often the yogis who came to class were new to yoga and English.  Sometimes men would grunt loudly as they tried to stretch their tight, tense gym bodies.  Sometimes people would face the back when I said come to the front and it might take a while to get them turned around.  There were some classic, epic mistakes and I tried hard to keep my composure and gently, cooly guide people into position and ideally bring them over to the zen side.

A personal story of challenges and wins of teaching yoga in a foreign country

I modeled a lot, even alignment cues, sometimes moving my body in to the wrong place so I could show how the yogis could move their bodies into proper position.  I’d say things like “bend the front leg” and simultaneously squat and lean a bit deeper, looking at my leg.  People got it! When they had uncertain looks, I smiled to encourage them and they smiled back.  It took a lot of attention and energy on my part to see the things that were going wrong and show motions that were active and vivid enough to make it clear what needed to be changed.  I felt like I was physically bridging the communication gap.

In this space I also learned about making the ambiance right.  I had to play with a loud air conditioner, an echo-y room, a sound system and my voice to find the perfect combination of noises to create a calm space where my calm cues could be heard.

Here I also learned to find the right level and the right number of asanas.  I was proud the first time I followed my plan from start to finish and it was right on the dot for timing.  I have practice with improvising a few minutes here or there from teaching kids- no problem!  But I was more proud to understand my audience well enough to make a perfect plan.

There were a few expats that came regularly too and I befriended them.  They came with smiles, a sense of certainty with the cues, deep questions and sometimes they even brought friends.

My last class at the gym was the most full I’d ever had.  Every mat was taken.  It was great way to go out.

Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala
See our malas on Etsy

In the End

I’m so happy to have pursued teaching yoga in Mandalay even when it seemed impossible.  I learned and grew a lot as a teacher and as a person.  I’m pleased to have shared my passion for yoga with so many others.  I am looking forward to moving on to a new place where hopefully I can take some more yoga classes myself and hopefully share the beauty of yoga.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links below, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]

YOGA with kids- fun practicing with 5 year olds

Yoga with kindergartners

Yoga with kindergarteners: funny and cute momentsIn the second semester, I decided to introduce yoga to my kindergarten students.  Once a week, I’d put on some calming guitar music from Youtube and my little darlings would say to each other, “today we will do yoo-guh!”  In this post, I want to share some of the funniest, sweetest moments of my practice with 5-year olds.

The first time they heard the guitar music, Jennica came up to me and said, “I want to sleep now.”  And I thought to myself perrrfect.  I also dimmed the lights.  I wanted to create a beautiful calm space, which is not exactly an energy kindergartners tend to embody.  In our Montessori class, some days we get there, but given the choice, they’d typically rather run, leap, spin, shout, and chase their friends.  (Read on below the video)

Striped Kids Yoga Leggings (for Matching Mommy and Me)
Click to see our kids’ yoga pants

We started out with basic pranayama breathing, simply watching the breath.  I had them sit up nice and tall.  I showed them how; I pulled my hand up from my head like there was a string attached and straightened my spine up into a tall seat simultaneously.  MawRein said, “do me!”  They thought it was magic, not muscle.

Then I asked them to close their eyes.  Lincoln peeked at me with one eye the whole time.  I told them to slowly, quietly breath in and out.  I said innn and ooout a couple of times watching to be sure they did, then also closed my eyes to breath.  Modeling is sometimes the best way to get them to keep doing what they’re supposed to.  Just as I was starting to relax into it, Patrick’s eyes snapped open and he shouted “FINISHED!”  I learned to say 10 breaths or more and emphasize quietly.

Next we talked about a cow’s big round belly and how a scared cat arches its back.  We did some cat/cow and made the animal sounds with the motions.

Yoga with kindergarteners: funny and cute moments

Later, outside of yoga time, I saw Vebeak on hands and knees saying to a friend, “and drop the belly down” just the way I say it. He’s an adorable yoga instructor.

When we did cobra, as they say “snake,” we looked around and talked about what snakes see.  Lincoln wiggled his body so he could move forward, slithering side to side clumsily.  It’s a comical challenge for them to stay in one space.

They liked to flap their leg-wings as butterflies and talk about “drinking the flowers.”  When we folded over our legs in butterfly, James said “so hurt.”  They didn’t know sore yet.  I told him to move his feet out a little and he went “ahh-hhh, so good!”

Matching Mommy and Me Hills Yoga Leggings
Click to see Mommy and Me yoga pants on Etsy

Their favorite pose by far was tree.  When ever we stood up, they would guess tree was coming next.  “Now, do the tree-pose?” (they said it as one word, not two)  They loved to wobble in the wind and sometimes hopped a little.

When we attempted triangle, one of the shorter boys struggled.  He looked at his friend and said, “because he is long he can do so nicely.”  He meant tall.

