Tag Archives: teacher training

Teacher Training: Iyengar Class

As part of the Teacher Training requirements, we need to attend four basic types of Hatha Yoga classes: Anusara, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Restorative and Iyenger. I had saved the “best” for last, as we’ve talked quite a bit about the Iyengar style throughout much of the training and I have been somewhat nervous to try it. I decided to take the class at Yoga Garden on Divis this evening and it was an experience.

The focus of Iyengar yoga is alignment. You spend a lot of time in each pose, focusing on each body part and where it is supposed to be and act during each pose. I enjoyed this part of the class, however, I had a very hard time connecting with my breath and found it very difficult to find a rhythm because of all of the constant interruptions. In order to focus on the alignment, you end up using a ton of props and various “accessories” during the class to get the alignment just right. At one point, I looked around the room and each of the 7 students in the room had: 5 blankets, two blocks, 2 straps, 1 sand bag and one pole. You heard me right, a pole.

There was a lot of discussion in the class, asking about how to do something or what should I do with some body part. This is fairly unusual, as conversation and discussion with the teacher during a vinyasa class are generally not recommended. Each student is supposed to have their attention focused inward, not involved in discussion with the teacher about specific poses. I don’t disagree with this aspect of yoga — I think students should be able to ask the teacher questions about specific poses, but it’s usually a more one-on-one thing as opposed to disruption to the larger class.

Speaking of discussions, I’ve never been in a yoga class before where we had a 5 minute discussion on a philosophical topic about yoga. Again, I enjoyed it, but it was not something I’m accustomed to. The teacher had asked us if it was possible to find “God” in Asana, or yoga poses. A few people spoke up. Considering my mind state lately, I jumped at the opportunity to share my thoughts. I said most definitely. By focusing your attention inward, you can find your inner Self, which in my opinion, is God. The teacher countered by asking if you couldn’t do the same thing riding a bicycle or playing guitar. I said “Yes, but you didn’t ask that. You asked if it could be found in Asana, which it can — much like riding a bicycle or playing guitar. The difference being, though, that when you are in Asana you are focusing inward and looking for that quiet space. When you are riding a bike, I hope your attention is on the road ahead of you.”  He didn’t appreciate my answer. I didn’t appreciate his.

Needless to say, it was an interesting discussion and not part any other yoga class I’ve been to in the past few years. I think the most interesting point in the class came when he instructed us to use our poles and sit on them (legs perpendicular) so that our sits bones are balanced on the pole in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Not only was this challenging, but very uncomfortable. I had to remind myself that this was the point of yoga, as I breathed through it.

I don’t feel I got that great of a workout tonight. I don’t very grounded or centered. I wasn’t able to connect to my breath. The interruptions were annoying. But, it was a different experience. I really enjoyed some of the poses, including uttanasana (standing forward fold) as we really focused on each muscle being stretched in the forward bend. It was probably the deepest standing forward bend I’ve experienced, for sure.

I’d go back to an Iyengar class. I was expecting something much more harsh and serious — but it was fun. Would I choose it over a hatha flow or vinyasa class? Probably not. But it was fun for a change.


Teacher Training: Coming to an end

It’s Sunday. Today was our last full day of Yoga Teacher Training class. Next week, we’ve got our final exam on Saturday followed by the graduation ceremony on Sunday. And that’s it. Six months. Over.

I’ve learned so much in the past six months… about yoga. About myself. About my fellow students. It’s been an amazing experience. I loved every minute of it — even in those times when I didn’t. Our class has grown so close that the saddest thing is to say goodbye to everyone. Many of them I’ll see in classes here and there — but some of them are leaving to go back home.

