It has begun!
My formal yoga teacher training has started. The first of 16 modules over the next two years was this past weekend. What a whirlwind of information and excitement to begin. From mudras to chants to highlighting the first yoga asanas. Yes - there are three fundamental seated asanas. Who knew?!
Now I do!
Where to begin? What to say?
Here is a Coles notes summary of my take always:
1. Chanting. Say what? Yes, chanting. This was very new to me. It hasn't been part of my regular practice but I am aware and have listened to Krishna Das in the past. Incorporating sound in practice, beyond the a teachers' voice, was a soothing and calming part of practice. Almost felt like church, but not really. We started the workshop with the Teacher-Student Chant/Mantra, which was so lovely. It heightened the senses and really settled the mind. Totally new to me, as I said, but lucky that another teacher-to-be asked to go over it in more detail. We practiced together multiple times.... Needless to say, I will need more time with this!
2. History. I've been craving an explanation of history for a while now. Now this was no University level history class but it did fill in some of the gaps in my mind. Interestingly enough, yoga has Aryan roots from the Indus Valley Civilization. It didn't reach India until later (I had always thought that is where yoga began!) The modern practice of yoga comes from the Himalayas and has been passed down from sages to aspiring teachers.
To put in a sequential order for me, it goes from Vedic era to pre-classical to Classical to Modern (post 1893). Asana practice has only been over the past couple of hundred years!
3. Major Texts. One of the major texts of yoga is Hatha Yoga Pradipika. In this text, only 84 poses existed. Of those, three are seated poses. We covered Siddhasana (accomplished pose; sage pose), Simhasana (lion pose) and Badda Konasana (bound angle pose; cobblers pose). Funny enough, Simhasana was the one asana I volunteered to teach. Not many participants had done it before and since I had, I felt confident that I could explain it. It went well as my first try at teaching. I concentrated hard to keep my words succinct and calm, which is a bit different from teaching exercise classes. A great chance to try it!
4. We covered another handful or so of poses, mudras and pranayama. Much more than I can add into one blog post. But very important information to absorb and reflect back on (so much so that I purchased three books off Amazon the next day!)
My intention and hope is to continue to blog my highlights from all and every training I will be doing over the next couple years. Nothing like stopping and reflecting and writing about ones learning.
Anything I may get wrong, or you know about, PLEASE comment below!
I know I say this often but it is so true...so much more to learn!
Last week I taught a workshop on pre and postnatal exercise for fitness leaders. Already certified, these instructors were primarily working with the general, healthy population but also moms-to-be and new moms. Many of the women in the room were already mothers and had their own stories to share about their pregnancies and births.
Interestingly, we all come to the exercise studio (and the yoga mat) with our own experience. I’m not going to lie but a large motivation for doing this training was to ensure instructors understand the complications and changes to the pelvic floor women have after birth and possibly caused from pregnancy too.
Although not unique, but very unique to me, was my pelvic floor dysfunction post pregnancy and birth of my first child. It took over a year to determine exactly what was wrong. Being a new mom, I thought that what was going on “down there” was normal and what I would have to deal with the rest of my life. Not only was it a tough year with a newborn (read: lacking sleep, sharing my body and milk with a little human being and some days limited adult contact), I was dealing with a body that no longer felt like mine.
By 8 months post-partum I finally conceded that I needed to go to physiotherapy. Nothing was improving with my, what I thought, expert knowledge. Boy was I out of my league! It was with the fantastic work of physiotherapists that I was able to find out what the H - E - double hockey stick was wrong!
In a nutshell, pardon the medical terms, I was diagnosed with a grade one uterine prolapse, rectocele and cystocele. The triple bang for your buck! Recognizing now that these three forms of pelvic floor dysfunction are like any injury, it has taken me this long to finally put the words to print in this blog. Previous to my first pregnancy, I knew about prolapse but the other two were new to me.
Needless to say, having injury in the lady bits isn’t something people talk about. And thus, I’m on the hunt to not only keep my injuries in check but to also get the word out and make it much more well known. This is why I have become trained in hypopressives exercise through Low Pressure Fitness and Hypopressives Canada.
Enter this week’s yoga practice. I was looking for a longer practice and fell into Adriene’s playlist for weight loss. I had somehow (again this week) missed this video before and jumped in with two feet.
What I got was a challenging core workout!
Note: some soreness two days later!
By no means, am I complaining about the yoga asana sequence nor the video at all. Yet, my head goes straight to the core. My core. Is this work good for my pelvic floor?
I modified slightly but was intrigued when Adriene mentioned Uddiyana Bandha.
