Week 13: Ready For a Heat Wave?
I sort of feel "behind the times". This is sometimes the case - if you only knew I just recently got my first ever cell phone and considered staying with a film camera. Hot yoga has been a craze for some time and for whatever reason I've stayed away.
I wonder if I have not done a hot yoga class because of the preconceived notion that it would totally suck...for the lack of better words. The heat and intensity would be awful and I saw myself needing to leave the room for reprieve from the heat.
This is so not the case!
I entered the room at Yoga Central and the first things that jumped out to me was the warmth (not heat) and the red floor! I settled on to my mat and waited for the class to begin. I did some initial low back stretching with child's pose (balasana) and let my body (and mind) get use to the warmth. I have to admit that I panicked a little bit and my breath shortened. But then class began...
It was a practice much similar to a regular Hatha class. I anticipated that the poses would be rapid fast and my body would be drenched within the first five minutes. Not at all. The pace was perfect and I was, let's say, glowing in the first five minutes. We practiced many downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) poses and I felt I finally could get the release in my calf muscles that I so needed. I felt strong and stretched all at the same time.
The other real benefit beyond what a normal class provides for me is the focus on the breath. It wasn't emphasized to a great extent but for me it was how I coped with the extra warmth of the room and my body. It was something I could control in an environment I couldn't control. Interesting...
At the end of class, I felt little rushes of cool air over my body as I lay in corpse pose (savasana). Was it my mind playing tricks on me or did the teacher lower the temperature in the room? I'm not sure but it was the most refreshing end to a class I'd been avoiding for years!
Curiously, after class, I wanted to know why the class was not referred to as a Bikram class. It seems that hot and Bikram are not necessarily one in the same (kinda like all Catholics are Christian but not necessarily all Christians are Catholic). Bikram yoga has a specific prescription whereby the temperature is standardize as well as the poses, 26 of them, are completed every class. Who knew? So many things to learn!
Hot in Edmonton and ready to try it again,
The physical practice of breath control has been part of my world since 1988. This is when I started synchronized swimming which was encouraged by my mom. As you can imagine, this sport focuses on breathing (or lack there of) in its training. I spent many sessions in the pool underwater (and at times up side down) perfecting my breath control. At my top fitness, I would swim 50 meters underwater (two lengths of the pool) without coming up for a breath!
At the time, I don't think I thought much about it, only that for me to be the best swimmer I could be, I needed good breath control.
Fast forward many years, to current day, and I still forget how powerful the breath is. Oh how we forget something that is automatic in our bodies!
This week was a complete write off for a physical asana practice. I won't bore you with the details but needless to say I didn't get a chance to even try. I did however work on my breath to ground me and make me feel like I did something this week!
Yogic breathing variations, as with types of yoga, is a lengthy list that you just can't cover in a post nor in a session. I have been fortunate to attend multiple classes (with different teachers) where breath work was the focus . I will save that commentary for another day and just highlight what breathing model was best fit for me this week.
I really needed to focus on relaxation and calm this week and thus, worked on a balanced breath. If you are not familiar, it ensures your inhalation is the same duration as your exhalation. For example, I would inhale for the count of five then match my exhale to the count of five. I quite enjoy expanding my breath and work towards a count of nine for each the inhale and exhale. I also find it very refreshing to think nourishment on the inhale (prana) and disposal of waste on the exhale (apana). Try it!
Notice what the balance breath can do? New air in and old air out.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention I also surprised myself this week while reading a new book, Inspire Me Well. Unbenounced to me, the chapter I was to read next had an extensive part on yoga. I have to share this quote from a local yoga teacher (who's classes I've attended before in the past) where it highlights using your breath to your advantage:
Notice what your body is feeling, notice where your mind wants to go. In yoga, like life, you find yourself in positions you do not want to be in - you witness them but never get too involved. Breathe through it, and you will be surprised to find your strengths.
Inspire Me Well, Finding Motivation to Take Control of Your Health; Chapter 6 pg. 77
Breath in, breath out.
Photo credit: eltpics
I've alluded to in previous posts about when I started yoga and why I took on a practice. It was after an major impact injury (a running collusion and a resulting fall onto a cement floor) that propelled me (and my parents) to find whatever mode of therapy to help with my back pain and injury.
After years of various rehabilitation treatments, I had thought I'd got my back (and hip) to a place of health and maintenance. I soon realized that after years of compensating I wasn't standing straight. The picture below is a prime example of how I use to stand. It wasn't until I saw this picture that I realized I'm not standing straight even when I think I am. Note: Left leg slightly externally rotated and such a wide stance!
Mountain pose (Tadasana) has been an excellent pose to work on my foundation and stance. Even outside of yoga classes, I have been consciously thinking about standing straight (washing dishes is a prime time when I can really go back to my old stance!). Mountain pose seems like such an "easy" stance but in fact it is one of the hardest poses for me. Not only do I stand crooked but I also have hyper mobility in my knee joints whereby I hyperextended and lock out my knees frequently. This isn't conducive to proper mountain pose positioning.
One of the key points of mountain pose that I learned from Judy, was weight distribution on my feet. This has allowed me to stand properly. Have you ever tried to equal distribute your body weight to your pinky toe, big toe and heel (think of it as a triangle - similar to the picture below)? I rarely allowed my pinky to take on any of the load! Now it is the triangle I think about when standing and particularly when practicing mountain pose.
The benefits of yoga have been many over the years and it is likely that this is one of the greatest benefits for me. I am by no means completely straight all day every day but I know my foundation has been improved. Who knew standing upright would be so hard!?!
Standing straight (most of the time),
This past weekend, I attended a conference, Alberta CSEP Perspectives in Exercise, Health and Fitness Conference, specifically for my exercise physiologist designation (CSEP-CEP). We discussed professionalism, becoming a licensed healthcare profession, and how the accreditation currently is the gold standard for qualified exercise professionals...among other things!
I started to think about
"what is the gold standard for yoga certification?"
The most common thing I've heard about yoga certification is that it is based on hours. From what I know, most certifications are either 200 or 500 hours. I'm unsure what the difference is other than the obvious time dedicated to becoming certified. Can anyone pipe in on this?
The other outstanding part of becoming certified, is who do I certify with?
Honestly, I'm a big supporter of quality education particularly because your knowledge translates into how well you can instruct others and quiet frankly, keep the public safe. The most obvious way to become certified is to look at the type of yoga I want to teach and then explore who is best suited to provide this education. It seems that most types of yoga have commonalities such as poses or asanas but there are also clear distinctions. The different types of yoga instruction is beyond this post (I guarantee it will be a post one day...it's on my checklist to find out about all forms of yoga!) but needless to say, knowing the difference is key to certification.
What I know now is....
The following organizations and/or business in Alberta and Edmonton offer some form of certification:
Yoga Association of Alberta
Mount Royal College
Lotus Soul Gym
Yoga for Today
AFLCA - Mind/Body designation
There is also the Yoga Alliance of North America which might be an international certification. As well as YogaFit, the fitness focused certification.
If I were to harbor a guess, my path to yoga teaching would start with a Hatha 200 hour certification then on to the 500 hour course. I'm very interested in the yoga therapy program at Mount Royal College as I it would complement my current work as an exercise physiologist. That's what I think for now...
If you know more, please send me your thoughts and expert opinions! Comments below are most welcomed!!!
I've got more research to do to find the gold standard! I'll keep you posted on what I find.
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.