Just like any other experience, these things have to come to an end. Burning man. Jam Cruise. A vacation. It’s time to say goodbye. It’s time to enjoy our last moments together as a group and to move on to whatever comes next in our lives. For many of us, we plan to teach. For others, it was more of a learning and self-discovery experience. Either way, it’s been great to getting to know everyone and while I’m looking forward to having my weekends back. At the same time, there’s so much I’m going to miss. Friday nights at waiting outside Stanyan Studio waiting for class to start.  The great conversations and discussions we had in class. The fear and excitement of learning to teach. The immense sense of calm I feel on Sundays, after spending nearly all of my waking weekend hours in the Yoga Studio.

Whatever happens, there will be something just as amazing for each of every one of us coming just around the corner. I’m just so fortunate and grateful to have shared this incredible experience with all my wonderful classmates and teachers. Thank you.

What’s next for me? I do plan on teaching. I’m setting up a weekly evening class at work. I’m also looking at various opportunities to rent a studio in SF to teach an evening or weekend class for my friends and classmates. I’m also going to continue my education and hope to assist one of my favorite teachers here in San Francisco. On top of that, I’m considering starting my “graduate” program with a one-week intensive class in October… But I’m still tossed up about that. Like most “graduate” programs, I might want to teach for a while before I embark on that journey.

So that’s it. My notebook’s full. My books are read. My homework’s turned in. All I have left to do is study for the final exam.

Teacher Training: The Powers of Pranayama

With only a few weekends left of Yoga Teacher Training, we’re entering the final stretch. This past weekend’s classes were a wonderful after our weekend off. It actually all started on Friday night, when Darren led our advanced pranayama class focused on pranic breathing. Pranic breathing is very similar to other techniques known as Kriya Yoga, Holotropic Breathing or Rebirthing. Earlier the training, Darren had mentioned a night when we’d have a very long meditation — though I don’t think any of us quite knew what to expect.

Earlier in the week, Darren sent us a list of instructions which resembled a pre-surgery checklist.  We not supposed to eat or drink anything several hours before class. We were not supposed to consume any intoxicants 24 hours before and after the class and caffeine should be avoided. I couldn’t imagine what this was going to entail.

Once we were settled in class, each of us had a blanket to lie on, a bolster to use as a pillow and an eye pillow to help block out the light. Darren taught us the basics of the breathing technique which we were going to use, which was very straightforward — deep breaths through the mouth, sighing on the exhalation.

By continuously focusing on this breath throughout the meditation, regardless of what happens, was the only other instruction. We did this breathing for about 5 minutes and then were told to do a breath retention technique known as Kumbaka until the moment it became uncomfortable. Immediately after this first hold, I had noticed a tingling in my arms and legs. We continued in this fashion for 2 more holds, each time I felt more and more relaxed when I regained my breath.

And when I say more and more relaxed, I literally felt as though things were getting even darker and I had less and less actual sensation in my body. Everything just let go a little more each time. After the third hold, we were then focusing our inhalations and exhalations on people we cared about in our lives for several breaths followed by another hold. At this point, I started to become somewhat emotional as did many other people in the class. You could hear that some people were starting cry.

This continued into the next hold and when I regained my breath I slipped even deeper and my eyes started to tear up without any real reason that I was consciously aware of. I then started to have a shortness of breath, as if I was balling — though the tears wouldn’t quite come. I could hear other people in the room become much more emotional, some people sobbing very loudly. I am fairly certain I was making some sort of noise myself. Keeping with the long slow breath was getting quite challenging, though I had known this was my sole task.

We then continued through several dedications of our breath which only got myself and others even more worked up. Once we were done with the breathing exercise, Darren guided us into savasana — or corpose pose — to help us relax from this intense journey.

It was at this point that I had noticed that there was music playing in the background. What was strange, though, was that I could hear a hissing in the background of the soundtrack. It was as if there was a blank cassette tape being played — just that quiet white hissing noise. The noise continued to get louder up to the point where it was actually louder than the music. I assumed this was part of the song, though I later learned I was the only one that heard this.

