Yoga Teacher Training: Part Un


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This is an extremely daunting post to write. I want to capture the experience accurately, and as I sort through my thoughts and memories about my month long training to be a Forrest Yoga instructor, I can already tell that it’s going to be a difficult task. As time rolls on, it becomes more apparent that every single day housed about a billion lessons, and they all led me to the point that I’m at now.

So lets try and start with the highlights during the first day. The first morning, before we began, I tried to take a few deep breaths, and tell myself that there was nothing to be afraid of. We gathered around the room in a large circle and we all faced each other, smiling, eager to see what this experience would bring for each of us.

At 6 a.m., Ana Forrest saunters into the middle of the circle, holding a shell to catch the ashes from a bundle of burning herbs. She breathes in deeply, and from the look on her face, it seems that she enjoys the smell and taste of the air around her. She told us to breathe and waited a second. Her look seemed to reveal that she was both disappointed and hopeful when she told us to really breath. All I could think was that I was already really breathing. I mean, I was still sitting there, with a pulse and all. I’m pretty sure oxygen is what makes that possible. But since she was the lady we were all coming to learn from, I began to choke down as much air as I possibly could. I started feeling light headed and weird. This was the first time that I thought this woman was actually trying to kill me. It wouldn’t be the last.

She told us to sit up, and since I already thought I was, I just stayed in my hunchy position until she gave us precise directions on how to sit. I lengthened my spine, used my breath to telescope my ribs and grew about six inches. I didn’t know my body had the ability to travel skyward with the assistance of my breath. This was the first time I realized that this woman was going to save me. I just didn’t know what an understatement that was.

I don’t remember the intention or the meditation, but I do remember how stupid I felt during chanting. I didn’t know the words, so I felt unprepared. I didn’t know the melody, and I felt unsteady. I would sing louder once I knew everything.

Writing that made me realize that that was one of the most important lessons that I learned about myself throughout the month, and it’s just sinking in at this very moment. I wanted to know the words before I sang. I wanted to be an expert before I could consider myself a teacher. I wanted to know every side of the argument, before I stood up for what I knew to be true. I wanted to be perfect before I was proud.

This morning, as I write this short overview of the morning on the first day of my training, another lesson bubbles to the surface. You only need to be a page ahead in order to teach. You only have to be step in front of your peers to be a leader. You don’t need to be part of the argument to stand up for your truth. And if we all waited for perfection to believe in our abilities, humanity would be in trouble.

So you can see why this is a daunting task, eh? I only got through chanting on the first morning before running out of time and space… Oh well. We’ll pick it back up next time!

Toodles!
-The Yogi

Why I Didn’t Write About Yoga Teacher Training

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A month ago, I posted on this Tumblr about my first few days of yoga training. In that post, I pledged to check in as much as possible during the training process in order to fully document what it was like every step of the way. I voiced my frustrations that no one had ever documented the entire process from start to finish. I wanted someone to tell me exactly what it was going to be like. I searched high and low for someone to tell me that it was all going to be okay, that it was all completely worth it. I scoured the internet, and didn’t come up with a hand to guide me into the cacoon, a shove in the right direction, or a warning that yoga teacher training was some sort of pyramid scheme. I wanted something detailed, and could find nothing that was detailed enough.

So, I thought I would step up to the proverbial plate and take a swing at documenting the experience for future internet searchers and yoga enthusiasts. As you can see from the lack of content on this Tumblr, it was a swing and a miss. I’d like to take this post to tell you why and the subsequent post (or two) to give a quick overview of my particular teacher training.

Reason #1: Time
When I divvied up my time between work, yoga school, practice and studying, I severely underestimated what a time commitment training would be. There was barely enough time to do laundry, shower and prepare my own healthy food. At the end of the night when I would lay my weary head down, I would snuggle in with my manual to study some more cues and think, “I’ll tell them all about this tomorrow.” But tomorrow never came, every day proved to be more challenging and when there was finally downtime, it was spent in the sunshine trying to regain a semblance of sanity.

Reason #2: It’s Deeply Personal
I spent 28 days with 37 people, letting it all hang out. Emotions would change from day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute. The experience was highly charged with self-realizations and changing group dynamics that were incredibly unique and dependent on the evolving character development within each individual. You all know that I’m okay with sharing, so it’s not that I wanted to hide my experience. But about a week in, I came to realize how each individual was going through a completely different process and that to tell you that THIS THING is the best part of training or THAT THING isn’t going to happen would be uninformative, or so I thought at the time. Now, as the dust begins to settle, I can’t wait to share some of the amazing things that yoga teacher training can give you.  

Reason #3: I Was Friggin Tired
I’ll admit it. I practiced yoga for four hours a day and that shiz was exhausting. If you’ve ever gone to an Ana Forrest intensive, you might know what I’m talking about, just multiply that by twenty-two and you have a pretty good idea. If you haven’t, just imagine a lot of intense yoga, puddles of sweat and hella tears. It was draining and I couldn’t get it together enough to share as much of my experience with you as I wanted to.

