Tag: yoga teacher training

Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training: Traditional vs. Modern: Studying Traditional Yoga in India or Studying Yoga with a Modern Western Yoga Instructor #yogateachertraining #ytt #becomeayogateacher #becomeayogainstructor

Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training: Traditional vs. Modern

When I was thinking about choosing a yoga teacher training, I debated between the traditional home of yoga (India) and modern Western teaching in Bali.  The stars aligned perfectly for my sister and I to do our ytt together in Ubud, Bali with American yogini, Emily Kuser, and her chosen gurus from the west.  We learned a great deal about yoga and ourselves.  We sometimes joked that it was more of a group therapy session than yoga.

This Summer, some of my friends and I signed up for a yoga retreat in Rishikesh, India.  We thought it was going to be a nice relaxing week of yoga- learning more about the roots of yoga, practicing ashtanga in the morning and gentle flows in the evening.   The website said our experience would be sprinkled with excursions and a free massage would be included.  Instead, we retreat-goers were tossed in with a new batch of yoga teacher training students.  For me it was an fascinating glimpse into what my experience might have otherwise been.

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Comparison

Room and board

Marigold Yoga Leggings are bright, happy yoga pants inspired by the beautiful marigold flowers used in Indian ceremonies. Four-way stretch, inner pocket, and raised waistband. $55
Shop! See our collection inspired by studying yoga in India

In India, housing and food were included in the price of the training.  We were each given our own room with a bed, a dresser and a small bathroom.  The paint on the walls was peeling and the fan only minimally cut the heat.  Delicious Indian food was passed through a little hole in the wall (literally) between the kitchen and the cafeteria-style dining hall.  The chef, Shiva, and I conferred regularly about what I could and couldn’t eat and the events of the day.  He asked questions like, “you gluten free, you don’t vegan, right?”

In Bali, we were on our own for housing, which meant we each chose a place that we felt very comfortable in.  However, this was in  addition to the price of the training (which was already nearly double the training in India).  Breakfast was included at the hotel and lunch was included at the yoga studio’s cafe.  We were on our own for dinner, which meant we could try the food at any of the healthy cafes in town but at additional expense.

Ceremonies

In India, our training began with a puja or Indian blessing ceremony.  A guru sat at the front of the room by a statue of Krishna, chanting and ringing a bell and offering flower petals and lighting candles.  We sat on bolsters and watched and listened until the end, when a vessel full of candles was handed to each of us in turn to circle near Krishna.  I asked a man behind me what we needed to do, but most girls went in blind.  They gave us threaded bracelets and Indian sweets to eat as part of the event.  It was a beautiful peaceful ceremony but we didn’t know what it was all about.

In Bali, we had a water ceremony and a fire ceremony.  Before each one, our teacher told us about the meaning and protocols.  She explained what we would need to do– At the fire ceremony say “swaha” as we tossed things into the fire, listen to the repetitive chanting and join in if we wanted to, prepare a note to release some sadness or anger to throw into the fire to cleanse ourselves if we so wished.  At the water ceremony, stand with hands in prayer as the guru chanted and sprinkled water on our heads, at one point, accept the holy water in your hands, drink it and wipe the rest over your head.  This ceremony was to cleanse and purify.  We talked about everything from what it all meant down to what to wear.

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In Class

In India our yoga course was run with a tight discipline.  The phrase, “I didn’t say… (for example) turn your knee in” was used to remind us of the exact way that we should do the poses.  We focuses on warrior 2, triangle, and half moon for the entire week.  Poses were held for a very long time to build strength.  Counts to hold sometimes started at 5, but were drawn out to more like 100- the pauses between numbers almost left us uncertain of whether or not the counting had been forgotten.  “I love you” would be thrown in instead of a number sometimes.  In anatomy, philosophy etc. precise alignment was lectured and demonstrated.  It was a traditional teaching style with some tough love.

In Bali, we were encouraged to listen to our bodies and were sometimes offered two different poses to choose from based on our level and energy.  The practices flowed smoothly  The teacher encouraged us to pause during the practice any time we wanted to take notes on alignment cues and transition ideas.  Each day one student was an assistant who helped arrange the classroom and watched the teacher and how she related to the students.  We could sign up for office hours to discuss anything with the teachers.  Our teachers encouraged questions and discussions.  There were lots of hugs and there was lots of time to process everything together.


The Shala

Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala Necklace- 108 Hand-knotted beads
Also see our malas on Etsy

The Shanti (Peace) Women's Yoga Tank Top is a colorful reminder of the sanskrit mantra meaning peaceIn India, the yoga shala was on top of the housing.  Its windows faced the mountains.  Monkeys swung by as the sun set.  The bolsters had seen better days and sometimes there was a shortage on blocks or room for the mats.  Everyone was issued a mat with the school’s name on it.  There was air conditioning, but it was never used during asana because “it would make us sick.” It felt like we could be another era learning like the masters.

In Bali, we were in an open-air shala at the back of a field of rice paddies.  Breezes, frogs’ croaks and children’s voices floated through.  Mosquitoes buzzed through too but a natural remedy was available for use.  Shiva danced in the corner.  Each morning, a flower mandala was created by his feet.  Music was crafted to perfectly compliment the energy of the movements.  Mats were provided but most yogis brought their own.  There were more than enough props and cabinets to stow them in.  Care was taken to perfect the atmosphere.

Academics

In India, there was daily library time and there were academic assignments to be completed.  In some of the strict classes, a concept would be concluded with the phrase “any doubts?”

In Bali, we read our books in the 6 weeks before the course and completed several short assignments about our progress leading up to the class.  Questions were encouraged at any time.

Emotional Support

Teacher training is a difficult, emotion undertaking.  Intensive yoga brings up feelings you didn’t even know you had and tests your limits, physical and beyond.  In both settings, I regularly saw tear-stained cheeks.

In India, we had one full hour and a half long session with our eyes closed.  This is a deeply moving, personal experience.  You connect with your space and your mat as well as the feeling of yoga in your body and your being.  Afterward we were dismissed as always.  Some girls seemed to be emotionally drained.  Living together under the shala meant it was easy to find a friend to talk to if needed.

In Bali, after any of our many emotional meditations we journaled on the experience and then discussed in small groups and then sometimes came back to the whole group to talk about it all.  We examined the intricacies of how we felt and how it could change us.

Outcomes

So the question comes to mind: which one is better?  I don’t think it’s possible to give a definitive answer.  It depends on your style and your needs.  It depends what you like and what would challenge your weaknesses. Whatever you feel deeply drawn toward is probably right for you.  The hardest decision is one with lots of good options.

Everyone in both groups came out of the month-long experience feeling empowered and transformed.  Both groups tremendously improved their yoga skills as well as their dedication to the practice.  Everyone had lots of time to think and evolve.  Yoga teacher training any where, any time, any way is a magical experience and a beautiful gift to yourself.

Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training: Traditional vs. Modern: Studying Traditional Yoga in India or Studying Yoga with a Modern Western Yoga Instructor #yogateachertraining #ytt #becomeayogateacher #becomeayogainstructor

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…

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