I had heard references that Uddiyana Bandha is like hypopressive exercise yet I have never taken the time to explore it. Well, this week is the first week to do so.
I dove into Coulter’s book, Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, and was shocked to find not only Uddiyana Bandha but also found Ashwini Mudra, Mula Bandha, Agni Sara, and Nauli. Now too much to cover now (and let’s be honest, I’m a bit overwhelmed with understanding them in text form only) but needless to say, hatha yoga has its own set of abdominopelvic poses that I didn’t even knew existed.
Well, I don’t think they show up in your traditional yoga studio. They seem highly complex and likely very difficult to teach in a group setting. There are also contraindications to consider and thus, hard to ensure all in a group are safe.
So, it might be that they show up in personalized practice for more experienced yogis.
But back to Uddiyana Bandha…
Considered an upward abdominal lock, Uddiyana Bandha is extremely similar to the apneas in hypopressive exercises. By using the breath (inhalation and exhalation), one takes a “false” breath by keeping the glottis closed to lift the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. It is a vacuum effect based on the decrease in pressure in the chest cavity. It may seem to look like sucking in the abdominals but it is much more.
Unable to put my practice into words (I’m still working on my own personal practice of hypopressives!), I’ll opt to leave it at that. Realizing that hypopressive apneas are very similar if not the same as Uddiyana Bandha.
Can’t wait to practice and learn more! For my knowledge but also for my pelvic floor health!
Nothing like sitting and breathing and letting the body tell you what is what!
Not only does the breath bring you to the mat (mindfulness anyone?!) but the use of the amazing, physiological capabilities that provide our perception - the senses.
As we all know them, the five traditional senses are:
What you hear?
What you see?
What you taste?
What you smell?
What your skin feels?
The more scientific definition, which I equally appreciate is:
"A system that consists of a group of sensory cell types that responds to a specific physical phenomenon, and that corresponds to a particular group of regions within the brain where the signals are received and interpreted."
I had never thought of starting a yoga practice by using the various senses. I have previously designed and facilitated a workshop on simulating the senses in an indoor cycling class called Reinventing Your Spin Class: Conscious Change Through Creativity!. So why not use the same principles when designing yoga practice too? The foundation of the workshop I taught was based on the book, On Becoming An Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity, by Ellen J. Langer. A great read to spark some creativity!
I am always looking for ways to become a better speaker, facilitator, and teacher. This week’s practice, thanks to Do Yoga With Me, has opened the idea of using the senses to help audiences, clients, and participants to connect. And, I think I need to take another read of Langer’s book…a 2016 perspective versus the original 2009 perspective.
Linking the senses to yoga practice as a whole is an interesting topic. In my internet search, I came across two opposing perspectives with the incorporation of using the senses in practice. First, Deepak Chopra talks at length about Ayurveda and using the senses for health. When thinking of a class setting, the music hits the ears, the eyes witness the namaste symbol, the scent of lavender in eye pillows, the taste of water after a vinyasa flow and the touch of a yoga mat under ones’ toes. Now I am no expert in Ayurveda (actually I would call myself a beginner) but yoga is linked to Ayurveda to some degree.
Yet, my second search dropped me into the Yoga Sutras.
Here we go! So much I don’t know!
Pratyahara or Sense Withdrawal, is the fifth rung of the eight sutras. What it purports is to withdraw the senses instead of using them in practice (primarily in meditation). What was beautifully written as:
"The senses are said to follow the mind in the same way the hive of bees follows the queen bee. Wherever she goes, they will follow. Similarly, if the mind truly goes inward, the senses will come racing behind.”
My grand idea of using the senses in practice may actually be defeating one of the key parts of yoga.
Well, I won’t solve this one anytime soon. But interesting nonetheless.
How do your senses engage in your yoga practice?
180 weeks of yoga!
Did I ever think I would get to this place? Honestly, if you asked me way back in September 2012, I think I would have said a pretty confident ‘no’! Not that I thought I would be a certified yoga teacher by now but because I wasn’t confident that I would dedicate my energy to yoga for this long.
Well, maybe not. Who am I fooling? I loved yoga then and I’ve really fallen in love with my yoga practice now!
It amazes me how much I’ve learned and that my head is starting to formulate “yoga class lesson plans”. I’m curious how to design a class and think I’ve got a good idea what one could look like. Stay tuned…that may show up on the blog in the near future!
