Weekend 3 Homework/Weekend 4 – Yoga Teacher Training

To be honest, I almost didn’t go to Teacher Training this past weekend. I work full-time and the holiday season is a particularly demanding time of year in my industry (we are not allowed to take any days off in November and December, just to give you an idea) and I have been on the road a fair amount. This gave me a smaller window to complete my homework and attend regular yoga classes than usual. The Weekend 3 Homework was more reading-heavy with only two written assignments: one to write a teaching script for Surya Namaskar A and the other was to write TWO variations for two different poses, Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) and Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). I stress this because even with my propensity for detail, I somehow overlooked that two variations were required for each pose and only wrote one. Ugh!

Since we only meet once every four weeks, there is a long stretch between sessions. At the end of this past weekend, Kate asked us all for feedback on the course that she could share with YogaWorks. Some students shared that they are struggling with the amount of time between the sessions, whereas I wouldn’t be able to do this training otherwise due to my schedule. From what I’ve ascertained so far, these students do not work full-time and would have the flexibility to take a more condensed version of the course (there is a version of the YogaWorks 200-Hour Teacher Training that meets every weekend for three months instead of one weekend a month for twelve months, but there is not a version of this offered in NH). I have been thinking a lot about this and relating it back to my philosophical readings. Even though scheduling might not be as much of a challenge for these other students, a challenge is still presented to both of us. The student struggling to keep everything fresh due to the time in between sessions is now challenged with reviewing the materials more frequently on his/her own; the student that is balancing a packed schedule and trying to fit this training in is challenged with giving this study the attention it deserves. I feel like I have been able to rise to my challenge successfully so far. After each weekend, I analyze the homework assignments and put them in an order of completion that makes sense to me. I usually do the anatomy work last because it is the part that I struggle with most and like the least – but also because it will be the most fresh prior to the next session.

When planning out my Weekend 3 Homework, I was staring down my work commitments and the Thanksgiving holiday. I decided to complete all my reading prior to Thanksgiving (including the anatomy readings) and then I could watch the assigned videos and bang out my written assignments the week after Thanksgiving since writing comes more naturally to me. This would mean that I would turn my written assignments in the week leading into Weekend 4. I prefer more of a buffer on turning in written assignments since Kate always takes time to email us with thoughtful feedback, but it was the most logical way I saw to approach this set of homework.

I completed all my reading as planned prior to Thanksgiving and then the holiday came and went and I had to re-energize myself to dig back into my homework. I also ended up having to travel for work that week (not originally planned) so the number of evenings I had to finish my homework was reduced. When I finally sat down at my computer, I was so exhausted and almost out of steam. As such, I missed the fact that I was supposed to write TWO variations of each pose. Kate returned her corrections/feedback to me the next day and offered the opportunity for me to redo the homework, but I was simply out of time. I could’ve stayed up on Friday night and crammed the rewrites in, but then I would be even more exhausted for Saturday’s session. I seriously contemplated dropping out of the course. I thought, what on earth am I DOING? I don’t have time for this. And I still don’t know the names of all the bones and joints like my fellow students do! Why on earth did I take this on??

But then I found myself calling upon the Yoga Sutras I had read earlier in the month. I took a breath and tried to quiet the noise in my mind. It’s FINE. You are doing what you can. After Christmas, you can spend extra time on your studies in order to feel more comfortable with anatomy. And you’ll have more time to memorize the names of poses.

I opted to honor my need for rest and not do the re-write. I didn’t even spend time on Friday night packing my lunch for the next day. I just needed a BREAK.

But apparently I set my alarm a whole hour earlier than it needed to be set (that shows you how tired I was on Friday night!) and woke up on Saturday with lots of extra time before class. I took my time getting ready and was able to mentally prepare for the weekend while my BF still slept. It’s a hard stop between my work week and these training weekends (it’s so funny going from the rat race to sitting around discussing karma and reincarnation) and it was nice to have some time to be one with my thoughts that morning, even though I’m supposed to be freeing my mind of them!

And surprise, surprise – Weekend 4 turned out to be my favorite yet. We each had to teach Surya A to the entire class (which means we did a LOT of Sun Salutations this weekend – my biceps are sore!) and one of my fellow students led us through such a touching close on Saturday that I teared up. I also found myself remembering the names of bones and postures! Somehow I am absorbing the information without even realizing it. Isn’t that the best way to learn?? Kate also reassured us that we are all doing great and totally on pace. Apparently I am not the only one feeling like I am not keeping up.