They also liked the idea of savasana: “now dead pose?” though they struggled to stay still, even for exactly 60 seconds.  They did like to be zombies coming back from the dead though as they made their way to the circle.  And they also loved to end with saying “na-ma-ste” and bowing to each other.  Their little hands pressed in anjali mudra were super cute.  I’m definitely going to miss yoga with kindergartners!

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links below, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]


YOGA with kids- fun practicing with 5 year olds

Yoga Trade Article on Teaching Yoga in Nicaragua; view over San Juan del Sur

Yoga Trade Article: First Time Yoga Instructor in Nicaragua

I’m happy to say that Yoga Trade published my article on teaching in Nicaragua.  Check it out!

First Time Yoga Instructor in Nicaragua

 

Also check out more from Katia Yoga in our Shop or on our Blog.

The longyi yoga pants are inspired by the beautiful fabrics of Myanmar. Soft fabric with 4-way stretch made in the USA. High waist and inner pocket.

Teaching Yoga in Nicaragua. A blog about a new yoga teacher's experience

Teaching Yoga in Nicaragua: a new yoga instructor’s experience

Teaching Yoga in Nicaragua. A blog about a new yoga teacher's experienceAfter signing up for yoga teacher training, I knew I wanted to make teaching yoga my LIFE… at least for a bit.  The stars strung together to offer me a perfect opportunity.

I had my eye on yogatrade.com for yoga teaching jobs.  I debated regularly if I should wait until after yoga teacher training or join immediately to start dreaming of my life in possible yoga teaching scenarios described on the site.  One day, I got an email offering 50% off of the subscription fee.  I joined that day and applied to positions that night.  I applied for a yoga internship in the Philippines, a volunteer position at a juice cleanse retreat in Portugal and to a volunteer position in Nicaragua.  I could barely sleep that night, I was so excited.

I heard back from the job in Nicaragua by the weekend.  We agreed to interview early in the next week via Skype.  I had a great time chatting with my interviewer and relating over the mishaps that occur in a country like Nicaragua or Myanmar.  I started off by saying my internet might cut out and she laughed, saying hers was the same.  We talked about monsoon seasons and flooding.  We talked about language, food, beaches, buses, and interacting with locals.  We really hit it off.  She said she was also hiring two other yogis for the same position so I could learn from their classes too.  That really appealed to me—it would be almost more like an internship than pure volunteering.  I was also excited about the proximity to the beach in San Juan del Sur.  And I was eager to help out—the hostel had several initiatives in town I could potentially volunteer with.  By the end of the call, the position was essentially mine.  I got an email formally offering it to me the next day and I accepted within the hour.  I told one of my friends about it, and she said it sounded like the volunteer position I would create for myself if I could make up my own dream post.  I agreed; it all sounded perfect.

Throughout yoga teacher training, I had an unfamiliar confidence and determination, knowing I would really be using everything we were talking about every day, coming up soon.  When we finished our training, I doubted myself and wondered if I was really ready, but I knew I had no choice.  My flight for Nicaragua was booked!

In the week leading up to the experience, a string of discouraging events took place.  Both of the other yoga teachers bailed.  One had trouble with her passport and was nearly thrown in jail in another South American country.  The other simply said, “I won’t be able to make it either.” Also the coordinator I hit it off with left the company.  Then I heard that elections were coming and there could be violent protests.  I didn’t let any of this stop me.  In the airport, I almost wasn’t allowed to board since I didn’t have a return flight, but that didn’t stop me either.

San Juan del Sur, my first yoga teacher experienceWhen I got to Nicaragua, I stayed in the capital for one night, waiting for a shuttle to take me south to San Juan del Sur.  It left 3 hours earlier than scheduled, so I took a “chicken bus” down with a guy I met in the hostel.  I told him all about how much I love yoga the whole way (and he actually seemed really interested, though he never did come to my class).

My first day, I got a tour of the hostel, which went something like, “here’s the bar/yoga studio.  The mats and stuff are in that cabinet.  Do you have any questions?”

My first yoga class was tough.  I planned it out and practiced the day before and ran through it over and over in my mind, describing how to do each pose.  When the big day came, I had trouble with lefts and rights when I was mirroring the class and questioned how long I was holding each pose.  My biggest problem, though, was confidence.  I had definite impostor-syndrome.  I wanted to tell everyone, “this is only my first class! Sorry if I’m doing things wrong!”  But at the end, I thanked everyone for coming and they thanked me.  They smiled and seemed happy enough.  Weeks later, when I told one of the girls who had come that it had been my very first class that she attended, she said she was shocked.

I got into a good routine of teaching yoga, practicing yoga, meditating, blogging, swimming in the sea, watching the sunsets, taking Spanish lessons and traveling on the weekend.

