The exact words my four year old son said to me the Sunday night after 14 hours of yoga teacher training. We proceeded to practice ‘his practice’ of made up poses on my two sticky mats. I have no idea how he came up with so many moves - 20 plus! I was so proud of him at the end when he knew to close with Namaste. How sweet!
This momma was away from her family a large part of the weekend and it was so sincere that my youngest wanted to connect with me through yoga. He knows I just can’t get enough!
Fourteen hours over three days is hard to summarize into just a simple post. But let me share some of the highlights.
Friday night was the first session of my new Teacher’s Training. Kinda confusing, I started Yoga Within’s 200 hour Teacher’s Training to help fulfill not only my hours and senior teacher requirement but also to provide the much needed structure and community I was looking for in my training.
More time, yes. More practice, yes. More knowledge, fore sure!
But right from the beginning my decision to take on more was solidified with the beautiful presence of Melanie and other senior teachers. We participated in a marigold ceremony, or what I like to call it, to represent a new beginning and initiation to the program. Each new student was welcomed to the circle and presented a small marigold. Tara Woltjen
provided a detailed back story and meaning of the marigold. Some of which include marigolds as a sacred offering to the Gods and promotion of cheer and good relations in relationships. It was a thoughtful and elegant way to begin a new page in my yoga journey.
The following day I needed to switch group, literally, a jump back into the YAA’s Teacher Training program. The focus of this workshop was the Bhagavad Gita, headstands (Sirasana) or supported headstand (Salamba Sirasana), and a brief review of pranayama (Kapalabjati and Bhastrika). I can see how they all fit together. The common thread was the head and/or skull.
Right off the hop, we dove into the Bhagavad Gita. Although I’ve read parts of it, I still need to take a deeper look. For one who is very pro-peace, reading about war isn’t one of my favourite past times. Yet, our discussion opened my mind to inquire about the themes in the Bhagavad Gita not necessarily the obvious story line. Can I see the struggle of Arjuna and his inquiries with Krishna as a reflection of the human struggle and connecting with God?
Needless to say, I’ve got more reading to do and to be honest, I a bit more intrigued now. What I did like most about learning more about the Bhagavad Gita was that it was written as a love song. Something that I don’t completely understand yet, it leaves me more to learn!
With all the talking, I almost forgot about the asana practice we had coming. It was headstand! ***sense my fear and uncertainty***
Although there was fear, I don’t think the fear was rooted in truth. I was super nervous about trying it but solely because I thought I’d need to literally put all my weight on my head. Never really been taught how to do it, I clearly had no idea.
Teddy, the senior teacher, took us through multiple progressions to the final wall supported pose. I hadn’t realized how important the forearms and shoulders are for this pose. Ninety percent of the weight should be in the arms with only a small amount on the head. We worked on mountain pose, cow faced pose arms (Gumukhasana) and eagle pose arms (Garudasana). Also on downward facing dog and wide leg forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana) with the sole purpose to prepare for headstand.
We finally went to the wall to give the asana a try. With clasped hands right up at the wall, the head is cradled in the palms and the forearms are firm (pressing into the ground), it is then and only then that it is safe to try to get the legs up the wall.
Slowly I walked my feet up towards my face and what felt smooth and somewhat magical, my legs went up and I was in head stand. The fear vanished as I was completely comfortable in the pose. Now I respect it takes a lot of pre-work to get to this place and respect that I am only just beginning my headstand journey. It isn’t going to be something I teach any time soon as it is known as the King pose!
Headstand’s mystic and anxiety-rising appearance is not longer. I am incorporating it in my home practice and look forward to the pose. It’s completion brings along a bit of a [head]rush and I’ve been following it with a supported child’s pose then a bridge. It is important to follow the headstand with a shoulder stand (the Queen pose, of course). Although I struggle with the shoulder stand (getting the chest opening), it is nice to pair these two together for my home practice.
What a whirlwind weekend of yoga! I can’t lie…I loved every minute of it!
Sitting in my backyard as I write this post, I'm reminded how yoga can take us to places we never thought we'd go. I hear the birds singing and see them glide so effortlessly through the air. If only we could fly...
It is in this week's pose, eagle pose, I too flew (with one foot on the ground!)
Over the years, I've dreaded and anticipated eagle pose (garudasana) in my practice. With so much going on in this pose, there are many parts that come easy to my body (e.g., balance, leg strength); yet, many parts of the pose are mighty challenging (e.g., arm positioning, crossing the legs fully).
Eagle pose is considered a standing balance pose. It requires lower body strength and flexibility at the same time; as one leg is for stability and the other is for flexibility as it crosses over the straight leg. As a student of yoga, one cannot deny the challenge this pose gives to the lower body.
With that being said, the upper body has an equally intense challenge of binding the forearms and hands together requiring strength and mobility through the shoulder girdle. For someone like me who carries her stress in her shoulders, the arm position releases tension in the rhomboids and middle/lower trapezius. To make the pose even more endearing, holding the arms in position doesn't necessarily provide stretch. It's only after you release the position that you feel your work complete!
But what I do enjoy about the upper body position, is how one can find space. It amazes me how the arms are all "wound" up, yet by simply reaching the elbows forward and raising the hands up (ever so slightly), there is space. It is so easy to let the position just collapse and it takes mental and mindful effort to keep them lifted. Plus - this is where the big returns happen!
Side note - this is technique and cueing that I picked up from Judy!
Interestingly, it wasn't until now when reading more about eagle pose that I didn't know how to actually cue the position. I've been guided in practice but it was unclear to me which arm was "on top" with which corresponding leg "on top". Turns out, it is the opposite; right arm on top with left leg on top. I suppose that makes sense to add a counterbalance for the upper and lower body. Always learning...
Now - I said I flew. How did that happen...
Well, never having done a variation to eagle pose, I was quite taken aback when I tried it! After releasing the legs, keep the lifted (or "on top") leg off the floor, hinging forward into warrior III (virabhadrasana III). Gravity adds a bonus pull to the upper body, which is very welcomed in my world!
This is where I soared!
I love learning all the terminology of yoga, from the sanskirt asana names to the different technique names, it is almost like learning a new culture or language. Which I suppose it sort of is.
This week I popped in a newly borrowed DVD, Yoga Journal 21 Day Challenge, from the library (side note: I'm super excited that the Edmonton Public Library now loans DVDs for three weeks!) and started following my new teacher. She took me through an easy to follow sequence of poses and had me challenged throughout. What caught my attention, though, was the way she described a pose. We were "binding". Now I have to admit, this variation on the pose (bound extended side angle [Baddha Parsvakonasana] versus extended side angle [Utthita Parsvakonasana]) was different so I needed to know more.
Let me explain further...
Binding, as it is called (and I didn't realize it had a name) is when in a pose you clasp your hands together to intensify the stretch, clasp the hand and foot together to progress the pose or when the arms or legs work together by exerting equal force against each other. Here is a thorough video with many examples of poses that bind and here is a list of benefits.
In past practice, I had been doing binding poses and just didn't know it...or know how to name it...such as eagle pose (Garudasana), dancers pose (Natarajasana)
and bow pose (Dhanurasana). Now back to my practice.
Initially when my new teacher guided me into bound extended side angle, I felt apprehension. I suppose this is normal, as you think, "you want my hands to connect in which way?" However, I was pleasantly surprised that getting my hands to touch AND clasp wasn't terribly difficult. Whew! The pose was an excellent chest opener, leg strengthening challenge and mental toughness exercise.
This week's practice made me recall other binding poses that I quite enjoy and must explore in the upcoming weeks.
Not really tied up in knots, just "bound" to try more binding poses,
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.