Those are three things to keep in mind when you’re getting ready for yoga teacher training. It’s like a really physical version of an extremely challenging high school. Really focus on your training, and don’t make promises to your friends, family, or readers for the duration of the month. Remember that your experience won’t be like anyone elses. It’s always a good idea to research, but if you’re like me, you should put down the reliance on first hand, detailed accounts and get ready for a life altering experience. And finally, get as much rest as possible. You’re going to need it.

Camel on the Wall

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Heyo yogis! I’m coming into my second week of Forrest Yoga teacher training and it’s been quite a blur. I taught my first poses to a beginner class yesterday and that was really nerve wracking and exciting. Prepping for that, studying, and doing about a billion hours of yoga per day, sucked all of the time out of my week last week. But now I’m back on track! And thanks to the billion hours of practicing, teaching and studying last week, I’m more qualified to share some fantastical yoga poses with you this morning.

This week in my intro class, I’m teaching a pose that is excellent for your back, Camel on the wall. You should warm up for this pose by doing some ab work and four to six sun salutations. That’s not so much of a suggestion as it is a demand. You GOTZ 2 warm up before back bends, otherwise, you’re liable to injure your spine, which would hinder your yoga practice and keep you from qualifying for athletic scholarships. And who in their right mind would want to eff up their yoga practice just to rush into camel?

So, before you read the rest of this pose, do some elbow to knee and some suns then meet me back at center.

Camel on the Wall

Fold your mat in half, and then fold it in half again. Place the mat cut side against the wall. Kneel onto the mat pressing the thighs and the pubic bone on the wall. Press the tops of the feet down so that the energy moves through the thighs and the knees. Tuck your tailbone and tilt the pelvis so hip bones and belly move away from the wall. Pull lower belly in. Place thumbs on the sacrum, with heels of the hands on the buttocks.

Inhale- Stretch the rib cage up the wall and lift the chest up.
Exhale-Tuck your chin into the chest.
Inhale- Gently arch the upper ribs away from the wall.
Exhale- Roll the heads of the shoulders back.
Inhale- Stretch the lower back up.
Exhale- Arch the upper back.
Inhale-Spread the chest bones and create space around the heart.
Exhale- Bring the ribcage back to the wall.

Keep the lower back long for the duration of the pose, especially when coming out of it.

Well, I better get back to bending, stretching, balancing and learning cues. Hopefully, I’ll find some time to catch a nap sometime in this century. Wish me luck!

A Month of Forrest Yoga Teacher Training

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One of the interesting things about yoga teacher training, is that it’s hard to find a first hand record of the experience on the internet. With all of the blogs out there, you’d think that someone would take a minute to share a day to day account of their trainings. If you’ve ever shopped around for a training that might be a good fit for you, you probably realize that this isn’t quite the case. This fact was annoying when I started looking into teacher training and wanted to know what it would be like, but I totally get it now. On day two of my Forrest Yoga teacher training, I completely understand why people wouldn’t share their training experience with the world.

Going into training is like crawling into a cocoon. You’re working through a lot of issues, and you’re learning how to talk the talk, and walk the walk of the yoga lifestyle. In saying those words for the first time and taking those baby steps, you falter, make mistakes, sound stupid, and stumble around. It’s the most uncomfortable thing you’ll ever experience. It’s terrifying, but gratifying. It pulls you outside of who you think you are and what you want, and puts a big mirror up to the changes that are really necessary. They’re usually ones that you’ve never fathomed.

For these reasons, and because yoga training is busy business, I think that most people wait until they come out of the safe cocoon of their teacher training to document their experiences. People seem to only come forth and talk about the joys and challenges of their training after their wings are steady, and they’re the butterfly they’d always dreamed they could be.

So, like I said, it’s only day two of my training and I’m more exhausted than I have ever been in my life. But I’m going to pledge to you that I’ll do as many check ins as I can on my Tumblr to ensure that I document exactly what it’s like from here on out.

So what’s it been like so far? The past two days have been more physically and emotionally therapeutic than anything I’d ever experienced. I’m a lucky girl, in the way that I’m studying Forrest Yoga which is (IMHO) the best practice on the face of the planet. We started gaining teaching experience on day one. And on day two, I could already see tangible growth in the way that I handled myself in a teaching role. I’ve also learned so much about my body, and the way both spirit and unresolved emotion, physically manifest themselves inside our organs and muscles, that it’s made my head spin. I’ve been physically opening my heart and getting the “puss balls” out. I’ve been learning how to read and feel energy. I’ve adjusted, taught poses, and connected my heart to someone else through the healing power of my hands. I’ve learned that those things are tangible, not “hippie-dippie b.s.” and that everyone can be taught how to use these skills to help others heal. It’s been a pretty powerful couple of days.