As for this week, I FINALLY got to the class I’ve wanted to attend for a while…
Let me back up…
Almost two years ago, I was fortunate to be sitting at a yoga studio (with my baby Ben in tow) with two certified yoga teachers. Our practice was done and the three of us were the only participants that day. As we were rolling up our mats, I took the opportunity to quiz them about how to pick the best yoga teacher training course. I was ready to hear this studio and that studio but instead what I heard was “take a class with a potential teacher trainer instructor as this will help you decide if they are the right teacher to guide your yoga training”.
Poof - my mind was blown as I never thought of it that way.
Alas, I made it to a class this weekend to a potential teacher trainer instructor. I tried to keep my eagerness in check and not over think the class and this potential instructor. Little did I know, the class paralleled the current teacher training session at the studio and the room filled up with all keen, observant yoga teacher wannabes in-training. The class was packed!
As I started my practice, I let it unfold like any other. Secretly, I took small checks and balances of the instruction and information provided in class. That was hard because my head was trying to get into the “yoga brain” for practice. Nonetheless, I got an excellent hour class and was able to contemplate if this person might be the best first formal yoga teacher trainer instructor.
Drum roll, please…
Yes, he might just be the chosen one!
Other factors are definitely at play as to where I invest (and let me tell you, it is an investment!) in my teacher training. But I would have to agree with the advice provided, I must find an instructor that provides the first training I need (strategic, anyone?).
Am I secure in where my yoga teacherhood is heading? I think so. I’m formulating a plan…stay tuned.
After a great bonus practice, I still hit the mat at home this week with Adriene. Aptly named, I am Secure, the practice was lovely as always. I particularly like the transitions between table top position and downward facing dog. It was smooth, graceful and down right enjoyable. A variation that I haven’t done often.
Using the mantra of, I am Secure, it helped me solidify what I felt after my bonus practice. I am heading in the right direction with my yoga practice and plan for teacher training.
More yoga to come!
With lots to learn, my journey to become a yoga teacher has pushed me to explore many topics and ideas that have never crossed my path before. Particularly, historical learnings.
As a youth, history was one of my favorite classes in high school. Grade 11 history was an option and I rejoiced when I found out I had a seat. I don't love it in the way of facts, figures and dates but more so for the stories. Yoga history is not presented in your run of the mill high school curriculum, so it is a new story to learn.
Stories frame an experience.
A little unknown fact about me is that I have a large non-fiction collection of Holocaust survivorship books. It has been a topic I've read about since early teenage hood. Now, granted, you may be thinking, what the heck are you doing reading such horrific stories?! The only way I can describe it is that these real life stories bring perspective to mine. And that these people who perished were just that, people too. It is the least I can do now to honour those who perished.
With Canadian Remembrance Day coming in a month or so, it too reinforces how stories and history have shaped my world.
Now to yoga history.
Big topic here, yet I received a snap shot this week from Leslie...
Leslie Kaminoff pops into my email most weeks and when I saw the offer to watch one of his videos, I took the time to view it.
What I didn’t expect was to get a lesson on yoga history.
Being trained by T.K.V. Desikachar, Leslie reflects on the lineage he teaches from. T.K.V. Desikachar is the son of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya or simply Krishnamacharya, who could be considered the modern grandfather of yoga. As I can’t say I know much about Krishnamacharya, what I did learn was that he was the primary teacher of yoga during the early 1900’s and he taught many of the other known leaders of yoga such as Pattabhi Jois (established Astanga yoga) and B.K.S. Iyengar and of course his son, T.K.V. Desikachar.
I’ve have always wondered about yoga lineage and how it all works together. It seems like Krishnamacharya made yoga something accessible and more common place during the previous century. I look forward to learning more about the most recent history of yoga as I just got my fingertips on T.K.V. Desikachar’s book. The Heart of Yoga.
I’ve got some interesting reading and research ahead.
Coming off a weekend of presenting at a conference and running around to get things done, I was ready for a practice that rejuvenated.
I quickly picked a recent video from Adriene and got on my mat.
I saw the word “detoxify” and “balance the liver energy meridian" in the description and that intrigued me. Maybe this was the practice for me?!
As I began, I was led in to a brief discussion on the liver. As someone who works in primary healthcare, I am always intrigued to learn how yoga influences the body.
My educated guess to how yoga would make its' mark was to focus on twists.
Correct I was!
Yet, beyond that - there was a great gift in store.
But let me back up for now...let's talk liver first.