When we were guided back into consciousness, I remember sitting up with my eyes closed and practically falling over. We had been in this practice for about an hour, though it felt as though it was maybe 20-30 minutes at most. When we opened our eyes, I was in a state of shock — quite literally. I was confused and rattled. I looked at my friend Tiffany next to me, and I feel as though I gave her a “where am I?” type look — because she immediately gave me a very compassionate hug. Things didn’t make sense — though I wasn’t quite sure what I was trying to figure out. It was just this general haze. I had a hard time forming sentences.

I felt as though I had just been in a car accident or maybe woken up from surgery and was still under anesthesia. Several other people had experienced similar effects after waking up, and listening to everyone else’s experience was just as interesting yet completely different than mine. I had plans to go out that night — which were immediately canceled. I was trying to figure out if I was going to be able to drive home.

I felt out of sorts most the night and even the next morning was a little blurry. I don’t know what happened. I can’t explain it. But I know one thing for certain… There is something very powerful about the breath. You may be still be reading this and think this all mumbo jumbo. I would too. But having experienced this first hand, I now know for certain that pranayama, and even yoga as a whole, is incredibly powerful.

Teacher Training: Finding a Pose

Several times during our teacher training, I’ve been either practicing or in the class and have suddenly “found” a pose. Now, I know I’ve just talked about how you’re not supposed to focus on the achievements or doing things right.. you’re not. But sometimes, you just happen to get adjusted in such a way or hear a description of alignment in such a way that you’re body suddenly realizes “oh, this is what it’s supposed to _feel_ like.”

For me, this weekend, I actually discovered two things. Yesterday, I felt low lunge for the first time. For me, I’ve always felt the strengthening in the front leg, but I’ve never felt the stretch in the back quad. At Kerri Kelly’s class yesterday, I discovered where my back leg should go to get that stretch. Let me point out, though, that I’m focused on how to get the pose to feel right in my body.. and not what it looks like. It felt amazing.

The second, was the hop between downward dog and forward fold/uttanasa in the sun salutations. In the rare instances when I have hopped forward, my legs clump to the floor. But I realized that it’s actually all core if you’re doing it right. How did I miss this?! I love jumping back/forward now. Another trick that I learned from Kerri this weekend, just based on the way that she queued some of the transitions. Loved it.

After practicing with her twice this past weekend, I’ve decided that I really admire her teaching style. She’s very core-focused and isn’t afraid to make people work through challenging sequences — but teaches with enough off-the-mat philosophy that it helps you breath through it. I definitely plan to observe one of her classes in the next few weeks.

Despite not being in teacher training this weekend — I spent a lot of time focused on own practice. But it makes a huge difference when you can practice on your own schedule.


Teacher Training: What is Yoga?

On my drive down to SLO, I spent several hours listening some seminars by Amrit Desai as some make-up hours for my Yoga Teacher Training Program. My favorite two sessions were focused on the Wisdom of Yoga and of the power of intention. His philosophy makes so much sense to me, that the time flew by as I was driving back home today.

But, I think what struck me the most was his description of what Yoga is. I have hard time putting it into words, but this sums it up completely.

Yoga is not the physical practice of exercise. It’s true, this is a very important component and it’s great for people to do as a way to stay healthy. To do Yoga, you must establish your intention that you will integrate the principles in your life that prevent you from: comparing, self-judging, fighting or fleeing from what you encounter (what you’re afraid of), and learning to relax and breath to find new ways to cross the boundaries, to be released from your pre-programmed belief system that holds you back.

To do Asana, or to go through the poses, is only one part. But it’s the actual act of trying to not compare or judge yourself in a pose. You can hear it in your head: “Am I doing this right? Theirs looks better than mine. I’m not straight enough. I’m not strong enough. I can’t balance. ” All these thoughts are things we hear in our heads not only when we’re on the mat practicing yoga — but also in your day-to-day lives. At work. At home. Out shopping. Everywhere. We all judge ourselves and compare ourselves to others.