Teaching yoga in Nicaragua. Bridge from the stage where I taught big classesFor yoga, I worked hard to create open-level classes with a collection of variations so that whoever came to my class could be challenged in their own level.  I never knew how many students would come, what their level would be, or what kind of yoga they expected.  Sometimes “students” far outshined and outstretched me, gracefully bending deep into my prescribed shapes.  Sometimes people watched me with a constant perplexed grimace, unsure of how to match their body to mine.

I followed a formula we learned in yoga teacher training to try to address every part of the body using a variety of types of poses.  One girl thanked me after a class, saying it was just what her body needed.  People asked me what type of yoga I taught, and I said I was trained in Hatha, but it was hard to know.  I thought of Pradeep Teotia describing kinds of yoga, “hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, ashtanga yoga, aerial yoga, yoga-lates, acroyoga… some other shit yoga!  Yoga is just yoga!”  Each day, I came closer to knowing my yoga and learned from my mistakes how to be a better yoga teacher.

Sometimes I forgot my place and had to spend a long pause looking at my notes.  Sometimes people corrected me on left and rights.  Sometimes people corrected my cuing alignment.  One day I had 19 people in a space for 10.  Sometimes parades went by and I could hardly even hear myself over the music and drumming.  One time, only one student came and she didn’t do the poses I said even when I asked if there was anything she wanted to focus on or if she had any injuries we needed to work around.  I also started doing sunset yoga on the beach, which was pretty magical with the waves purring as they crept onto the beach in front of us.

In class, I tried to remember to cue moments to use the straps and blocks.  I also learned to go a little slower, breath a little more, and make people do some “weird” stuff.  I did restorative poses, chanted om and asked everyone to be still for short meditations.  I told people to stick out their tongues in Kali and made little jokes about some of the poses.  People laughed with me.  Most people who came seemed to enjoy our hour together almost as much as I did.  People would smile and sometimes thank me again at breakfast.

Eventually, another teacher did come.  It was so nice to have a yoga class to go to and to learn from.  We had lots of fun showing each other funky poses and stretches and exploring outside the studio as well.

But there were still some down-sides.  The internet came and went, as did the water in the apartment.  Sharing the small space with 8-10 volunteers was tough- no one wanted to take on cleaning.  The walk home up a dark high-way was frightening, especially after one of my roommates saw a machete-fight.  Construction started on the hostel, so I would say, “breathe in [kong, kong, kong] and out” over the hammering noises.  I felt lost sometimes waiting for my daily hour of teaching.  The wall and the roof of the volunteer apartment didn’t actually meet, so tarantulas and scorpions could (and did) crawl in.  I met a toad one night in the bathroom and a cat in the kitchen.  A praying mantis leapt into my bed another night in the dark and I nearly killed an Atlas moth in my fan when it came toward my light in the night.  Also it was just too darn hot in the apartment.  One time, the water tank leaked in through my window, drenching all of my clothes.  To top it off, I got fleas from a cat that crept in.  In that moment, I called out to the universe “ok, ok!  I hear you!  I’ll go!”  The next morning, the landlord told us to be extra careful because he saw a thief lurking by the bars that served as our apartment’s front wall.  That sealed the deal for me.  The hostel coordinator said he understood and wasn’t upset about me leaving earlier than originally planned.

Sunset in San Juan del Sur, my first yoga teacher experienceI packed up and prepared to go to Guatemala.  Everyone said San Marcos is a yogi’s dream.  The night before I was planning to fly out, I got an email from my old boss and someone had quit, leaving an opening for me back in my old job in my old world- with my boyfriend and my friends, in the rice paddies, by the dusty markets and the lazy cows, with all those adorable smiling children.  My decision was made before the actual job offer even came through.  I was back in Myanmar before I knew it.

My first yoga teaching experience was gone as quickly as it came.  As hard as the situation was sometimes, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I learned so much from teaching every day.  I was so thankful that they let me experiment and learn and grow as a yoga teacher even though I had no experience, nothing to back me up.  They took a chance on me in a way I can still hardly believe.  I am also proud to have pushed myself and followed my passion, even if it was a bit short-lived.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]


Yoga Teacher training: the invaluable lessons yogis learn

Yoga Teacher Training: Module 3: Refining The Art Of Teaching

In our last module of yoga teacher training, there was a bigger emphasis on teaching practice (thankfully).  We had lots of sessions where the instructor put the names of some poses on the board and then we had to guide a friend through the poses, sometimes two or three times per sequence.  That sounds repetitive, but it was actually really helpful to get used to the transitions and directions for each pose.  It was also really valuable to be guided and hear how other people phrased things.

asana in the lotus studio (photo by Amanda Gordon)

We also worked on modeling and mirroring.  We practiced asking our students to take a seat to -watch a demo.  Mirroring is quite difficult.  I kept half-turning to try to look at which hand/foot the students were on to check my lefts and rights.