So, I feel MUCH better. I am actually excited about diving into my Weekend 4 Homework!

Weekend 3 – Yoga Teacher Training

The most unexpected outcome of this training so far has been the sense of community I have with my fellow students. Kate, our Instructor, has been throwing us more and more into practice teaching situations where we work in pairs or small groups. She said that this typically does not occur until after Weekend 4, but she sees no reason to wait. And she is right, the more we say the words out loud, the more comfortable we become; and the more we interact with each other, the more supportive we become of each other. It’s really awesome how we cheer each other on.

But still, the amount of information is overwhelming. I am still struggling with Anatomy, whereas many of the other students are doing just fine with this subject. I am thinking that part of the challenge for me might be because I have suffered very few injuries and illnesses in my life, which is great in theory but has not afforded me the opportunity to learn the names of bones and understand how the body works like others who may have spent more time around doctors and/or in recovery. In addition, one of the other students has a medical background and at least two others are already working in the health & wellness field (a pilates teacher and a fitness trainer/coach), so they have had to previously study anatomy for their careers. Knowing this, I will just have to rise to the occasion and work harder to master this subject. It is officially the holiday season now, which is my busiest time at work, and my BF and I host Christmas for our families, which I love but is exhausting, so I am going to try to not overdo it with my yoga studies during this time. I figure that the dead of winter (January/February) will give me the chance to do some extra studying and get more comfortable with the anatomy stuff. I’m also hoping to start practice teaching during this time.

As far as sequencing poses and actual instructing goes, I think I am coming along nicely. I did order some flash cards from Amazon to help me learn the sanskrit names for the postures. One of my fellow students brought a deck to class this weekend and they were super helpful – she was quizzing all of us during breaks – so I figure I can task my BF with quizzing me at home. The other benefit of the flash cards is that you can lay them out to design class sequences, which I learned from reading the comments on Amazon. I look forward to using this tool!

Thoughts on Being Competitive

My writing assignment from my second batch of homework was to reflect on the sutras that I’ve read – so far, we’ve had to read up to Sutra 1.20 of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – and make sense of the somewhat conflicting ideas of effort (“virya” in Sanskirt) and non-attachment (“vairagya”). While pondering what I would write, I started to realize that I have been living my life this way for a number of years now – most likely as a result of the things I’ve heard my yoga teachers say in class. It’s so funny how things creep into your subconscious.

As an example, my BF and I ended up dressing as David Pumpkins and one of his skeletons for Halloween this year. This appealed to me on two levels: 1. the David Pumpkins skit from the Halloween 2016 episode of SNL cracked me the hell up – to the point that I’ve been using his picture as my user icon in a number of places, and 2. I found myself really wanting to dress as a skeleton – in general, not just as one of David Pumpkins’ skeletons. I had no idea where this urge to dress as a skeleton came from; it wasn’t a sugar skull thing, even though I have a strong affinity for Mexican culture. For Halloween, I typically channel an iconic character as part of an ensemble cast (think Darth Vadar, The Tin Man or Medusa), with my ultimate fallback costume being a witch with a prosthetic nose. But a skeleton? It was a whole new thing. And then I happened upon a slideshow of memorable celebrity costumes – Kim Kardashian in a skeleton bodysuit being one of them. Apparently that image was burned into my subconscious.

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But back to effort and non-attachment. It’s so funny because I, like most people, work in a sales-oriented industry. We sell a product and we are constantly “winning” or “losing”. We hire people that want to WIN. No surprise, a lot of these people have heavy sports backgrounds and our conference calls and meetings are filled with sports analogies. Let’s hit it out of the park! This sales meeting is our Superbowl! Go team! Do I like getting a bonus? YES. Do I work my ass off and have pride in what I do? YES. But this whole idea of “winning” – crushing someone or something else – just doesn’t resonate with me. I have never been competitive in that way. I have always been a “go getter”, an innovator, a task hacker, but I’m just not a mindless executor of plays. Does that make me not a valuable member of a team? I guess everyone has a role and I am probably in the right one, but I just cringe over battle cries of winning when there is no clear reason why we NEED to win. Are we curing cancer? NO. Are we trying to keep our jobs? YES.