To put intetionally put yourself  in this situation, time again, it helps train your brain how to focus and deal with these thoughts. How to breath and relax in times of stress or discomfort — physical or mental. It’s the repetition of this technique that re-wires your brain and changes your habits.

Just like any other hobby or skill or craft — you have to rehearse and practice in order to do it well. To train your brain how just the right time to swing to hit a 95 mph fastball. To speak a foreign language. To  speak in public. After a while — your brain just knows how to handle these situations. You don’t think about it. You practiced it enough that it’s automatic.

So if  you can train your brain how to respond in these situations — why  can’t it work to handle the anxiety you encounter every day?

Teacher Training: Meditation Part Two

This past week was a struggle. Coming back from Jazzfest in New Orleans, dealing with my birthday, trying to make my way back into Yoga. The highlight going into the weekend? The High Roller’s 3-2 victory in Kickball to go 6-0 on the season and potentially take back first place.

Friday night came along, and I was dreading going to class. Spending a full weekend in Yoga Teacher Training. Missing Bay to Breakers. I’ve had so much fun the past few weeks, it wasn’t top of my list of activities for the weekend. As soon as we started class, though, most of it dissipated. The topic for the two hours was meditation, the second of our two classes on the subject taught by Dina Amsterdam.

I was reminded of the concept of “ease,” helping my to find that ease in my daily life. We also did a great exercise involving a partner, where one person repeats four statements aloud about what’s going on in the mind and physical body at that moment. Doing this for several minutes helps you quickly see how much your mind flutters in a matter of moments. I did this exercise again today before class with my partner — and it really has helped me let go of things of all those troublesome thoughts throughout the day.

It was also my first exposure to doing physical assists to students, taught by the main instructor Darren Main. This was really interesting — I really enjoyed it. We learned how to assist a dozen or so poses, mostly standing/balancing poses. We also learned a fun assisting tricks, which were really neat.

Even though I didn’t hit Bay to Breakers, I had a great weekend. I’m feeling extraordinarily relaxed this evening, ready return to my regularly scheduled program. It’s Sunday night — Movie night.

Teacher Training: The Meat & Potatoes

Our first weekend of training was exciting and practicing throughout the week really helped extend the feelings of awareness and peace throughout my week. Come Friday, I was ready to dive in and get started with the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the program. Every Friday Night, Darren Main spends two hours discussing and talking about the  philosophy of the Yoga practice. And for the next few months, Chrisandra Fox will focus our Saturday and Sunday classes on alignment.

On Friday, our philosophy session centered around the ideas of The Self and the Ego. The gist being that your Ego is your protective shield, the inner voice that is telling you what to do. Whereas The Self is your inner being. Yoga means union — and is the union of many things: Mindy & Body, Soul & Spirit, Self & Ego, Sun & Moon, etc. The core of it being that you are centered and balanced at this union. When you are balanced, you can let go of the Ego. Let go of the voice that says “I can’t do this. I am not strong enough. I am too tired. I am afraid. I am too proud.” By letting go of that voice, you can let your real Self shine through.

After class on Friday, I thought a while about what we had talked about. Thinking about the traits or characteristics that my Ego holds on to… things about my perception of myself that I carry with my in my daily life, but are not really true. Things that I want to let go of. The point that was made in class was that “the way we act today, is rooted in who we were in the past. If you want to change who you are tomorrow, you have to start with the present — letting go of whatever has been holding you back.”

Saturday morning, I found myself going to Janet Stone‘s Level 2-3 Vinyasa Class. I’d only taken her “mellow flow” classes, which I often found challenging,  so I was somewhat intimidated by what I might encounter in her more advanced class. Several times throughout the practice, I found myself fearing what may come next. What pose she was going to put us into and whether or not I’d be able to handle it. At these points, I had to remind myself of what I had learned the night before. The importance of quieting the mind and letting go of expectations. By the end of the class, I felt refreshed and much better than I had only hours before. I also realized that the class wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be — giving me a better sense of what to expect in the future.