In the past six months, the idea of detox has been floating around in my world. Working to help people live healthier lives, this comes up fairly often. They say things like “I’m on X detox” or I did “this detox” which gave me [name the benefit here] for my overall health. Now, to be honest, I am fairly critical of detoxes. I’ve read Timothy Caulfield’s book, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: How the Famous Sell Us Elixirs of Health, Beauty & Happiness, and respect his vigour for analysis and critical thinking. So when I read his chapter on detox and learned that there is NO significant health benefit to detoxes, I was on board.
Now - in comes yoga - and the various recommendations of poses to help with the liver. I’m no expert but I’m a bit leery believing yoga’s role in detoxifying the liver. And many others are too.
But, is my headspace the result of Western medicine? Probably. Can I corner yoga into that perspective? Probably not. This is where ayurvedic medicine plays its card. I humbling admit, I know very little about this type of medicine. So, as with all things, I’m ready to learn more about ayurvedic medicine and the various ways it intertwines with yoga…but for another post.
Logic does tell me though, that it is quite possible that yoga poses could help the liver by releasing the associated muscles and fascia surrounding the liver and thus, help with its function. Just sayin’.
Okay - Now, back to my gift.
Practice was just about to the end and I landed in a prone face down position. I wondered what was next that involved a twist. But how will I twist in this position?
Low and behold, Adriene delivered the best twist of the day! From the prone position, I came up into cobra. Stretching one arm out to the side, palm down, I shifted my chest away from the mat whereby lifting the top leg over to open up the body out to face the side. With my searching this week, I couldn’t find a reference or name to this pose but that doesn’t matter as it was glorious! Not only as a twist but also an awesome hip and chest opener like no other.
And of course, I sought the connection to my weekend. I was presenting on overactive and shortened muscles to a group of AFLCA leaders. THIS stretch was the ultimate in connecting to those overactive muscles.
In the end, my sunny east window glowed and I was rejuvenated in my savasana. Liver detox or not.
Sometimes you need yoga, just to be yoga.
For me and this blog, it is at times challenging to keep my head out of the practice. That being, thinking to technically about the practice as opposed to being present in the movements, breath and with myself.
This week’s practice took two run throughs. Earlier in the week, I practiced not realizing that yoga needed to be just yoga this week. Come to write a blog post and I can say with certainty that I had NO recollection of what I did nor what I wanted to write about.
I checked out.
And rightly so.
It’s been a busy, hectic (read: somewhat stressful) beginning of September. Obviously I needed to check out.
Do yoga for yoga sake.
When it came to round number two (and checking my notes from earlier in the week), I was able to recall and write about what I was thinking, feeling and learning with this week’s practice!
In a nutshell, September. Oh - September. It brings on such memories of starting new things and getting back into routine. I was inspired to try a September kind-of practice with Adriene’s Dorm Room Yoga. I’ve been out of post secondary school for over 10 years but I couldn’t resist a try!
It was not so much about the physical practice this week but more about her statements and guiding words.
"getting your money’s worth"
"not ignoring how we get in and out of things but considering that part of the practice too”
"experience the space between the poses"
Adriene’s words were instrumental to staying focused on the practice (I did that well this week!) and realizing that it is so easy to just run through the poses.
This fits well with a cool program I’m taking part in right now called Everyday Mindfulness. I’m taking it for personal reasons for quick little hints and tricks to be present and not get hung up on the past nor anxious about the future. But many of the mindfulness concepts align well with the yoga philosophies. I can see myself carrying these concepts over to my teaching practice.
Thank goodness I took the time to practice twice this week and get these golden nuggets again. I would have to say that I am pretty proud that my unconscious self was able to get what it needed during my first practice and my intellectual, blog writing self got second fiddle this week. Regardless, it all turned out in the end.
But sometimes you just need yoga, for yoga sake,
I can't tell you how many people over the duration of my career who've told me they want to lose weight. It is almost a given when talking about exercise. Or is it?
Research doesn't necessarily support that exercise alone will help you lose weight. Yet, the fitness industry rants and raves it as the (only) benefit of being physically active.
Even this past week, I had a women who's sole purpose talking to me was about her losing 30 pounds. Unfortunately, each time she spoke of her weight, it was like her weight was a personal failure and she wasn't a deserving human being.
I know that feeling. I hate to admit it but there were many years of body hate. I recall taking scissors to my inner thigh and considering to cut. Of course, I knew enough (at lets say the age of eight) that that wasn't going to work. But the feeling of disgust with my body was all encompassing.
Full Disclosure: I still struggle from time to time about my body image. It is easy to fall back into old thoughts and self-talk.
Is this common? I hate to know the stats as I think it is more common than we know.
Slot in yoga...
A practice that is for oneself and within oneself. Not just the physicality of asanas but the breath work and mental meditation it includes.