At the end of the day, I do have faith in the universe. That faith has served me well so many times in my life. The best things have happened to me when I have truly turned over the reigns and let the universe do its thang. That is not to say that I didn’t put in any effort in these situations. I tuned up the car, put my seatbelt on, and let the universe take the wheel. What I learned in doing so is that the universe won’t actually show you any results unless you are truly genuine in your intention – unless you are truly okay with the outcome. Cause it can not be great. I mean, hey, you’re speeding down the road without your hands on the wheel! There can be casualties. But you need to know that going in – eyes wide open. And you need to have faith that when it’s not great, there might be a good reason. So you must detach yourself from the results. Vairagya.

But the best part of virya – the effort – is that we are supposed to be putting our effort into living selfless lives. Oh man, that is HARD. Especially when there are so many ASSHOLES out there. But honestly – I know it’s cheesy – I do really have the best time when other people are having a good time. That’s a very superficial way to put it, but I mean it on ALL levels. I just want us all to have the best time possible, no matter how long we have. That is my new mantra and it will continue to bubble up on this blog.

Weekend 2 – Yoga Teacher Training

I had to miss half of Weekend 2 due to a wedding, but I knew this when I signed up. I originally debated holding off on taking the course until next year due to this conflict, but I figured there will always be something. And who knows if I will still be living so close to a studio that offers this training, which helps make this commitment manageable for me. I am able to makeup the time by paying for a private session with my current teacher or by attending another YogaWorks training (covering the material that I missed) at a neighboring studio. The closest alternatives for me are Boston or NYC – but in the spirit of trying to experience as many different teachers as possible, I just may do that.

I ended up feeling really guilty about missing part of this past weekend and I could tell that I didn’t have the same drive to do my homework as I did after the first weekend. My class is starting to feel like a little community and I actually missed spending time with my fellow students on Sunday. To get over the hump, I attended a flow class that was taught by our Teacher Training Instructor (Kate) on Thursday. This class was not taught in YogaWorks style, but it still gave me a chance to see her and feel reconnected. And wouldn’t you know it, one of the other students from my class also came – and it happened to be the pilates instructor that I had gotten paired up with during a previous practice teaching! We were happy to see each other and she was sweet enough to say that everyone missed me on Sunday. It was nice.

Kate’s class was challenging, but invigorating. Even though we were moving quickly through parts, I felt myself focusing on my breath and alignment. I was totally PRESENT and I was surprising myself with what I was able to do. Of course, the guy next to me was super bendy, but I kept my mind on my own mat. It’s totally true – if you keep breathing and don’t judge yourself, it’s amazing what your body can do. At the end of class, Kate asked Mr. Bendy where he had taken yoga classes before – I guess because it was his first time at this studio. His answer? “India.” Talk about a mic drop! It made me laugh out loud.

I came home from class that night and dove into my homework. I knocked off four hours of reading and have developed a “flow” for myself: I do my Posture/Teaching Tools reading first and watch any assigned videos, then I dive into Anatomy (the worst!), and then do Philosophy and Language (Sanskrit) last. The Philosophy readings are the most enjoyable part for me and I want to leave myself enough time to mull over what I’ve read before our next session. My BF and I are getting ready to go on a short vacation so I will be reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali on the plane. I also have to write an essay about the Sutras that I’ve read and I may post that here if it makes any sort of sense.

Aside from the readings, I have already turned in my Teaching Script homework (we basically get assigned one teaching script each month) and my Anatomy quiz. Do you know the names of the four regions of the spine and their curvature? Do you know that the gluteus maximus rotates the thigh out at the hip joint or extends the thigh out at the hip joint? Fascinating!

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The other way I’ve learned to survive the Anatomy reading is to book a blowout and read in the chair. Kate told us to prioritize taking care of ourselves throughout this training because it is so intense, particularly on top of all of our other life obligations, so treating myself to blowouts is my way of taking her advice. But I won’t do it unless I study at the same time – it’s genius! My blowout stylist is getting a kick out of all the anatomy diagrams and we both cringe of images of people with terrible posture; obviously, she can’t help but see what I’m reading. And apparently, she had to study anatomy in hair school as well. I never thought about that before, but it makes sense! I’m just glad that I’m not grossing her out.

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I find myself being hyper aware of my posture now. Some of these illustrations cause me pain just looking at them.