We also guided each other through some restorative poses.  I like restorative classes, but I am not really quite comfortable with all of their features just yet so that was a challenge for me.

We did a fun experiment with ooblek about propping, yielding and collapsing.  Propping is giving too much effort—too much tension in a pose—overextending, over-working.  Collapsing is letting gravity take hold, not using the body to be firm—flimsy and weak.  Yielding is the ideal middle ground- staying soft enough to be comfortable, but strong enough to be firm with the pose.  We tried each of these techniques with our hand in the ooblek.  It gave way and resisted perfectly to illustrate the outcomes.

We had a couple of sessions on Samskaras, which are grooves in the brain that make you do things in the same way in the same situation.  This sort of habitual repetition is something we need to work on—making good grooves and releasing grooves that no longer serve us.  Our samskara teacher was wonderful.  She absentmindedly threw life quotes left and right.  Everything she was saying hit home for me.  We also did yoga nidra, sleep yoga—a deep, deep kind of relaxation—and some self-exploration.

Dancer in the Balinese rice paddiesThe main event in this module was the Teaching Lab.  Each of us had 12 minutes (one gothika—a Tibetian time measurement) to teach our peers.  It was a really beautiful thing to support each other and see everyone thrive within their own personality as they led the class.  Everyone was nervous, but everyone was wonderful.

I chose the root chakra as the theme for my class.  I taught everyone its mantra, Lam and we chanted it together.  We did some grounding poses.  We even meditated briefly on the root chakra and red light going from the sacrum through the legs and pulling us toward the Earth.  I chose this theme because of my meeting with the Healer/Osteopath back in module.  Everyone complimented my humble story and the way I wove the theme through all of the parts of the lesson.  I felt good about my lesson even though I struggle with it lots in the preparation phases.

We also took some time to write our own meditations one afternoon.  We took turns guiding each other through our personalized meditations.  This was also a great opportunity to see everyone’s individuality and what they chose for relaxation and calming.

We had one very valuable session on the business of yoga.  We talked a lot about social media and the internet as crucial elements to creating a successful yoga brand out of your work.  In our modern world, you must brand yourself.  Instagram and a website were given as the main uses of the internet.  She talked about partnering with other businesses for Instagram to share followers and information.  We also talked about how to differentiate classes.  What wacky place can you do yoga in?  How can you make a unique offering?  We talked about how everyone is different and in the end, people show up to your class for you.  They like whatever it is about you that you’re offering and you must consistently give it.

One of the teachers also gave an interesting talk on starting her own studio.  There were lots of things I might not have thought of logistically that were important.  She said it’s important to teach in someone else’s studio first to learn what does and doesn’t work.  She talked about how at first, it’s important to have a regular class even if no one is coming.  We talked about maximizing time and the number of students in classes too.  I learned a lot about what makes teaching yoga feasible and profitable.

the kula with their certificates (photo by Amanda Gordon)At the end, as we did in the beginning, we went around the circle and said a little something about ourselves.  At the start, I said I wanted to become a better yogi and a better me.  In the middle I said, I’m trying to learn about yoga as a lifestyle, but I still have lots to learn about the style and my life.  At the end, I thanked every one of the other yogis.  Interacting on a daily basis really taught me a lot.  There was so much insight and love in that space it was unreal.  Everyone gave it their all and grew and blossomed.  It was a wonderful experience.

Then we also had to talk about integration before we were all dumped back out into the world—what pieces can you take to your day to day life?  How do you stay mentally stimulated and elevated in a world of honking cars and fast food and non-yogis?  How do you stay true to who you are and who you’ve become?  And most importantly, how do you keep growing?  These are somethings I’m going to be learning and experimenting with.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]


Yoga Teacher training: the invaluable lessons yogis learn

Yoga Teacher Training: Module 2: Discover The Skills & Magic Of Teaching

Yoga Teacher training: the invaluable lessons yogis learnThe second module of yoga teacher training was a real challenge, mentally and physically.  9 days in a row is tough!  We did some soul searching and some more practice teaching.  We made more lesson plans and executed some of our own pose successions.

I was the studio assistant on the first day back.  The studio assistant helps set up the studio and observes the lesson.  Luckily, everyone brings in most of their own props (strap, blocks, bolsters, etc.) but there’s more to setting up the space than that.  There’s an altar at the front so I had to clean it, add lots of new flower petals and light candles and incense as offerings to Shiva and Ganesha.  One of the other instructors blessed the room while I worked.  At the end of the day, some props got left behind and I had to pick those up too.  I observed the asana practice and in a way was glad for my free day when I saw how hard the standing-pose and vinyasa-based class was.  It was cool to see a different instructor in action and see how he adjusted people and how he coached them.  Mark has a very likable style and everyone was laughing, along with sweating and sighing.  It was also interesting to watch my peers.  It’s interesting to see how different people react to the cues—how long it takes and whether or not they really understand the instructor’s goal.  Before and after each break, I checked in to see if the studio needed anything.