Alas, it’s time for some shut eye so I can nurse my sore body back to health in my sleep, and do it all again tomorrow.

Have you done yoga teacher training? What was it like for you?

A Month Of Bikram

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If you’re a yogi, you’ve no doubt heard all about Bikram yoga. You may have heard that it’s a fantastic practice that quickly builds strength and endurance. You might have heard about the similarities between the practice and a cattle auction. You might have heard that one of the main benefits is that it flushes toxins from your body via your incredibly overactive sweat glands during the grueling 90 minute practice. You may have heard that there’s a greater propensity for injury because of Bikram’s “push yourself” mentality, mixed with aforementioned puddles of sweat on a slick floor or yoga mat.

The truth about Bikram yoga is that all of these things are true. As a yogi into the more “accept where you’re at and listen to your body” mentality, I abhor the rhetoric of Bikram.. I’m not a huge fan of the “Push yourself further than your flexibility. It’s supposed to hurt. Do it! Do it! Further! Look back! Go back! Alllll the way back!” mentality. Well, it’s not just a mentality. It’s what you’ll hear over and over again in any Bikram practice. It’s a personal preference though. If you do yoga partly to escape that resounding chatter in your head telling yourself that you need to be better or to do better, this might not be the practice for you. But sometimes it can be. Sometimes the intensity of heat and the long held poses mixed with the instructor’s resounding clapping and forceful tone, can pull you out of deep preoccupation with the mind.

In the Bikram studios I went to, there was a sign on the wall that urged yogis to “suffer some” in class and to “do poses exactly as you’re told to do them.” This might be okay if there were any different variations of the poses available, but that’s not really Bikram’s thing. You either do the pose, or you skip it and go to savasana. I was having some neck issues in the first few days that I began my Bikram practice. In the first pranayama exercise, you force your head back with your knuckles on your chin. When I asked about what I should do to protect my neck, the instructor told me that I would just get used to it. This may be true for someone like me with a pretty healthy spine and neck, but what about people with neck injuries? She didn’t ask me if I had any before she basically told me to get over it.

This all might sound hellish, and it’s true, parts of it were hellish. And I’m not just talking about the difficulty. I enjoy a difficult practice and can engage in every pose during Bikram. But the attitude was so… not yoga. I found myself pushing things to far, getting competitive with myself and started developing knee issues. So I took it easy on the practice and only went a few times in the middle of the month. Eventually, since I’d already paid for it, I picked it back up at the end of the month and gave it another shot.

There was something different about the practice for me these past few days. It was more meditative, less competative. I was lucky enough to have some of the more mellow, non clapping, instructors (they do exist). I stopped listening to the instructors when they told me to push it, and I found the practice to be cleansing and powerful.

So… Bikram yoga? It can be okay, I guess.
And that’s the only non-committal response that you’ll get from me. How about you?

Cute Yoga Hair

On this Tumblr, sometimes we get so sucked into our practice that we get tunnel vision for asanas, chakras and the yoga part of yoga. Sometimes we forget that this is a yoga lifestyle blog too. And sometimes we forget that there’s more to life than yoga.

Then this blogger sees itself in the mirror and thinks, “Dang girl, you’re looking kinda crazy. Like, serial killer crazy. Best do something before they’re calling the forensic psychologist on you to figure out who you done in and why.” Sure, it’s not important to have perfect hair or stylin’ yoga clothes. But it sure is fun. We might be yogis, but we’re still girls. When the girly girl mind switches on, watch out. There will be tie dye yoga pants and high buns flying all over the place.

This week, we started the search for a replacement yoga-do. Being the long-term pony-tail-enthusiasts that we are, it was obviously time to add some spice into our yoga hair style routine. Here are some a couple of simple, super cute, yoga hairstyles that are perfect for going from savasana to Sara’s birthday mixer.

The Top of the Noggin Bunimage
Photo via Cup of Jo
This style is great if your hair is long and you need something that will keep everything out of your face in a pinch. It’s awesome if you’re going to be doing a lot of reclining poses. If you’re going into headstand, you’ll have to adjust it, but it will only take a few seconds to get it back in place. All you have to do is twist your hair up on the top of your head and secure it with a hair tie or bobby pins. Use bobby pins to secure bangs . Easy Peasy.

Fishtail Braid
The fishtail braid is a precious yoga hairstyle. If you have a few minutes to spare before you head to the studio, give it a try. It might look a little intimidating if you’ve never rocked the tail, but it’s extremely simple. Check out this video by Lauren Conrad from The Hills and take her advice. Don’t over think the fishtail braid.

How do you wear your yoga hair?