Chrisandra’s alignment sessions as part of our teacher training program were extraordinarily enlightening and enjoyable as well. We spent the first hour talking a bit about philosophy and the importance of alignment. We talked at length about the concept of
Sthira Sukham Asanam which roughly means “a strong & steady, yet calm & comfortable seat.” This is basis of any yoga pose. You should have feel strong and supported, yet relaxed such that you can stay in the pose for hours.

We talked about Tadasana, or the Mountain pose, for most of Saturday & Sunday. Taking time to talk fellow students into the pose and make verbal alignment corrections as well. Hearing my own voice as a teacher was a bit unnerving at first, but this is something that will come with time and practice.

A bunch of us attended class after our training — and it exciting to practice together. After all we had been through the first few weekend, it’s fun to actually do yoga together.

I’ve come to really enjoy this point in my weekend. My Sunday evenings. I shower, change into some comfortable clothes, and relax. Letting everything that I learned just soak in and enjoy my space. My space in my own body but also the personal space of my own apartment. I’m ready for another week.. another week of work and another week of learning.

Teacher Training: My First Weekend

I guess I might as well just start writing about my experience. At least, as long as I can keep it up. It’ll be my “Teacher Training” series — a six month Special Feature on The Diatribe. Maybe I can finally start making some loot of my blog.

The class sessions for Saturday and Sunday focused primarily on the anatomy of the human body and specifically how your muscles and bones respond to specific actions in the body. A very fascinating (and interesting) way to learn about the various part of the human body — though, I’ll have to admit I still feel as though I have my work cut out for me.

Thinking about the weekend as a whole — from Friday evening through Sunday evening, I’ve spent well over 12 hours being engaged in yoga-related activities. Between practicing at home or at one of the Yoga Tree Studio, my training classes, coloring bones & muscles, and conversing and blogging about yoga —  I’m hooked.

And let me just say — I feel just extraordinarily blissed out. I’ve had many realizations this weekend about my life, the way that I interact with people, the way I am to myself. I am starting to see where this is going. And I really like it.

I’m also really starting to like the idea of teaching. While I might have gone into this for myself — I don’t know what might happen on the other side.


Teacher Training: A New Chapter

Tonight, I started a new chapter in my life. Slightly over a year ago, I decided to participate in a yoga class at work as a supplement to the regular workout routine that I was doing. Shortly after the class, I recall turning to a co-worker and saying how amazing I felt.. Not just the physical, post-workout toned feeling, but a sense of being completely centered and grounded. I had a glow. A clarity of my mind that I hadn’t experienced before.

Fast-forward a year and many yoga classes later and here I am writing this 30 minutes after the end of my first yoga teacher certification class at the Yoga Tree Studios in San Francisco. It’s a 200 hour program that runs just about every weekend from now through the middle of July. This whole week, I was excited but at the same time very nervous. Saying goodbye to free weekends made me hesitant that I made the right decision.

After tonight’s class, I know I made the right decision. I’m so excited to take my practice deeper. Whether I end up actually teaching or not, that doesn’t need to be decided anytime soon. I now know, however, that all the time and money that I’m investing into this program is without-a-doubt one of the best experiences that I will have in my lifetime. I look forward to the many hours of training that I’ll go through over the next 6 months and the great people I’ll get to know as a result.

Besides having one of my favorite teachers, Pete Guinosso,  lead several sessions during the training I was very pleasantly surprised to see another familiar face in my class. During introductions, I caught the smile of a girl I was friends with in Boston some many many years ago. Totally small world.

Throughout the coming months, I hope to update The Diatribe with various thoughts and experiences from my training. If this interests you, stay tuned. If not, stay tuned anyway — you might learn something. Tomorrow, we start with basic anatomy. My brain is going to be overloaded with memorizing bones, muscles, joints and ligaments. But I already know – it’s all going to be worth it.