Probably the most interesting topic of this module was Ayurveda.  It’s an ancient Indian way of healing and staying healthy that goes hand in hand with yoga.  In Ayurveda, you look at your physical and personality attributes or components to determine your dosha.  Vata is light and airy, kapha is heavy and grounded, while pitta is fiery and direct.  The first test I took said I’m “tridoshic” but I doubt that I’m that well rounded.  My best guess is that I’m mostly vata with a bit of pitta.  The only way to know for sure is to see an Ayurvedic doctor.  He can take your pulse and tell right away.  We learned lots about leading an Ayurvedic life- wake up early to meditate, practice yoga, scrape your tongue, massage yourself with oils and eat a small meal for breakfast, having a big meal at lunch time, eating a lighter earlier dinner, and winding down device-free with low lights for an early night. The different times of day also have their own personality- their own dosha.  Different activities are suited to different times.  We also talked a bit about different foods people should or shouldn’t eat and the agni, or digestive fire in the belly.  Mark talked a lot about habits and how to change the old and create wonderful new using the smallest possible change- Kai Zen.  Mark also asked us about what we stand for.  I chose compassion but it was interesting to see people’s different priorities reflected in their choices- freedom, nature, care for animals, free will, equality.

In this module, Kirtan with Mei Laiwe were put on the spot to teach our peers a lot.  We were typically given about 5 minutes to prepare (though when I really teach, I’m going to put in a bit more time and care!).  It’s cool to see people move their bodies just as I say.  It’s harder than it seems though to talk about how and when they need to move what—especially lefts and rights because we practice facing our students but not doing the poses with them.  It’s hard to see what the students are doing and help them adjust if you’re busy moving your own body.  In our yoga lessons, we also talked a tiny bit about sequencing and theme-ing to try to create our own yoga classes.  We planned a couple of lessons on our own and executed a couple of poses from them with 8 peers.

We also had 4 3-hour sessions of Yoga Philosophy.  We learned about the original forms of yoga and how they evolved to include people from different walks of life.  The goal of yoga has always been awareness and removing karma.  The soul collects black karma and white karma and yoga is a good way to try to remove both.  When the soul has no more karma it may be enlightened.  We talked about death and reincarnation.  We talked about sleep as preparation for death—death is the same except that we’re reborn in a different body when we awaken.  Thinking about death and rebirth makes me feel more free to do what I feel compelled to do in this lifetime rather than worrying about other people’s expectations and preferences.  We also talked about the different stages of reincarnation.  One of the most interesting things was learning that originally yoga was only about meditation and different ways of meditating.  There were only about 16 different poses and all of them were seated for meditation until about 100 years ago and now there are over 900 poses including variations.  Yoga is meant to include 8 limbs, like outlooks on life, breath work, withdrawing the senses, etc, not just moving the body into shapes.

We also worked on some new chants and mantras.  One of the most moving experiences of the training so far was kirtan with Mei Lai.  She has such a beautiful voice and so much passion for the mantras.  Also the studio is beautiful with low lights in the evening and crickets chirping.  Before we started she asked if anyone wanted to make a flower mandala at the front of the room.  About 5 of us jumped on it.   One girl said, “I love making beautiful things!” and that’s just what we did- we made a big heart with the aum symbol in the middle.  We finished just in time to snuggle up on bolsters.  Mei Lai shines so brightly it was like pulling into a camp fire.  The room was clearly moved by the sounds of the harmonium and the group’s collective voice.

Being blessed at a Balinese Water CeremonyWe had a wonderful water ceremony too. We all walked over to the ashram and saronged-up for the occasion (sarongs and covered shoulders are temple-appropriate outfits in Bali).  We waited in a raised shelter and watched a mystical woman in yellow finery- beads and sparkles on a leopard print cushion chanting and blessing the water.  Later we went up 5 by 5 for our turn for the blessing.  We had water sprinkled and funneled over our heads.  We waved incense over us to cleanse and bring good.  We drank some of the water too- it was sweet and spiced.  It tasted like promise.  At the end we chanted and washed ourselves in the smoke of more incense, pushing the bad behind us and welcoming good.  We got flower head dresses and bracelets too.  It was a beautiful morning.