Ego Awareness

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One of the most challenging and essential parts of yoga is dealing with the ego. I went to practice with the brilliant and lovely Kim Wilcox, at Moksha yoga in Chicago this week. During the practice, before we were going into the poses we were warming up for, she talked about something that got me thinking about the relationship with the ego and yoga all week. 

"If this is a spiritual practice, why do we need all of the asanas [poses]," she asked.

She went on to talk about how the poses act as little challenges for us to examine our relationship with the ego. If we fall, or find something is too challenging, do we feel less than? Do we push harder and suffer? If we can do something better than our classmates, do we feel better than? Do we feel proud of ourselves for being stronger and flexible?

After this insight, we went into doing many poses that I hadn’t been able to do in the past, some that I’d never tried before. Due to the amount of yoga that I’ve been doing in the past three weeks, my change to a vegan diet, and the excellent warm up that Kim led us through, I was able to stand into Bird of Paradise for the first time and extend both legs. I was instantly elated. Was this pride? I was just excited at my progress. Hmm… I didn’t think the ego was involved, but I tried to stay calm and resolved and focus on getting as much out of the posture that I could. 

Then we went on to do a variation of shoulder stand that I had never attempted before. On my right side, I went for it and fell right out of it. I instantly felt like a fool for trying something I had never done. “Of course you can’t do it. It was stupid of you to try. You look like a jerk who tries to hard in front of this awesome yoga instructor. You’re not strong enough. How can you think…” and on went the ego.

I listened to it and became increasingly present. The ego dissipated, and I attempted the same move on the opposite side.

Lo and behold, it was successful! I could even do the level 2 variation. Booyah! I’m awesome. Kim came by and said “Awesome!” I flashed a huge proud grin and checked my peripherals. I’m one of the only people in class that can… Oh shoot. Hello again, ego.

It was interesting to see how much the ego still creeps into my practice. But the most wonderful thing is to finally be aware of it. 

How does the ego effect your practice?

Okay. We get it.

prose-lines-poets-rhymes:

Tan. Toned. White Teeth. Long Hair. Long Eyelashes. Perfect Curves. Expensive Clothes. Large Breasts. Big Lips. Perfect Nose. Long, Slender Legs. Flat Abs. Lean Arms. Manicured Nails. Perfect Skin.

Photoshopped.
Perfection.
Everywhere.

I think we’ve seen enough.
I think we get it now.
This is who we are “supposed”
To be.
Now leave us…
Alone.

(via hippieyogi-deactivated20120229)

Sahasrara Chakra

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Hey there yogis! After a few weeks off of our chakra series, let’s dive right back in and talk about our seventh and final major chakra. This is it yogis! We’ve arrived at the Sahasrara chakra otherwise known as the Crown Chakra. This is the chakra. When we quiet the mind and open this energy center, we tap into our greatest energy source.
 
While this is a chakra of greatest energy, you must work on unblocking all of the other chakras in order to receive the full benefits and gifts that come from opening up sahasrara.
 
People who unblock and harness the energy of all seven chakras are bright and radiate love. Opening this final chakra is like a re-birthing. You become one with everything and feel a connectedness to the universe that you’ve never felt before.

Yoga Poses for the Vishuddha Chakra
Physically opening up this Chakra has more to do focused breathing, and opening up the other chakras in order to have a clear line of energy to sahasrara. In essence, all poses help to open this chakra. But there are three poses that are beneficial for alignment when meditating to open this chakra. They are:

  • Seated Mudra
  • Fish
  • Shoulder Stand
Meditation

Meditation is essential in opening this chakra. It’s best to use a meditation that’s rooted in focused breathing. Focusing breath on the crown chakra will immediately energize it and allow the crown to relax and ease open. You can practice focused breathing meditation with an ujjali breath or try a breathing exercise like this one. You can really do any breathing exercise combined with meditation to open this chakra. Just keep your focus on the crown of your head and the energy that you begin to feel there. Continue to breathe into that energy and it will begin to create more energy. The more you focus and breathe, the more your crown chakra will open up.

It feels great, right? Now, continue to do focused breathing meditation, but start at your root chakras and work your way up. Do any of your chakras feel sluggish or do they lack energy? Stop for a moment and channel your breath into a sluggish chakra before you move on to the next.

Mantra
The vocal seed mantra for this chakra is Om pronounced Ah-Ow-Mng. You can either chant this mantra once on each exhale breath in order to balance the chakra. For increased energy flow, try fitting three OMs in each exhalation.

To be honest, I have only just begun working on this chakra, today, right as I started writing this post this morning. After some breath focused meditation, chanting and yoga, I already feel like a different person. There’s something lighter, brighter and more abundant about life right now. I’m not really sure what it is, but it feels wonderful. I feel like I could take the world in instead of taking it on. I feel like a project manager of the soul. Let’s continue to work on our chakras and check in next week, shall we?

How is your chakra work going?