Yoga Teacher Training Homework

Make no mistake, there is a LOT of homework – but Kate was very upfront about that in the info session so I knew what I was getting into. The homework, like class, is kind of jarring in that it bounces around between subjects – Anatomy, History, Language, Discussion, Workshop, and then back again. After the first weekend session, we were assigned about eight hours of reading and one written assignment. I chose which reading assignment to do based on my mood, which thankfully fell into a logical progression. I will try to emulate that in future months. The Anatomy stuff is the most difficult for me and I remember being told to do the most difficult homework first when I was in school, but I left it for last anyway. It just seemed right to lay the foundation of History first and I actually think I was able to absorb some of the Anatomy when I finally got to it.

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The other wise thing that I ended up doing by pure accident was to dive right into the reading. Literally on Sunday evening after I got home from my first weekend, I cracked open my books and started reading while everything was fresh. I leveraged the newness and excitement from the weekend to help me stay focused. I knocked off a couple hours that night and now have completed my reading well in advance of the next weekend, but I still have the written assignment to do. In the meantime, I have been trying to attend the classes of different teachers. We are required to take 16 classes in order to receive our certification and YogaBalance offers us 16 classes as part of our tuition if we choose to take them there. That is my home studio anyway, but I tend to go on the same evening every week. In the spirit of learning, I have been branching out and even attended the class of a recent graduate of the same program. It was fun to talk to her and get some encouragement. She told me that she started practice teaching after her second weekend session and offered free classes at her office. I can’t really do that at my day job, but I have some other options that I’m considering. It would be fun to get my feet wet.

Weekend 1 – Yoga Teacher Training

I just completed Weekend 1 of my YogaWorks 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training. OMG, it’s a LOT of work. Yesterday (Saturday) we were in session from 10am to 5.30pm and today (Sunday) went from 10am to 3.30pm. Anyone who doesn’t take yoga seriously should see all the manuals and required reading! When you are responsible for someone’s safety, it is no joke; we spend hours on Anatomy so we understand (and can ultimately teach) proper alignment. We also study the history of yoga, the Sanskrit language and the Asanas (postures). Of course, we are also students in an actual yoga class for about two hours each day, but the rest is 80% classroom and 20% workshop.

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Surprisingly, I am not completely exhausted. I had still been debating whether this course was the right fit for me, but I had a breakthrough late in the day today when we were “practice teaching” on each other. Just my luck, I got paired with a woman that teaches pilates, so she is already an instructor. Knowing this, I asked her if I could go first so I wouldn’t be intimidated or just end up repeating what she did. I took a deep breath and jumped in. “Let’s stand in mountain pose at the top of our mats…” I couldn’t believe how easily the words were coming out of my mouth.

Then when Kate, our Instructor, had us analyze postures, I was able to appropriately identify a counter move to keep the body in proper alignment while in downward dog. Go me!

Honestly, I still have no idea whether or not I would actually want to teach – but today it felt like more of a possibility. The Anatomy stuff gets very overwhelming (I haven’t really studied the body since high school!) and I’m sure that I look like a deer in headlights during that part. But then we get on our mats and I feel much more confident. If Kate had asked one of us to lead the entire class through a sequence this afternoon, I actually think I would’ve volunteered.

But now, homework. Lots and lots of homework! I will post about that as I dive in.

Thoughts On Pressure

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to “do” lately. Most of these thoughts haven’t stemmed from my own inner voice – they’re a result of conversations I’ve had and positions I’ve been put in. I have a good job but it is very corporate and when you’ve mastered your responsibilities within such a corporation, there’s an undercurrent of pressure to move up. Sure, I could do more – but at what cost? I am at an age now where I strongly weigh if a job is worth its price tag; a title just isn’t enough. In the cases where I could’ve moved up, there was very little benefit to me personally and I wisely stayed put.

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In my personal life, I had a conversation with a dear friend recently in which she asked me what my plan was. It honestly kind of made me feel bad – as if the life I was living wasn’t good enough. I know she was coming from a place of genuine interest, but I felt judged. As a result, I started spending too much time analyzing my life and wondering if I was giving too much of my energy away instead of using it to propel myself forward.

As much I was was hurt by that conversation, I am thankful for it. All the thinking I did led me to sign up for the yoga teacher training (which starts next weekend, fyi). But I fear that I mainly took that action so that I have a definitive answer to the “what’s your plan?” question. I have something that I’m DOING with my life other than going to work every day and helping out my family as much as I can – I’m studying yoga!

But in the weeks since I signed up for the training and started this blog, I have done even MORE thinking and realized my true answer – my true PLAN.

I just want to enjoy and appreciate life. What’s wrong with that?