I had an appointment with Rachel, the osteopath who taught us in the first module.  We looked at my posture a bit but focused mostly on my root chakra, which is out of whack.  That’s why the love meditation hit me so hard.  I said something about not having a place of my own in the world now, and Rachel said, “yes you do,” pointing to my body.  She cracked my back in lots of different ways, did some sound therapy and put me into a deep savasana with chimes and incense of sorts.  I woke up feeling a bit lost and dreamy but in a way sort of more whole.  That night I dreamed of ceremonies and chants.  I slept deeply and only woke up about halfway in the morning.

We also did meditation and journaling on some interesting soul-searching topics.  We talked about karma; when a butterfly flaps its wings a little faster than the moment before, it creates karma.  What about our karma?  How can we reduce it?  How do we stop creating it?  Can you stop creating it in a modern society?  We talked about dharma too.  It’s cool to think about the possibility of the universe conspiring for our greater path in this world.

Emily said that this module is meant to tear us apart and the third module will put the pieces together.  At the moment, I am uncertain of course- whether or not I will really be prepared to sit in front of a class, hold the space and direct the students for a full hour.  Teaching kids is so different—there’s automatic respect and adoration.   I elicit from them and encourage them to talk and contribute.  I ask for their ideas and try to have the class centered around them.  My lessons are built around empowering them and encouraging them to do things on their own.  In this last respect, teaching yoga will be the same but the idea of me talking and commanding for a full hour is new.  Hopefully my adult yoga students will be curious and enthusiastic, rather than critical.

Next will be the third and final post about teacher training.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]


Yoga Teacher training: the invaluable lessons yogis learn

Yoga Teacher Training: Module 1: Taking the Seat of a Teacher

Yoga Teacher training: the invaluable lessons yogis learnWhat a whirlwind week (7 straight days)!  Our first module of yoga teacher training was about Taking the Seat of a Teacher.  Our teacher, Emily, chose the theme trust, as in trusting yourself and your intuition as well as trusting others.  We had daily classes on asana, meditation, anatomy, the art of voice and methodology/practicum.  In asana, I felt good about my strength and postures, which I wasn’t expecting.  I’d worried that I might not really be ready for the training so I’d made myself practice hard over the last 6 months, especially the last one or two.  I certainly wasn’t the strongest, most flexible or most experienced, but I wasn’t on the bottom of the spectrum either.  No one ever commented on comparisons, but I felt good about my abilities.  We learned about different parts of our bodies, like our lungs, legs, arms, spine and throat—how and where to hold these parts.  It was really influential for my practice.  I feel like I have a better chance of getting the postures right on my own now with proper alignment and care for my body.  We also had several nice relaxing gentle asana practices in the afternoons.  It’s a type of yoga I’m not as familiar with so that was cool for me.  I like slower paced classes and think I might enjoy working with these healing poses.

In anatomy, we learned a bit about how the body works- different ways that the bones can move in relation to each other, the structure of the muscles and how they balance each other, different kinds of joints and how they connect to the body, possible injuries and pregnancy-related modifications.  It was a packed section of the module.  It was beneficial for my poses for sure to think about where the shapes are really coming from.

Methodology/practicum was cool too.  We had our first-ever wild thing in the lotus studio—we read each other instructions for sun salutations.  It was interesting to work on our timing and tone.  I felt pretty good about mine.  Later we also had to direct our friends into some other poses, this time without a script.  I didn’t give much alignment direction once the shapes were set, but I was pleased with my cues for coming into the pose.  I need to learn more about instructing alignment.

It was hard for me as an kindergarten teacher because I thought it was fun and everyone else was so serious at first- I smiled at them but they were too focused to smile back.  This was also true in our 90 minute asana self-practice.  Everyone looked worried, but for me that’s another Tuesday evening.  I didn’t have a studio to go to in Mandalay, Myanmar, where I was living, so self-practice was my norm.  I have a lot of work to do, but it’s different work from many of the other yogis. I need to learn how to align my body and how to talk about alignment.  Also, I need my wrist to heal.  I hurt it trying to do hand stands before the course.   I am uncomfortable in inversions.  Also, I am looking forward to some spiritual growth.

In art of voice, we learned lots of beautiful chants.  We also made noises, whatever noises we felt which I loved.  What a release!  We talked about speaking from a place of love and learned about different obstacles to voice like mood and distance.

In meditation, I feel like I found some clarity about my life and the current state of my mental health.  I learned that my heart is full of love, overflowing in fact.  On day 1 I cried thinking of love.  I was overwhelmed thinking about the life I left behind in Myanmar.  I knew I would miss my boyfriend, but I didn’t count on missing the roof where I meditated at dusk, bicycling in the rice paddies, my motorbike, the local market, the orphans I taught each week.  I guessed I would miss the orphans when I cried at our goodbye party, but I didn’t know I would miss them so much.  My sense of purpose was gone a bit without my definable tasks and familiar weekly accomplishments.  My sister pointed out to me that I was still harboring some anger as well about certain aspects of the job.  I thought I threw the pieces of my old life over my shoulder, but they hadn’t quite landed.  They were hovering just behind me.  My sister said I seemed unsettled.