I would argue yoga is the ultimate in self-love.
This week's practice drove that point home.
Initially, when I read the video title, I slightly cringed - "Yoga for Weight Loss - Hips & Hammies ". Oh no, not this message again. The expectation that yoga will cause weight loss. But as I got into the video sequence, I soon realized I was the one with the expectations.
Okay - exercise science doesn't support exercise (yoga) as a weight loss tool (unless you do many, many, many minutes a week) but taking care of oneself likely does. Now I don't have the science to back this one up but if you spend time taking care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, it can only make you better...and take you to a healthy weight.
I missed interpreted the video title to only be about the physical. Weight status is multifactorial. There are many reasons why people weigh what they weigh. From my experience, it is when your practice self-love, you become the best (healthy) self, no matter what your weight.
A major reason I started my passion project, The Why I Move Project, was to make society become more mindful about their physical activity AND see that being physically active is much more that just your weight.
I am blessed each week to practice yoga. It is my gift to myself.
Will you give yourself some love this week?
I was very lucky to chat this week with not just one but two local yoga teachers. The burning question has always been, "where do I take my teacher training?" It has been in my realm of consciousness lately as September always is the start of school and fitting, l've been seeing many advertisements and posters of local studios offering their training.
My inquiring mind dove in deep with the two teachers. Where do you recommend? Where did you do your training? How is the training at this (read: where I went to class...you could maybe guess where) studio? How do you know what type of yoga to get training in?
I literally peppered them with question, after question, after question (note: this is not the first time I've done this to a yoga teacher!).
As it is becoming clear, I really struggle with how to become a teacher. It honestly stems from my real job as an exercise physiologist/group exercise leader. It's not a profession that is regulated (less so than yoga, I think). And I've prided myself (for better or worse) in having the highest standard of education. And with time, I have acknowledged that education is not the only way to be something or someone. Experience counts too (hence the blog!!!) So with this lens and perspective I have, I really want to make a sound decision when choosing how I get certified.
Amazingly, I think I got the best advice that day on teacher training. One of the teachers flatly said, just go out and try a class at as many studios as you can. Expose yourself to many teachers and find where and who speaks to you.
Kazaam! There we have it! Why haven't I thought about doing that!!!
Interestingly, the exercise world, is probably no different. One of my many hats is to train new group exercise leaders, primarily in indoor cycling by choice. And how many of these newbies have either hung out in my classes for many years and/or were directed to me by other leaders I've trained or worked with. I am blessed to have such a supportive network!
So, what does this all mean? Well, as time and space allow for it, I'm going to try as many different studios, styles of yoga and teachers.
I'm not convinced I've found my match just yet. Some ideas and thoughts but I still need more time to "shop around". And since I love shopping, it doesn't seem like a huge feat! Plus, I'll keep plugging along at the blog and keep my study of yoga alive and well.
Can't wait to keep going with this yoga adventure,
Over the years, I've be instructed to place my hands in certain ways during practice. The most notable is Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal, sometimes called Prayer Position) or namaste position. Yet, other, less popular, so to speak, hand yoga poses exist.
During this week's practice, I was reminded of another fairly common yoga hand pose. Placing the thumb and pointer/index finger together, the hands form what is similar to an a-OKAY sign except the two finger pads are pressing together (rather than the nail and thumb pad) and the palms are facing up.
It got me thinking more about what hand yoga is all about and thus, went searching for more...
Mudras, is actual term used for hand yoga. I've heard the term many times before but never connected it to the hand positions.
"Mudra (hand gesture) is a method of citta-bhavana, or cultivating a specific state of mind. There are dozens of mudras, and each represents a certain quality, such as compassion, courage, or wisdom. It is believed that, by practicing mudra, you awaken the seeds of these states within you."
The specific mudra I stated above is called Gyana Mudra and it is believed to be the psychic gesture of knowledge.
I find when I practice this position, I feel an opening or a rush of energy (or air flow) from my straight fingers up my forearms. Weird? Maybe. But more intriguing to me than any thing else.
According to one source, Gyan Mudra stimulates the root chakra and eases tension and depression. It also allows for expansion and knowledge whereby it calms and brings spiritual openness and ease in meditation.
Interestingly, the feeling I get with this mudra may just relate to the air element. Based on Ayurveda, this mudra boosts the air element and stimulates the brain, empowering the mind, nervous system and pituitary gland. Who knows if this is the case, but a logical explanation!
With so many mudras ( and not just with the hands), I have many to explore and many to research for future posts!
More and more interesting parts of yoga keep unfolding,
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.