I also had a deep chat with one of the teachers who I now consider my spiritual guru, Mei Lai. I asked her about living a life of service.  She said I must act from a place of love and ask the universe to use me as a vessel to do its good will.  She says creativity and growth are a cycle- of birth, thriving, and death.  I felt I was still dying from my past life in Myanmar.  Next I will have to wait to be composted into better soil for my next mission.  Mei Lai did say that she thinks I’m on the right path though for my future, based on the way things seem to be going.

One of my other favorite things we learned in the first module was the concept of kula—a community of like-minded people.  It’s amazing because everyone at the training was in a similar state of transition and dissolve.  Everyone had learning and growing and thinking to do and it was awesome how everyone connected and supports each other.

I also had a good talk with Emily about the things I left behind and poured a flood of tears out of my face over my boyfriend and the orphans.  Those orphans are some of the most joyous people I know in spite of their circumstances.  I think we related to each other well over the difficulty of long distance love.

Bess has also been great.  She is more down to earth and relate-able for yoga guidance and sharing her experiences with the business and passion of owning a yoga studio.  She helped me with some stretches for my hurt wrist.

Rachel is beyond passionate.  She loves anatomy more than I would have guessed anyone could.  I couldn’t wait to go to my appointment with her and let her fix me.  Emily said she could help me with my energy, but I want to ask her about my terrible posture and my wrists too.  Anatomy got a bit dense for me though- I had trouble staying focused at the end.

Agni ceremony (Fire Ceremony)The other amazing thing that we had in the first module was the fire (agni) ceremony. We threw rice into the fire at the end of every stanza of a chant, on the word “swa ha.”  We put a note to the gods for help and guidance into the fire too.  It was really cool to be there for the chanting and the cultural perspective.  The ceremony wasn’t as spiritual as we hoped it could be, but it was still a good experience to throw our pasts we want to get rid of into the fire and to express our hopes there too.

I felt a little bit overwhelmed by all of it.  So much happened every day.  It was exhausting emotionally and energetically.  There was so much to think about.  It was hard for me to concentrate for the whole day (7:30-6).  But also I was hopeful for my future and how I could learn more about myself and the way I work in this course.  I want to become a better yogi and a better me.

Stay tuned for more on what I learned in Yoga Teacher Training module 2…

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]


My path to Yoga: Blog about finding asana, yoga and self

My Path to Yoga: what lead me to start doing yoga and how yoga changed me

My path to Yoga: Blog about finding asana, yoga and selfI’ve been doing yoga since college in Arkansas, back in 2005.  My friend Merry invited me to go with her for PE credit and I figured, “why not?”  In a way, I feel like when she asked me to go to yoga, it was the universe speaking to me through her.   We were a little out of place, because the class was mostly adults from the local community who had clearly been before.  We laughed hard as we tried to figure it all out on our mats on the smooth wooden floor of the fluorescent-lit gym.  Everything was so awkward and perplexing, but it all felt good and it was fun.  We were shushed a lot for being so rowdy, but we calmed our giggles week by week and stretched a bit deeper week by week too.

The next year when I transferred to the University of Delaware, I joined the yoga club.  It met two or three times a week and I was there for every session.  I dragged my new friends along with me too.  Soon I had a small crew of yogis.  The girls who taught the classes seemed well organized.  They knew so many different moves (which I now know are called asanas) and always knew how I could push myself harder at just the same moment  that I knew I could go deeper.  They made an announcement at one class, saying they were looking for new teachers.  My insides lurched for the opportunity, but I didn’t believe in myself.  I didn’t think I knew enough about the “moves” and I couldn’t imagine being bold enough to stand in front of everyone and simultaneously show and tell them what to do.  So I let the suggestion wash over me.  The same thing happened when I heard my neighbor had done her yoga teacher training course.  I thought, “that should be me” but I also let that idea float away.

After I graduated with my degree in business in the epicenter of worst slump of the recession, yoga and I lost touch for a bit.  I lost touch with more than one of my passions as I sat on the couch and applied fruitlessly to every job I could find related to my new degree.  After 3 months, I got an email that said “teach English in Korea” and I applied on a whim.  I was there a month later.  That year in Korea and two years in China slipped by before I found myself on a yoga mat again in Istanbul, Turkey, my next home in 2013.  My friend Kat found an ad for a cheap month of hot yoga and invited me along, which I felt I couldn’t resist.  We were in a nice apartment-turned studio facing the Marmara Sea with sleek lines and Buddhas for décor.  A lean Turkish lady with a smooth voice but a clipped accent guided us through the asanas.  We bent and twisted and leaned and grew in a way that felt so familiar and so natural and so necessary.  I didn’t realize how much I’d missed yoga.

The next year, I joined a fancy gym in my new neighborhood.  Sometimes I went just for the steamy hammam in the locker room, but mostly I went for the classes, including yoga.  I was thrilled to have regular access.  After every class, I came out feeling lighter, more limber, calmer, clearer and truly, happier.  Another studio in my new neighborhood had a deal so Kat suggested we join.  We were in a dim basement with a low ceiling for another month of hot yoga- we went almost every day to sweat it out and stretch it out.  I found I was more flexible in the heat even when I felt like I could pass out.  I got lots of positive encouragement from the instructors there who learned to recognize us.  I would have gone more after the deal, but couldn’t afford it.  So I was back to my regular gym a couple of times a week, but I wanted more.

dharamsala

In the Summer of 2014, I visited India on a volunteering trip and on a free day, found a poster for yoga classes.  I went to the studio which turned out to be teacher training center.  One of the trainees led the class.  I was the only non-trainee to show up (in a while it seemed).  They made training seem so do-able.  I remember looking at the Himalayas out the window upside-down doing bridge.  In that moment, I knew I was right where I should be.  Everything felt right.

For my next job, I moved to a little city in Myanmar where everything was covered in a thin layer of dust.  They had colorful local markets and quaint bamboo huts, cows in the middle of the road, big smiles around every corner, gold stupas reaching for the sky and gorgeous rice fields stretching to the foot of the mountains.  But they didn’t have a yoga studio.  I was more than a little bit disappointed, but I perused the small shops and found a mat.  A new friend, Jenn, turned me onto a pod cast with short sessions and I also started to try to guide myself.  I knew lots of asanas.  I knew which ones could morph into other similar poses.  I could breath energy into my body with sun salutations too.

That next Summer, in 2015, I visited Bali, a land studded with yoga studios.  I spent weeks dropping my boyfriend off at the beach to surf and motorbiking over to yoga before picking him back up for lunch.  It was heavenly.  I got into a new flow and found a new need for yoga.  One particular class really struck a chord with me in Ubud- hatha with Emily, as recommended to me by another yogi, Ali, who I’d met at the beach.  I felt really compelled by Emily and wished I had time for more classes.

Back in Myanmar, when the internet worked, I’d sometimes go on Facebook.  I noticed a trend on my feed- lots of my gal pals were doing yoga and a few were even teaching it.  This observation made me consider doing the training myself.  I sent lots of messages asking how they got into it and what suggestions they had.  I felt inspired by their responses and started to look into courses with my radar mostly on India.  My sister Natalie and I were talking and she said she’d love to do the training too.  She mentioned Bali and I said I would only do it there if it was with Emily.  She googled Emily and said, “Guess we’re going to Bali this Summer!  There’s a training session in July!”

I worked hard on preparing myself, mind, body, and spirit for devoting myself to yoga.  I was a bit apprehensive because I hadn’t been practicing in the last couple of years as much as some of my fellow future instructors surely had.  Part of me felt like maybe I should wait, but I told myself, “really, there’s no time like the present; now or never.”  I threw myself into something I didn’t know if I was ready for, but that was not new to me.

In a way, I feel like I’ve been pulled here by forces beyond me.  Like a trail I couldn’t see stretching ahead over mountain slopes.  Friends along the way have pointed me in the right direction.  Their voices were my guru or my guide, sending me ever further along the path toward yoga.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]


Katia Yoga blog: asana, meditation, yoga theory, yoga philosophy, looking within, and so much more. Join me!

Welcome to Katia Yoga: Mindfulness. Yoga. Wellness. Health. Blog. Shop.

Hi there!  I’m Katia and I’m a yogi.  learning some new yoga techniquesI started practicing asana over 10 years ago.  I loved moving my body through the different shapes and felt better after yoga classes, but it wasn’t quite whole.  More recently, I’ve been learning about the other 7 limbs of yoga and about other yoga-related concepts.  It’s amazing how the other aspects make yoga a more complete lifestyle and make me more whole as a yogi and person.

I wanted to learn even more and share my fun so I joined a Yoga Teacher Training course in July 2016.  From there, I taught yoga in Nicaragua and Myanmar, but there was too much to squeeze into each hour-long class.  So I created this yoga blog to share the things I learn about yoga and being a yogi along the way.  I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

I blog about the deeper side of yoga and how to make yoga a real part of everyday life for yogis who want to deepen their practice and expand their knowledge through body, mind and soul.  These yogis want to keep growing, learning and becoming more and more their own wonderful selves.